IIM Calcutta

Christopher Nolan Oeuvre

– By Pradipta Bohra

A scene from 'Following'

A brief look at Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre through the lens of post-modernism

Christopher Nolan has arrived on the Hollywood scene with a bang which can really be named as ‘The big bang’ or the one that started it all. He has cemented his place as the champion of postmodernist cinema with his use of disjoint storylines, rejection of grand narratives and mocking of order and stability.

Post modernism identifies a departure from earlier era where science was held as the creator of values, and order and idealism were the apostles of faith. In today’s chaotic world Nolan’s movies find a ready audience who can identify with the insecurity and instability of the actors. There is no perfect hero in Nolan’s movies and in spite of the hero’s best efforts and conviction in his abilities; he faces the innumerable cracks in his character. Themes of duality, obsession, sacrifice, guilt and secrecy permeate the fabric of the storylines repeatedly. Such themes are a very real reflection of our society and bring home the point that in today’s society adapting and adjusting are the only way out. There is no right or wrong, just situations and actions driven out of those situations.

The sheer inability to follow a set path is repeatedly used by Nolan to weave intricate tunnels and passages in his scripts. He captures the audience’s short attention span through mini-stories that do not necessarily combine to form a whole and leave the audience free to have their own interpretations. It wonderfully establishes the paradox in today’s society- more of power to the individual, yet man is more confused about himself than ever before. No belief works anymore and this theme is repeatedly highlighted in the movie ‘The Dark Knight’. The villain in the movie, the Joker plays off people against each other by attacking their beliefs. Another of Nolan’s unforgettable characters in the Memento has already lost his ability to form any beliefs. He has to believe in things ‘on the run’.

Lights, camera and action – yes Mr. Nolan, we are ready to believe or disbelieve if you so desire.


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