Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

Ingenieur of illusions and architect of dreams

1311minutes of films, 10 plays and about 22 hours of interstellar travels and breathtaking exhibitions need an attention which shifts between space and time. For the lovers of the cinema there’s a world of details to discover and analyze. There’s a fictional agreement between the audience and the cast: it is stipulated by the director. Christopher Nolan. Who is this talented man with great ambitions indeed? He begins his career life at a young age: he is only 19 years old when he produces his first short, and at the age of 28, with just 3000 pounds, he works out every aspect of “Following”, stepping for the first time among the best directors. In Following we can find many characteristic elements typical of his genius mind. Even if limited by the low budget, he success and manage to capture the attention of the audience, in spite of the mediocre filming, special effects and cast.

When you think of the visual style, when you think of the visual language of a film there tends to be a natural separation of the visual style and the narrative elements, but with the great, whether it is Stanley Kubrick, Terrence Malick or Hitchcock what you’re seeing is inseparable, a vital relationship between the images and the story he’s telling. While he expresses this thought referring to “the great”, he himself surpasses this “natural separation” he talks about: consistently with his ideas, he devises his own art works, scattering his films with sparks and frequent questions.

Framework and heart are both essential to each other: in his direction contents and structure are a mutual support. Time, which the spectator is immersed in, is analyzed in every aspect (Interstellar is a clear example) and is object and subject of a new creation. Flashbacks and flashforwards are his main narrative elements. Lights are turned off, the screen switched on, there’s a white title, some clumsy topographic presentations and it starts. The first scene is very often Mrs. End that baldly comes forward. If the start is the end, that the end is just the beginning, and leaving the theatre Nolan passes down to us all the doubts, the questions and the analysis of his characters and intertwinings. This is the main difference between an illusionist and an “ingenieur”.

Nolan turns to his audience with the words of Michael Caine in “The Prestige”: Now, you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it, because you’re not really seeing. You don’t want to know it. You want to be deceived. Tricks, as appealing as they can be, are illusions, and they die in the astonishment of the prestige; who witnesses to the play, basks in deception and doesn’t want to unveil the masked secret. Perception of reality is frail and persona!, floating between memory and illusion; it is presented with faces, memories, feelings and mostly character’s behaviour. It is difficult to grow fond of a single truth, but Nolan doesn’t ask to take parts between good and evil. As a matter of facts he describes them both with same concern, because they are equally human. If anything, he asks us to follow him in his dreamlike world. This way, duels are even more absorbing: in The Prestige there is a magie war between the two illusionists that is never unbalanced toward one particular man: they are on equal terms.

Nolan’s way of working is always coherent: recurring elements are never represented in the same way, but always evolve, as he himself declared in an interview. His dystopic view of reality typical of his first films (Following, Memento, The Prestige), slowly leaves place to a society where freedom is promoted. A dying Al Pacino, at the end of his detective career, gives his life to save his colleague, redeeming the his moral integrity and that of the society he represents. His last words? They are addressed to us as much as they are to Ellie:”Don’t lose your way.”

The Londoner director’s films are full of protagonists who are put in a tight spot, but always following stubbornly their mission of life.

Batman trilogy embodies the fight between corruption and common good, where the hero is just a device in order to meet the complexity of the human’s soul. Another recurring idea is the redemption of Nolan’s characters: it starts from the beginning, is often impossible (think about Memento), and always takes on different shades during the production. In Inception, Cobb is moved by a desire to be saved and freed by the suffering he caused to his wife; this agony accompanies him till the end of the film. The famous ending doesn’t leave any judgement: the little spinning top turns over the wood, the dice is cast and the deception is over; the secret is still to be revealed.

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