Thursday, February 16, 2012

Profile of a Director

Mr. Reliable: Christopher Nolan
I studied English Literature. I wasn't a very good student, but one thing I did get from it, while I was making films at the same time with the college film society, was that I started thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors had enjoyed for centuries and it seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well. - Christopher Nolan
I have seen kind of polarized opinions about the director in question here - Christopher Nolan. I know a lot of people who consider him Greatest Director Ever and on the other hand I have seen or read many people calling him most over-rated director of all time as well. Even though I can see why haters hate him, hypothetically if ever a war breaks out between his devotees and his opposition, I will side up with his devotees as I still consider him as one of my favorite directors. Out of 10 movies he directed, 2 are shorts and 1 is still in production. So, out of remaining seven, his lowest rated movie is at 7.2, he has 5 movies in first half of IMDb 250, 1 in top 10, 2 in top 20, 3 in top 50 and 4 in top 100 - numbers don't lie. Do they? He is probably the only director I have seen whole work body of and one of the directors I have learned to trust blindly even though I still have my reservations going as far as naming him the Greatest director ever.

When it comes to English movie world, I have been a kind of late bloomer. English being my Third Language, I started learning English at the age of 10. Till I was 16, it was just a subject in school I had to get through. After I was introduced to Harry Potter, I started reading English books at the age of 16. Conversational English came a little later at around 20 and was soon followed by the movies. So to tell you the truth, I have been a serious movie enthusiast for just about 5 years now. So, it probably will come as a surprise, but first time I heard of anyone called Christopher Nolan was when The Dark Knight(2008) released in 2008 and it swept me off my feet. Watching The Dark Knight was an experience like I never had. Two and half hours of continuous high-octane action was too much for me. Walking out of the theater, after watching it for the first time, I could not remember half of the things I saw but I knew I just saw something great, something I will not be able to describe in words. For a novice like me who didn't know much about Batman, It took me around 2 more viewings to get around to know Batman's world completely. Till today, I still haven't seen any other version of Batman, but to tell you the truth, I never felt like it as well. I have been content with Nolan and his version.

As the years passed by, I became more and more avid movie-goer and Nolan became a household name for me. I got around to all the other movies on his resume as well. Probably The Prestige(2006) was the first one to go down. Again, I found it hard to follow all the twists and turns in the end. Similar experience like The Dark Knight. It demanded multiple viewings but has never failed to amaze me even when I knew what to expect next. And so did Memento(1999). Just an idea of starting the movie at the end and then coming towards the start is simply phenomenal and then to do it when you are virtually unknown will need insurmountable courage and confidence. But, Boy! did it pay off? He again kept me busy throughout the movie, putting all the pieces together. Then there is first installment of Batman Trilogy, Batman Begins(2004). Here, Nolan shows us how a great franchise should start. It might be a little slower in comparison to some of his other films, but by no means it is any inferior to any of them. And then thanks to Netflix, I also got around to Insomnia(2003) and his debut feature Following(1997). However, for me highlight of his career or rather my whole film-watching experience has been Inception(2010). For the better part of 2010, I was following every news, every picture, every trailer. So by the time it released I had sky loads of expectations and it is always great to see something you love go beyond your expectations.

With his usual crew of cinematographer Wally Pfister, Composer Hans Zimmer, Editor Lee Smith, Wife-Producer Emma Thomas and writer-brother Jonathan Nolan along with the cast of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Cilian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Nolan has created movies which are not just entertaining or commercially successful but are real masterpieces. Strong characters, catchy dialogues, amazing action scenes, great pace and to add it to all extremely well thought musical scores have always been some of the highlights of his movies. But, like any notable director, he never loses the sight of what his movie needs to accomplish and like a master craftsman when he reaches their, we can only stand and adore what lies before us. All the factors above make a movie stand out from the crowd but they are mere embellishments. At its core, any movie worth remembering needs to have a Story and in my opinion, that is where Nolan's actual achievement lies. Standout factors in his movies all his career so far have been his Screenplays and the way he brings them forward for all us viewers in his direction. Academy can snub him as much as they want but this will be what Nolan will be remembered and respected for by all his fans. 

But still, I am uncomfortable comparing him with the likes of Hitchcock and Scorsese and Spielberg and Wilder. Why? Because he is just 41 yet. Because he has made only 10 films. He sure is one of the most exciting, young directors to watch for and I am sure he still has many more tricks up his sleeve to dazzle us. He still has a lot of years left in him to take his career whichever way he wants. So, let us not pass any judgement yet. Just wait and enjoy the show while we can. He is a kind of director I will watch anything of just because him name is associated with it. I am even taking Zack Snyder's Man of Steel(2013) seriously because Nolan is given the credit of it's story. All the buzz behind The Dark Knight Rises(2012) should bare testimony for it as well. Even though I am being cautious comparing him with the likes of Scorsese and Spielberg,  I firmly believe that he does the have a potential to be up there. He has proven it time and again and these coming years will also be witness to that.    

Previous Profiles:
Sidney Lumet
Martin Scorsese


  1. Aside from the Batman movies, the only other Nolan movies I've seen are Inception and The Prestige. I really do need to see Memento and Insomnia I think. I've never really thought of him as 'the best director' but he definitely is 'an awesome director'! ahah :)

    1. Watch Memento. As soon as you can Watch Memento. Insomnia isn't bad either - if nothing else, it is worth watching for Robin William and Pacino and I am glad we share that opinion.

  2. Memento is firmly in my top 10 films ever. It is a great film from undoubtedly a great director.

    I haven't seen all of his work, Following, but the rest I have seen and am always impressed.


    1. He never fails to impress that is for sure. Try and see Following if you can, it isn't too long, definitely worth 70 minutes of you time.

  3. I love Christopher Nolan, the man is one of the finest crafters of his medium living today. It's great that he takes years off between the Batman franchise to make great (if not better) films. Memento is and always will be a film classic. Cannot wait for The Dark Knight Rises.

    Great write-up!

    1. Thanks Alex. He really is all the things that you said and some more. Can not wait for Dark Knight Rises. That's for sure.

  4. Nolan is the reason I dont use IMDB anymore. Shame that a minority of extreme fans have soured his reputation with vilified comments and vicious attacks on those who dont agree- happens in any fandom, sadly. Great guy. I cant say I hold his films in much esteem but I really enjoy 90% of them and Memento is easily one of the top 25 of its decade. Enjoyed reading :)


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