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I have watched Christopher Nolan's Memento more than once and I still can't get the real thing that happened. Yes I get that the movie is shown backwards, but it really confuses me.

I understand that Leonard Shelby has amnesia which makes him unable to keep new memories. What is the key detail in Mr. Shelby that I should be looking for to understand the ending scene?

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Stack Exchange works best when you ask really specific questions about specific problems you have encountered. In the context of a Movie site, you could (for example) ask about an element of a particular scene that you don't understand. But asking "can someone explain Memento to me?" isn't really going to work well on this site. –  Robert Cartaino Dec 5 '11 at 15:02
    
I tried cleaning it up for the OP let me know if that works @RobertCartaino –  phwd Dec 5 '11 at 20:06
    
@Alonzo Thanks for cleaning up! Hope other uses will vote to open this up again. I will add more details as soon as I can. –  Roshnal Dec 6 '11 at 7:41
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3 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

You need keys. We need to help Teddy to find his keys! :-)

Joke aside, you should give attention to what Teddy says directly before the linked video.

Teddy: "So you lie to yourself to be happy."

and later:

Teddy: "Yeah I guess I can only make you remember the things you want to be true. Like Jimmy down there."

Leonard: "He's not the right guy."

Teddy: "He was to you. You got your revenge. Enjoy it while you still remember."

and sometimes later (that's in the linked video) Leonard is thinking:

"Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy, yes I will."

as he is writing down a driver's license.

Also take notice of the memory on his wife in the scene he is driving to the tattoo-shop, especially note the chest.

On his chest is tattoed "I've done it." while is wife is alive.

So, what we make out of all this?

Everyone is using Leonard - including himself. He fudges his informations to stay on a constant path of Revenge. That is the thing that makes him happy. Probably it's because he killed his wife with an overdose of insulin, a story he attributed to Sammy Jenkins. He can't stand that, he needs to see "Johnny G." as the guilty for the death of his wife, although she survived the assault and rape (as his memory in the car-drive-scene shows).

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It's true that Leonard has memory of wife touching his "I've done it" tattoo... but he had that memory after Teddy suggested it to him. And the only time he has that tattoo is in that memory... at other times in the movie when he has his shirt off, the "I've done it" tattoo is not there, suggesting he never really had it. –  Shiz Z. Feb 6 '12 at 5:40
    
Interesting point. Ted induced this memory-flash. That is apossible interpretation. But to the last point: I think it is possible to remove tatoos. –  Mnementh Feb 6 '12 at 8:47
    
its not a memory because the tattoo says murdered my wife so she wouldn't be there with him –  JamesRyan Apr 8 '13 at 16:58
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If you notice carefully (I had to pause the DVD for this) - for a fraction of a second, there is a scene in which Sammy Jenkins is sitting in a chair and for just a fraction, he turns into Leonard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MUnDhxAif0 (see at 0:25)

A more detailed explanation is here.

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Leonard is Sammy Jenkis - or is he?

That's the point.

Much like the end of Inception - we never see the top stop spinning - so is Cobb still dreaming?

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Well, in contrast to Inception, we definitely know that Leonard is Sammy Jenkins. What could make you believe he isn't? –  Napoleon Wilson Dec 10 '11 at 21:56
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It's never explicitly stated that he is. You assume he is but it's not bullet proof. –  Jack Marchetti Dec 10 '11 at 22:39
    
@Jack, hmm, there is a direct hint in the scene where you see Sammy Jankis in the clinic. Someone walks between Sammy and camera and then you can see a short glimpse of Leonard sitting in the place of Sammy. –  default locale Mar 2 '12 at 5:45
    
@JackMarchetti It's not bullet-proof, but much more likely. There is a difference between ambiguity and implication. It's just a question of probablities given all the information from the movie and the ambiguity in Inception is much more balanced, while all the information from Memento really speaks for itself. Even if the facts may not be sufficient and there might be a very tiny chance that Teddy is a liar and Leonard is not Sammy Jenkins, that would be based merely on blind assumption, ignoring the information given in the movie. –  Napoleon Wilson Jun 24 '13 at 10:57
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