A bloody good film. Here’s my alternative to the dominant reading. You can check that out here.
Trusting the film-maker, Leonard Shelby’s condition is legitimate. Teddy is the surviving rapist-killer from the Incident and the psycopathic mastermind. He then learnt that Leonard had anterograde amnesia, and started calling to torment him for sadistic pleasure. Ultimately Teddy began to vicariously live out his own vile fantasies through Leonard. The film documents the end, so when Teddy is killed it is the true fulfilment of Leonard’s one remaining goal.
In the film Leonard speaks to the effect that emotional memories carry over where explicitly clear memories do not. To an extent, this can be rephrased, conscious memories fade where subconscious memories last. Despite this he does not greet Teddy with warmth. The wrong car prank, as well as others, does not result in any visible mood change of Leonard, despite that being a common, subconscious emotional response. A dearth of warmth between Teddy & Leonard is suggested by this pattern.
Teddy learnt about Leonard remembering Sammy in one of the earlier, prior to film events, tormenting conversations. This early memory enabled a greater degree of suffering to be inflicted by Teddy. When Leonard appears as Sammy, in the black & white memory, this is self delusion, repeatedly encouraged by Teddy. It is a dark reflection of the repeated sentence, we all tell ourselves lies to make ourselves happy. Well the lie is one he told himself, driven by darkness within & without. Therefore, knowledge of Leonard’s wife is beyond certainty within the film universe as anything subsequent to the Incident is dubious.
When on the phone, Leonard appears agitated. When he uncovers the “Don’t Answer The Phone” tattoo, he is agitated. Despite having known Teddy for some time, he doesn’t treat him any friendlier than Burt, the hotel clerk. He tells Natalie he is bad on the phone, partially because of the continuing emotional turmoil deliverd via that method by Teddy. The notes on his body, from 1-5 represent kills and are a self scaring act to redeem the guilt carried by his subconscious. When Teddy presents the photo of Leonard on the night he supposedly avenged his wife, it is actually the first time the psychopathic Teddy succeeded in his most perverse fantasy. Once Leonard can properly destroy the record of his ignorant actions, by burning the photo, he executes Teddy, a development which is contingent on the events of the film. The finale, Leonard achieves retribution and destroys the evidence which would see him hold higher responsibility than Teddy.