Nolan – The God of Sm’all’ Things
For almost all Nolanites the biggest movie of the year is 2 days away. But for a lucky few like me, there are press previews (eat your hearts out people). So, as I sit a few hours away from the preview, waiting in anticipation, counting hours, I’m thinking back. Thinking about the highly exhilarating cinema that a certain God called Christopher Nolan has presented humanity with, for over a decade now. If there was ever a requirement for a mythological God of Cinema, I would nominate Nolan without blinking. From his 1998 independent debut Following to the mind boggling Inception in 2010, he has never failed to leave us breathless.
The Knight and his King
Most filmmakers carve their niche and make their presence felt slowly over a period of time. But Nolan showed signs of genius from his very first film. One automatically knew what audience he was addressing with Following. However, that trend changed after and since The Prestige. Even Inception for example (which I think is definitely his best work so far) was a mass film. Despite being a supremely intelligent piece of writing, it was a commercial success. On the other hand, another brilliant piece of work – Memento (2000), remained a critically acclaimed Nolan masterpiece.
Known to cater to an audience with a certain intellect, Nolan films are a class apart. Often playing with ideas and concepts like the subconscious mind, dreams, alternate realities etc., tools like flashbacks are a recurring theme in most of his films. Nolan, however has found a balance between catering to his niche audience i.e. his diehard fans and catering to the mass audience. This is courtesy the Batman trilogy. Because of the Batman series receiving huge commercial success, a whole new type of audience is now opening up to the Nolan brand of cinema. Commercial cinema-goers will now show interest in all of his other works which are anything but commercial. So cheers to Mr. Christopher Nolan – my nominee for the God of sm’all’ things – cinema.
A scene from Following (1998)
Most Nolanites have their favorite Nolan movie picked out but for those who don’t, let’s do a total recall. First up is his first feature film, Following (1998). The film depicts a writer who is obsessed with following random people. Scenes are shown out of chronological order. Nolan made the film on a budget of only £3,000. He shot it on weekends over the course of a year, working with friends he had met at the University College London film society. Nolan directed the film from his own script, and also photographed and edited it himself.
His next venture was Memento (2000) – a critically acclaimed cult film. It was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best screenplay. The movie follows a widower who suffers a head injury and is unable to form new memories. In keeping with this inability to know what has just happened before, the film’s narrative structure runs in reverse (with an interlude between each pair of major "flashback" sequences). Our very own desi version (Gajini) in multiple languages have been made and remade only to add to the popularity of this film.
The critically acclaimed Memento (2000)
In 2002, Nolan directed Insomnia, staring Al Pacino which revolves around two Los Angeles homicide detectives that are dispatched to a small town in Alaska, where the sun does not set, to investigate the methodical murder of a local teenager. The never setting sun was a central reference point in the story.
Next up is the beginning of what some call the best representation of a comic character on the big screen – the first in the Batman series (Batman Begins) – 2005. We all know the story of how this film marked the beginning of a worldwide success story.
Then came The Prestige in 2006 which was based on two rival magicians in the 19th century. It revolves around the intense professional rivalry between two stage illusionists, their desire to develop better tricks than the other draws them into a battle of skill and technology, dominated by obsession, secrecy and duality.
Al Pacino in Insomnia (2002)
2008 saw the release of what went on to become an enormous box office success with record breaking sales and a performance that will be remembered for a very long time. A posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor was collected by Nolan for Heath Ledger. “Why so serious?” as a dialogue now belongs to Ledger and none other. The Dark Knight – a film that broke records and a performance that broke a million hearts due to the circumstances that followed.
The film that followed has been called the best movie of the last decade by certain reputed critics. I would nod my head in full approval. Inception (2010) was described as "a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind". Despite a complicated plot it was a huge success at the box office.
And to put a worthy end to this article, the last of the lot, The Dark Knight Rises (2012). I eagerly await, all nails bitten off, conscious and subconscious mind occupied by nothing but the Bat Sign. I hear nothing but the Bat call. As the sun rises tomorrow, so will my hopes, in anticipation of the biggest film of the year (to say the least).
Watch this space for the verdict on The Dark Knight Rises.