Film: Who on Earth is Christopher Nolan? – Background and a look at latest film ‘Inception’

Whenever I mention his name eyebrows are raised, but the truth is Christopher Nolan is nothing short of a cinematic genius, in my mind at least.

The man responsible for re-energising the good-as-dead Batman franchise, as well as deliver the most gripping thriller of recent years, and possibly the best twist ending of all time.

The film I’m talking about is 2006’s The Prestige, a story of two magicians who begin as friends but soon their art tears them apart in almost every way. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as Alfred Borden and Robert Angier in a tale which plays with the audiences mind all the way through, just like any good magician.

It is Nolan’s skill at guiding the audience through complex storylines, often wrought with flashbacks and surrealism, which makes him such an effective director.

Born in London in 1970, Nolan spent his early life there as well as Chicago, since his mother was american. Nolan caught the film-making bug aged seven and during his education at University College London began making short films.

1996 saw Nolan direct his first feature film, Following, in 1996, about a writer who stalks people. Here the first signs of his penchant for unusual storytelling surfaced, with his protagonist, and the audience, experiencing events in non-chronological order.

Momento in 2000, based on a short story written by his brother and oft collaborator Jonathan, saw Nolan get his first widely-known release, nominated for Best Screenplay at the Oscars.

After this Nolan directed Insomnia (2002), a remake of a Norwegian film, featuring all-round acting legend Al Pacino.

By the time Batman Begins er…began (sorry!) in 2005, Christopher Nolan was still a relatively unknown director and writer, but David S. Goyer, writer of the Blade trilogy and recently creator of the TV series FlashForward, got the green light to lift Warner Bros’ hiatus on Batman and soon he and Nolan created the screenplay for one of the most successful ‘re-boots’ in recent years.

With super-sequel The Dark Knight now safely nestled in Blu-ray collections worldwide, Nolan’s pedigree as a director seems assured, but it could all depend on upcoming release Inception, a film shrouded in secrecy but which carries the surrealist tells of a Christopher Nolan film.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and an ensemble cast including: Ellen Page, Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy, the film – as far as I can make out – focuses around the nature of reality and dreams, and how dreams seem real while we are having them. DiCaprio’s character works for a company which deals with “sub-concious security” and there seems to be a lot of surrealism and manipulating gravity and the elements.

Very little concrete information has come out to explain the phenomena seen in the latest trailer (YouTube it now), but the world-bending visuals are certainly a spectacle in themselves. Screen Rant have dissected some of an LA Times interview with Nolan, and suggest this is a very personal film for Nolan.

As writer and director for the film, Nolan has a big responsibility, particularly when you consider even the cast had trouble understanding the plot until the film was in production. DiCaprio said to the LA Times:

Complex and ambiguous are the perfect way to describe the story. And it’s going to be a challenge to ultimately pull it off. But that is what Chris Nolan specializes in.”

So not really a film where you sit scoffing snacks for two hours, Inception will work the audiences mind, fitting really when you consider the film is pitched as “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind” (Variety).

Ellen Page, who plays Ariadne, said: “There’s a tangible realism even when it gets crazy, and somehow that makes the jeopardy feel more real…There’s the big scale, but the sincerity isn’t left behind. The story is complicated but never confusing.” (SR)

On top of this latest release, Nolan had been talking to David S. Goyer about a new Superman film, sub-titled on IMDB as ‘Man of Steel’. Though the thought of a down-to-earth incarnation of America’s favourite superhero is enough to get some hearts racing, the likelihood of Nolan directing is unlikely due to the presence of another superhero: Christian Bale – OK Batman

Currently just referred to as Batman 3 Nolan seems to want to finish his saga: “Without getting into specifics, the key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story. And in viewing it as the finishing of a story rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story . . . I’m very excited about the end of the film, the conclusion, and what we’ve done with the characters. My brother has come up with some pretty exciting stuff.” (LA Times)

With release set at July 20 2012, Nolan has plenty of time to lead the caped crusader (a possible title?) through a final ordeal of superhero turmoil, though it’s difficult to imagine it out-doing the late Heath Ledger’s swansong.

Inception will come out in cinemas July 16 and I for one will be there to get another dose of Nolan, because noone makes a film quite like him, and when someone dares to do things a little bit differently, it’s nice to see it pay off.

James Michael Parry

Acknowledgements: Wiki, IMDB, Screen Rant

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