Published By: Shriparna

Decoding The Cinematic Style Of Christopher Nolan

When you watch a Christopher Nolan movie from start to finish for the first time, you experience two conflicting emotions, overwhelmed and confused. Here’s a sneak-peek into his movie-making style. 


In a nearly impossible filming technique and mind-boggling spectacle, more than 100 cameras surreally zoom out from Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur who tussles with dream-bad guys defying the laws that usually govern space, time and motion. That is a climax sequence from one of the most ambitious films of Christopher Nolan’s Inception where cities fold in on themselves like three-dimensional maps. 


Nolan, a self-taught filmmaker and one of the most innovative storytellers and image-makers at work in movies today not only has unconventional handling of the script, characters but also cinematography utilized in the screenplay. The director flirts with two predominant themes, time travel and tangibility of memory.


Manipulation of Time


Time is not just a motif but a character in Nolan’s movies. In Interstellar, Nolan explored Einstein’s law of relativity and identified time as the film’s antagonist. Time is so central to its theme that the movie wouldn’t work if you ripped time dilation out of it. For example, a single hour on one planet is seven years at Earth. Even the music in the movie imitates a clock. Inception, on the other hand, takes time and compounds it multiple times. A character might spend years in their dream within dreams, but only a few hours pass in the real world.


Subjective reality


Nolan has an intriguing way to play with the concept of realism. In Inception, the characters create totems that determine if they are in reality or a dream.

Objective reality, a singular perspective, is not something Nolan wants his viewers to take back with them. This is one reason why his narrators are often unreliable. Therefore, it depends entirely on Leonardi DiCaprio’s Cobb to decide if he wants to stay in his dream with his wife or go back to reality for his kids. Nolan doesn’t answer attempts to dictate the audience consciousness of reality. On the contrary, he questions to the audience, “what is your reality?” He considers his audience intelligent and opens up a forum for discussion with changing perspectives.


Old school filming technique


Nolan’s filmmaking technique can be called a combination of intuition and geometry. In a cinematic world where directors rely on special effects to blur the line between reality and fantasy, Nolan relies on hand-held cameras, natural settings, and real filming locations. The very material that warrants the medium of the film being called “film” has been largely cut out of the process but for Nolan, they exist, breathing, pulsating much like his characters and his themes!