Christopher Nolan – Picasso Of Filmmaking

Chris Nolan can do with movies, what Picasso could do with paintings. Nolan was born in London and spent his childhood in both London & Chicago. Nolan found an interest in botany and dicots early on until he found his father’s camera.

I’ve always loved films. I started making films when I was seven years old and I haven’t stopped. I never really thought about doing anything else. What I love are films that create their own particular geography, a particular world and immerse you in it for a couple of hours — Christopher Nolan

Some of the trends in Nolan’s Films:

  •  His characters in the films have some kind of mental disorder or fear. Be it in Memento, Batman Begins, Insomnia, Following.
  • The protagonist will have negative shades & there is always a constant battle or they have inner fear that they have with themselves to overcome .
  • His heroes are never perfect & they always have some kind of defect in them.
  • Nolan’s films often feature a non-linear narrative presentation (Following, Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins) and psychological themes.
  • His films will mostly be high on concept.

The film which influenced him in his youth, he says, was Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner which he admired for its visual complexity. He started by directing several short films. The most notable among them is DoodleBug with Jeremy Theobald who later starred in his first feature film Following.

The movie was of course a start of many to follow psychological thrillers. The film shows a journey of a struggling writer who decides to follow random people in search of some interesting story. In doing so he gets involved with the conman/petty thief and soon he is robbing people’s homes & getting involved in things he shouldn’t be. Its shot in black & white & has just half the length of most of his films. Its gripping to watch & the performances are good. The twist at the end is just superb. What’s incredible about the film is that if you take Ra.One’s budget you can make 100 Followings. It was made with just $6000 by working with friends. Its amazing what he could do with $6000 most people are not able to achieve with millions of dollars today. The success of ‘The Following‘ resulted in the Maverick’s next, Memento.

This is based on a short story by Jonathan Nolan who has also co-written The Prestige & The Dark Knight. The reverse story telling of the cult classic Memento makes it my favorite movie of all time. The revenge saga with the Nolan mark is a most twisted piece of art you can see. The movie starts with the ending and ends with the beginning. The protagonist is looking for revenge for his wife’s murder but he cannot recollect anything after the murder and his current memory cannot be for more than 15 mins. He takes snaps of the people that he meets and categorizes them in the form of writing to make sure he knows who they are. The tattoos are also incorporated in the body telling him about the various things and events that has so far occurred in his life. This movie will suck you in & make you feel that you’re the person suffering from the 15 minute memory loss. This is the movie which has the repeat value of the highest proportion, and there are several reasons for it. It is an absolute joyride, insanely entertaining & the most important reason of all-it is almost impossible to grasp it all in a single viewing. Like most of his films he has shown a unique talent for creating full fledged feature out of a concept. The screenplay basically plays backward before winding back to the start again. Every scene in Memento is a suspense and puzzle piece.

The performance by Guy Pearce is right up there & he manages to appear confused & revengeful at the same time. Carrie-Anne Moss does a good job in getting just the right amount of mystery & untrustworthinees needed for the character. The way how Carrie-Anne Moss & Joe Pantoliano become the memory & the brain of Leonard Shelby respectively makes you wonder whom to trust & you feel like they both are manipulating him for their own advantage. The twist in the end will twist your head. When you are done watching the film you’re still figuring out what hit you, what happened. Hours after watching the movie you’re still thinking and rewinding the movie in your head trying to get the answers. I can only imagine how they must have edited it. Back & forth, story in reverse, but not a moment in the movie do we feel that he has lost the plot or he doesn’t know what he is doing. This is what you call an intelligent man’s movie. It will fry your head off but when you’re done with it you will be just be sitting there savouring and recollecting what just hit you.

Then came Insomnia an adaptation of Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film of the same name, a suspense/thriller starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. It is a story of two Los Angeles homicide detectives who are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn’t set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen. The film is good and Nolan’s direction was totally in control. The pace, slower than usual Nolan films, is in sync with Al Pacino’’s state of mind but avoids boredom by really picking up in the action scenes. The photography is beautiful & brings some cold beauty to the picture. The color tones in the film which is dark & bleak really adds to the mood of the film. Twists are kept to a minimum, and the plot itself is fairly straightforward. It was refreshing to see Robin Williams in such a complex role & Hilary Swank holding her own even in presence of such great actors. Al Pacino as an Insomniac is just unreal. The thirst for perfection & the hunger for excellence is such a treat to watch from this man. However, such is the benchmark & standard that Nolan has set for himself, that I have to say that this film was his weakest work.

Every magic trick consists

of three parts, or acts

The first part is called “The Pledge.”

The second act is called “The Turn.”

The hardest part.

The part we call…

“The Prestige”

The story of two magicians trying to out do each other. The storytelling is complex & confusing. The performances are mesmerizing & the amount of detailing in the production design, magic tricks & the cinematography are terrific.  It’s a complete departure from his previous work. This one took him to a territory we have never seen him in. A period film with a large budget compared to his previous work. The twists & turns in the screenplay are a plenty. The constant back & forth cuts in to the time & places are riveting. It’s so unpredictable that you will soon give-up hope of predicting anything correctly about the film & just go where it takes you. If the movie goes over the  head of  people then it is completely understandable. Because this is what Nolan can do & he is becoming supremely good at it. The movie will make you irritated, confused, exasperated, frustrated but before it’s over… you’ll fall in love with it. The writing is of the highest caliber. The first 20-25 minutes of the film is confusing but then things slowly starts to come together & you are completely engrossed in to it. The running time of over 2 hrs doesn’t feel like it, because there is no time to think over it as there is so much happening in the film & you will be completely hooked in to it. Also, the way he has managed to hold the various sub-plots & relationships in the film. Be it the relationship between Bourden & Sarah, the rivalry between Bourdon & Angier, the relationship between Angier & Cutter. And all of these woven around the main theme ‘Magic’ is effortlessly done by Nolan.

His most commercial film came out in the form of  Batman Begins. The Batman movies made prior to this where generally made as super heroes movies usually are, childish fantasies and not to be taken too seriously. However, Nolan decided, let’s get serious. He did what no one else could:

  • Showed that Super-Heroes were Vulnerable, Scared, Indecisive, Human.
  • Made you feel you dint want to be a super-hero just seeing what Bruce Wayne had to go through to become one.
  • For the 1st time the super-hero movies were serious, made you think, scared you & not just a no brainer movie.
  • The super hero didn’t come from some other planet.

When you start watching Batman Begins you actually don’t feel like you are watching a super hero film. You feel like you are watching a super action suspense thriller. The whole feel of the film is different. Nolan started the story of Batman Begins right from ground z ero and it was co-written by David “Blade” Gover. The story starts with Bruce Wayne, the Super-Hero off the film actually feeling scared & vulnerable. The man even though scared decides to overcome his fears & fights crime, hence ends up being trained by Liam Neeson. Bruce Wayne then returns to the city & fights crime after differences grows between Bruce Wayne & Henry Ducard who actually thinks that Gotham City has become corrupt & too much crime goes around & everyone should die & be destroyed.

The action sequences in the film are real & high-octane  without being  fantasy based which we are so used to while watching a super hero movie. The Gotham city is all glossy and glamor on the outside but Nolan makes sure that the underbelly of the city doesn’t go unnoticed. The amount of talent that came together in the film-Christian Bale, Micheal Caine, Liam Nesson, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman is overwhelming. However, you never feel that any of these actors were just there for the heck of it. Everyone was there for a reason and had their fair share of the pie in terms of the role. Something like these can only be pulled off by the man of the caliber of Nolan.

Oh, hee-hee, aha.

Ha, ooh, hee,

ha-ha, ha-ha.

And we thought Nolan or anyone couldn’t top Batman Begins.

‘The Dark Knight‘ was a follow-up to the Batman Begins. What a sequel it was, the best sequel we must have ever seen. The ever troubled Gotham City is back with the regular bunch of criminals and the man

– I know why they call him the Joker.
– Why do they call him the Joker?

I heard he wears makeup.

– Makeup?

Yeah, to scare people.

You know, war paint.

The Joker

In The Dark Knight,

Joker wants Batman to reveal his identity to the city & he will not stop until he sees him do that. He is menacing & he will not stop at anything. Nolan did something that only Nolan could do. He turned the Joker in to a dark & complex devil. From the scars on the face to the make-up, the licking habit, the way Joker laughs & walks, Nolan completely changed the Joker, just like he changed the Batman franchise. Heath Ledger will never be forgotten for putting in the greatest performance ever seen in a villainous role. Nolan does not reveal till the very end what Joker really wants. Like the first time he walks up to the bunch of criminals and tells them that

It’s simple. We, uh, kill the Batman.

If it’s so simple, why haven’t

you done it already?

If you’re good at something,

never do it for free.

Here it looks like he is doing it for money. But near the climax of the film he burns down the money. Then, it’s in the climax everything is reveled. How do you deal with a man whom you can’t bargain with makes it so scary. The tension built with the racing pace, color tones & the mind-boggling cinematography was the reason for the fear that you get that Gotham city will be destroyed. Visually speaking, action did as much talking in the film as much as the dialogues. It was never over the top or gimmicky either. The story & screenplay was just brilliant. Some of the sequences can never be forgotten. The highway sequence where the Joker is captured is pure edge of the seat stuff.

The performances by all the actors were brilliant. Even though it was the Joker who steals the show. Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Christian Bale manage to hold their own & give able support to Joker. The action sequences are at a amazing level, you can watch it a number of times & still feel the same thrill. One thing that can go against The Dark Knight however, has to be that it was tad too long & it could have been 15-20 minutes shorter.

He does this everytime, I don’t know how but he does it everytime. He always manages to prove us wrong that his next won’t be as good as or better than his previous movie. Inception is arguably his most complex and confusing commercial action film. To be really frank with you, there can’t be spoilers when it comes to Inception because it gets very difficult to properly explain it to someone without him thinking that either you’re stupid or we are just a fan of Yash Raj kind of films and only pretending to like it. Inception as most of Nolan’s films is a high concept epic. The basic plot is simple. A group of high end conmen led by Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur, Ellen Page – Ariadne, Tom Hardy – Eames are men who steal secrets from the dreams. They get a proposal from Ken Watanabe  – Saito to plant an idea which is called as Inception into his competitor’s son.

Just to give a small brief,if you miss a minute of this film, you can pretty much forget about understanding it. The confusion is there, the dream within the dream and the constant dwelling in to the subconscious of the human mind if not paid attention to can give you nightmares but that’s the fun part, the screenplay though confusing is never too crowded and is always going on smoothly in the right direction. The jargons are kept to the minimum which also helps to keep us in pace with the movie. Dialogues are mostly used to explain the scenes. The storytelling is masterly in the way in which Nolan blends in the love story of Cobb and Marion Cotillard – Mal with minimal fuss and ease. It astonishing how he manages to pull off this because it could have been a total joke or a disaster but like a true master pulled it off.

The action sequences are lavish and superb, especially the Matrix kind of stunt in the hotel. The production design needless to say is top of the line and special effects leave you breathless. The cinematography and background score add more substance and emotions especially in the parts of Cobb and Mal. It is an emotional journey as much as an action roller coaster, and something that you must watch at least once, because I don’t think we will get to see something like this made by someone like him and being as good as this.

This man has already achieved so much in such a little time that it scares me whether he will be able to live up to this or top it up. He has literally changed the way we view films . He makes film viewing a maze which we are trying to figure out and the most amazing part in all of this is that he is not like those people who always tries to show off as how good he is with his camera placements, atmospheres and editing though he is a utter genius and and poles apart from anyone else you won’t feel like he just did that for showing off or anything like that and it is mark of a great man, the greater the human being the humbler he is and he signifies it. He has changed cinema in so many ways be it

  • The unique story-telling style & playing with your mind
  • Giving us something different everytime without repeating himself
  • The complete make-over of the super hero genre
  • Giving cinema one of the greatest villain of all time Heath ‘Joker’ Ledger
  • Keeping the audience’s engaged and on the edge of the seat for more than 2 hours
  • Making the movie viewing a roller coaster ride and making us take out emotions which we rarely use while watching a movie

All I can tell Christopher Nolan is that do whatever you are doing, keep doing because we just can’t get enough of it.

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18 thoughts on “Christopher Nolan – Picasso Of Filmmaking

  1. super post… I couldn’t resist myself by seeing the title itself.. Chistopher Nolan is possibly one of the finest filmmakers of all times and each movie of his is an institution in itself.. besides Scorcese, if there is another Hollywood guy I really worship, it has to be Nolan… As you mentioned correctly, it is so difficult to make someone who hasn’t seen Inception, why you love it so much.. though he is visually extremely strong and precise, but what makes him stand out the most is the writing.. dude, where does he get those thoughts.. and why don’t our Indian counterparts don’t realise that it is so important to be right with the script… Hail Nolan.. may you keep making and we learn something from each of those.. great job Sanki..

  2. Thank U Souvik….U r rite…But forget about Indian counterparts not even hollywood people manage to play with ur head and emotion like this maan does yaar…his movie is like the rollercoaster of movies re….its unbelievable the kind of treat, exhilaration, excitement it is to watch…wen u come out of theater your like quietly Savioring everything tht u jus seen….trying to sink everything in

  3. sanket shetty you have explained the movies with emotions as you were watching the movie and writing about nolan. Nolan has given cinema the movies for waht people really wait. The first time i heard the story about inception i could not believe the thought process. he has executed the movie so well that it makes people believe that inception is possible. the joker character is the vest i have ever seen in a villian role. i would like to thank sanket for changing my life and my thought process for the real life ha ha ha. sanket you have covered wonderfully about nolan life.

  4. I am not a Nolan fan, liked his some movies and hated some. Would like to point out Spiderman series and X-men Series made the jump to reality side before Nolan Made Batman Series.Also adding the Climax of First part of Batman was totally not in sync with the movie and looked like any other Hollywood blockbuster. Technically Batman is not a superhero like Superman and Spiderman who have powers. do check out a good post on Inception here http://bigother.com/2010/08/08/seventeen-ways-of-criticizing-inception/.

    • Cinemausher thanx for the inception post that guy hated inception more than me lovin it man. I too thought xmen was quite reaslistic in approach spiderman i found a bit fantasy n supericial. But wat batman n dark knight for me did is it made superhero movies gritty, dark n more like a thriller….also batman not bein a superhero part was not really tepped upon especially in terms of his demons n inner fears whc i thought was well dealt by nolan

  5. Not Only Following was made in $6000 it has unique production story. It was shot on weekends, as Nolan and all other crew and cast were in full time jobs. It was shot over a year. And Shot Edited and Directed by Nolan.

  6. Sanky nice post..enjoyed reading it. I loved The dark knight and Inception. The augmented reality in his movies makes us experience surreality. Will try to watch Insomnia one of these days. Actors themselves will admit that inspite of the talent they possess…great actors are those who talent is put to good use by directors and Nolan has managed that. But he still needs to match the skills of great directors like Sajid and Farah Khan.

    • Yeah Ajay Knew that….Jus wanted to keep the transition flow of Begins and the Dark Knight thats why did it that way….

  7. Nice post buddy. Nolan’Ji’ ki jitni taareef ki jaaye kam hai. Unki leela aparampaar hai.Eagerly awaiting ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Iss baar toh shapath li hai ki yeh film toh IMAX Dome mein hi dekhni hai.

  8. Nice post buddy. Nolan’Ji’ ki jitni taareef ki jaaye kam hai. Unki leela aparampaar hai.Eagerly awaiting ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Iss baar toh shapath li hai ki yeh film toh IMAX Dome mein hi dekhni hai.

  9. Thank you so much. I had requested a post on this absolute genius ,few months back. I was waiting for someone to write. Beautiful article, makes me want to go back and watch every single Nolan Movie again!

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