Sunday, February 16, 2014

Director of obsession

Howdy folks, good to be back to blogosphere after such a long layoff.  Contrary to popular belief, my blog isn't dead, just merely lying dormant thanks to my hectic schedule which has only let up recently.  It's been almost 9 months since my last blog post and more than a year since the last movie from one of my favorite directors of all time, Chris Nolan.

Christopher Jonathan James Nolan was born in London on 30 July 1970.  Nolan's childhood was split between Chicago and London, and he has both British and American citizenship.  Oddly enough, many of his films feature British actors like Gary Oldman and Christian Bale doing an almost perfect American accent on screen.  There are several notable traits in Nolan movies which make them so unique and special -- here are a few:
  1. Morally ambiguous lead characters -- In Insomnia, Al Pacino's Will Dormer is a damn good cop, but he accidentally shoots his partner in a stakeout and then tampers with the evidence to cover up his guilt; in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio's Dominic Cobb steals information from people's brains for a hotshot businessman so he can clear his innocence and get back to his family. Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne, while having noble intentions on eliminating crime from Gotham city, those intentions come from his pain of the murder of his parents, spawned from an unhealthy need for revenge.
  2. Very grounded and naturalistic approach -- Virtually all of Nolan's films are rooted in reality, even those about a person's dreams.  All of the characters in his movies are very believable and grounded.  Inception was a movie about dream stealing but even those dreams felt like the dreams of real people.  Nolan was also the only director to make Batman into a real-life person, something no other director could do before.  While other directors made Batman into a superhero, Nolan made him into what he really is -- a tragically heroic vigilante.
  3. Obsession, guilt and revenge -- Ahh yes, what Nolan movie would be complete without at least one of these three themes woven into its storyline?!?!  In Memento (later remade into Ghajini in Tamil and Hindi), Leonard Shelby is hell-bent on getting revenge on his late wife's killer;  in Insomnia, Will Dormer is feeling so guilty about killing a fellow cop on a stakeout and then tampering with that evidence that it doesn't allow him to sleep.  But perhaps nothing says Christopher Nolan better than obsession!  In The Prestige, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are constantly obsessed with topping each other at being magicians.  But as obsessed as those two were, no character in the Nolan universe is more obsessive than Bruce Wayne/Batman -- constantly driven toward fighting crime & feeling constant guilt over not being able to save his parents, he pushes his mind and body to the limit everyday to rid Gotham city of criminal scumbags.
  4. Love stories just aren't his thing -- Let's face it, a grounded approach featuring gritty realism combined with obsessive guilt and anger just doesn't go very well with flowery love stories!  The closest Nolan came to a love story was Inception and Memento, which features the protagonists tortured by the memory of the loved ones they lost.  But even those aspects were simply just supporting accessories injected into an otherwise different main storyline.  It's not that Nolan is not capable of writing a love story, it's simply the fact that it doesn't fit very well with his style of directing.
  5. The acting performances -- Nolan's directing seems to automatically  inspire his actors to give it their best.  That's why, in all his movies, the actors bring their A-game to the set, which naturally lends itself to great performances.  Great direction and great acting ultimately translates to great movies overall.
Above all, what makes Nolan so effective as a director is his diligence, attention to detail and work ethic.  It's probably the one reason that Nolan never makes a bad movie (at least so far); out of 4 stars, none of his films will ever get less than three.  He works diligently to make his movies top-quality, and the characters in his stories are obsessive, diligent people who equally push themselves just as hard to try and achieve their goal(s). 

But perhaps what I like most about Chris Nolan's movies are that they are not only great masterpieces, but you can actually learn from them:

See you guys on my next post!