06 Sep Noteworthy Nolan
Throughout his career, Christopher Nolan has become synonymous with mind-bending narratives. He has an incredible strength in storytelling, allowing him to construct complex yet comprehensible plots that never fail to shock cinemagoers. Every aspect of his directorial style aids in achieving the overarching purpose of his films – creating fragmented narratives and playing with the concept of reality and truth.
Christopher Nolan’s editing style is the most defining aspect of his directorial footprint. His films are populated with untrustworthy heroes; they do not trust their experience, so in turn we do not trust their judgment. It is Nolan’s crafted editing that builds these characters’ unreliability. This editing also encapsulates his cinematography, which furthers the impact of his characters and every other aspect of his films with precise skill. Specifically designed shots are placed in specifically designed orders, building his specifically designed universes. Nolan can both disorient and intrigue viewers in a seemingly effortless way.
‘Memento’ was the film that first gained Christopher Nolan critical acclaim, largely due to its almost impossibly mind-bending narrative. The plot follows Leonard Shelby, a former insurance investigator with anterograde amnesia. Following an attack in his home, he can no longer create new memories. Shelby is trying to find the man who murdered his wife in the home invasion, despite his short term memory resetting multiple times a day. He has nothing but the clues he leaves himself through polaroids and tattoos to unravel this mystery. ‘Memento’ is the perfect example of Nolan’s classic non-linear storylines – the film is told in reverse chronological order, with two interchanging timelines running alongside one another. The revelatory moment occurs right at the end of the film (the first scene chronologically) where the two timelines meet and the previous story is placed in a new context.
Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film ‘The Prestige’ is another shining example of his ability in creating fragmented narratives and shocking plot twists. This film again employs the device of two interwoven timelines, jumping between them to tell a story. The plot follows two magicians, Alfred and Robert, who became rivals after the tragic death of Robert’s wife. The current timeline throughout the film shows the present-day troubles of the men, including arrests, accidents and unexplained events. The other interconnected timeline is the pair’s history, in which Robert is desperately trying to duplicate Alfred’s most prolific magic trick. He eventually does this, just not in the way one would expect. As in Memento, these two timelines meet at the climax of the film, leaving viewers in a state of disbelief.
His MO is mind bending, complex stories that subvert genre. Through focusing on non-linear or converging timelines, he executes some of the most interesting narratives in Hollywood. In both “Memento” and “The Prestige” you will see clearly how Nolan’s unique marriage of editing & cinematography can subvert a previously cemented narrative. These films show us the true power Nolan holds as a director. Both consist of a deceptively complex narrative that tests the audience’s understanding of subjective and objective truth.
Nolan effortlessly pulls his audience into a film. We feel connected to the storyline, yet we will still be surprised by an impactful ending. However, his directorial gift is that not only can he envelop us in this way, but he also invites us into his narratives. As his audience, we are like a group of detectives re-examining clues. We are presented with recurring imagery and audio, and it’s up to us to consider it in a new context. This is part of what makes Nolan’s narratives so compelling; the audience feels as though they are helping unfold the mystery.
Putting aside his clear directive talent, Nolan’s real power is his ability to show audiences humanity through a new lens. In life, stories are never linear or one sided. Nolan uses his role as a director to force audiences into acknowledging this, helping them approach every situation with an open mind.
I feel that it is impossible not to enjoy a Nolan film. You will never not be surprised by his stories or charmed by his characters. Whether your interest lies in magic or murder, space or superheros, there is a Nolan film for you. He truly has something for everyone. I encourage you to select one of his films at your next movie night. I guarantee you’ll be just the right amount of bewildered.
Holly Rowsell – Year 13