Collyrium – Christopher Nolan’s cinema, between dream and reality

Andrea Jean Varraud · 4 years ago
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Collyrium’s new study is going to shed some light on Christopher Nolan’s mysterious and loved cinema. His technique is undoubtedly considered one of the most significant in the contemporary scene, being Nolan able to mix his personal and unmistakable direction with Hollywood’s circuit commercial logic. This combination of elements has given birth to works worthy of a cinematographic poetic we shall analyze in these few lines.

Nolan was born in London in 1970 to an English father and an American mother and for this reason, spent his youth shuttling between London and Chicago. It is during his early years that the young Christopher begins to form his photographic will soon to be transferred into the making of short films and later movies, often with the help of his brother Jonathan (a faithful and constant screenwriter he will frequently collaborate with).

Finally, in 1998, Following, Nolan’s first feature film release, a thriller noir, conveyed in a gloomy black and white depicting the writer’s search of inspiration for his novels through a descent into the deepest darkness. For the realization of Following, the Anglo-American director was on a very low budget, with the 16mm film entirely self- paid. The director repeatedly rehearsed the scenes to minimize waste of time, resources and above all film (one of the more expensive production elements).

The film receives good visibility for its visual power but above all due to the very disturbing story (an often present aspect also in his subsequent creations). But the first real big leap in the American film circuit took place in 2000 when Nolan directed Memento, inspired from a story by his brother Jonathan. In this second feature, the director truly displays his talents, creating a pioneering work, which through a decomposed narrative, will give a complete picture of the plot to the spectator only at the end of the story. This element is perhaps the absolute essence of his cinema. Nolan films public is not and cannot be passive being in fact responsible for the story’s final analysis.

Since Memento, Nolan’s career will ascend to Batman’s trilogy direction completely changing the perception of the much-loved DC hero. The 3 Batman films, besides being an incredible box office success (the second and third surpassed by far the billion-dollar revenue mark) are also considered as the most influential cine-comics of movie history. Nolan, not only avails himself of superheroes experts and fans such as David S. Goyer for screenplay writing, he shoots the whole movie in live action lending a maniacal attention to the fight scenes and glorifying the characters’ acting only to mention Heath Ledger’s masterly interpretation of Joker.

It is now important to spend a few words on perhaps Christopher Nolan’s most watched, rewarded and discussed movie: Inception. This film, having won several awards including an Oscar for best movie, is maybe the most representative display of Nolan’s poetics. Inception is about dreams’ perception and the clarity in which these are imprinted in our mind, sometimes making reality itself appear doubtful. The director takes Memento’s fragmented narration further: the narrative pieces are no longer, as in his second work, in sequence, they are actually one inside the other. The spectator, as the protagonist played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is no longer able to realize where dream gives way to reality. This narrative complexity made Inception one of the most appreciated and studied films of Hollywood cinema’s contemporary history.

Nolan’s cinema is certainly not an easy, it anyhow manages to be enjoyable both for the most avid cinephiles as for the younger and inexperienced spectators. The elements that made all this possible have now become an aesthetic and narrative style present in his first and last films (Interstellar and Dunkirk). The aforementioned fragmented narration, aided by impeccable editing, firstly allows the director to move in all directions, such as proceeding against the beginning of space and time. Secondly, we find a disproportionate love for themes such as revenge, alienation, memory and above all the very thin border between reality and fiction. Last but not least, Nolan’s skillful use of the latest directing technology avoids it to become pivotal in production.

Of Nolan or his films, you could argue for hours, maybe days, but I think the best way to understand his cinema is to look at the very short clip here below.

Christopher Nolan’s Filmography:
-Following (1998)
-Memento (2000)
-Insomnia (2002)
-Batman Begins (2005)
-The Prestige (2006)
-The Dark Knight(2008)
-Inception (2010)
-The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
-Interstellar (2014)
-Dunkirk (2017)


Collyrium – Christopher Nolan’s cinema, between dream and reality
Collyrium – Christopher Nolan’s cinema, between dream and reality
Collyrium – Christopher Nolan’s cinema, between dream and reality
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