ras_al_deacon wrote:For me, TDKR has become my favorite in the trilogy. I say this because I do believe TDKR to be, to date, the most spiritual and symbolically potent of all of Nolan's films. Except for perhaps Inception. The layers of depth in TDKR, from the mirrors and parallels to both prior movies, the symmetrical similarity to the great works of English literature like Tale of Two Cities... to the intricacy of how Bruce receives "The Fire" from Bane...
Consider, for instance, how Bane simply finishes the work upon Bruce that Ras began, but inverted. Ras taught Bruce to master his fear, but it is Bane who re-awakens fear inside of Bruce. Bruce IS the Fire that Rises out of the pit.
I could go on, and on. Finally, the thing I love about Nolan is the moral or theme at the core of his movies. Each one is great. But... "A hero can be anyone." It's just so profound, such a distillation of the movie and the whole trilogy.
Well said. If you don't mind, I'd really like to hear more of your thoughts about the films motifs and themes.
OK, this is going to be a long post as I need to structure my thoughts about the film.
We heard it in the first teaser. It made all of us wonder, what the hell is that? What language is it?
We hear Deshi Basara throughout the whole film, as part of Zimmer's score. THEN we start to hear it while we are inside of the pit, with Bruce. It is literally the heartbeat that courses through the whole film.
Now, this isn't a unique Nolan trick. A very influential film (one that obviously influenced Interstellar, and that Nolan has taken shots from for Inception and the Prestige as well) is Koyaanisqatsi. In that film, which is like a visual tone poem, a documentary with no spoken words, we hear a chant over and over again: "koyaanisqatsi" ... "koyaanisqatsi"...
That whole film is all about showing images of nature contrasted with images of modern society. It says nothing verbally, but the implication is in the editing / juxtaposition: seeing images of the natural world juxtaposed with the ugliness of modern civilization is disturbing and upsetting. But after about 80 minutes of this, when the film ends, it shows a title card explaining the meaning of "koyaanisqatsi"... it's a Hopi word, meaning "out of balance." The whole movie then takes on a sort of vivified energy, as that final revelation makes the images we've just seen mean so much more.
Nolan brilliantly uses this device with the "Deshi Basara" chant. Bruce has been hearing this chant in the pit. We've been hearing it for about 100 minutes or so. And what's the answer: "Rise!" Note that Bruce only learns this when he has internalized the major lesson from the blind man: that he must find the fear again, that he must be afraid to die in order to fight for -- and sacrifice for -- his city. We learn the answer at the same time Bruce does, which is a brilliant, absolutely brilliant, example of moving audience empathy and the character journey into the exact same place. What's more, the film's components -- its editing, its music, its dialog... everything converges into this moment.
Of course, once Bruce and the audience have internalized the "Rise" message, he literally climbs out of the pit. We "Rise" with him.
One final note on this: up until this point, the "Why do We Fall" score cue has been played in other parts of the film, but truncated and abridged. We never get the full musical idea until the moment when Bruce realizes what "Rise" means. This is a great example of Nolan's skill as a director because he uses nto just the image, but the full palette of sound and music available to create narrative meaning.
Both Jonah and Chris spoke about how much of an inspiration A Tale of Two Cities was. Dickensian literature in general is obsessed with doppelgangers and doubles. The shadows that lurk in the psyche that are portrayed by actual narrative characters. This allows Dickens to compare and contrast the elements of society through the characters. Other writers, like JK Rowling (who certainly writes in the Dickensian / Shakespearean tradition) have used this method to create really interesting characters.
TDKR has several of these 'mirrors' and it really enhances both the trilogy and TDKR in particular. Let's take a look...
Bane / Batman
One could think of Bane and Batman as both the adopted sons of Ras al Ghul.
- They both love Talia
- They both were trained by the League of Shadows: this goes so far as that they commit aerial infiltration / exfiltration in the EXACT same way: look at the shot of Lau / Batman entering the C-130 in TDK and the shot of Pavel / Bane entering the C-130 in TDKR. Exact mirrors. Nolan wants us to draw that comparison.
- When Bane is revealed to the CIA in the beginning of TDKR, he has a black hood over his head. When Batman / Bruce is revealed to Fox / Miranda, he has a white hood over his head. The framing of the shots in which the hoods are removed is IDENTICAL.
In TDKR, Bane fulfills the same function as Ras and the Joker in the previous two movies: they are Batman's mentor! Think about it. Each of them is very critical of modern society and brings that viewpoint to Gotham. Bruce / Batman fights against them, but in each movie he winds up adopting their techniques / philosophies to be the hero Gotham needs.
Bane teaches Batman his most brutal lesson: that he must fear death.
Bane: "You fight like a younger man... nothing held back... admirable, but mistaken."
Bruce: "Why didn't you just kill me?"
Bane: "You don't fear death... your punishment must be more severe."
Now here is where I see some serious depth. In each film, fire features very prominently. Bruce passes through these fires and has his character scorched, burned, and heated to the point where it becomes raw. The fires of the TDK trilogy each bring Bruce to his lowest point. This is where the adage of "why do we fall?" always comes back to Bruce. At his lowest moment. Each of these moments is brought about by the villain character, and in TDKR Bane fulfills this function. He pushes Bruce to the deepest level possible, only for Bruce to gain a nearly inhuman level of strength -- a spiritual strength that comes from Bruce's spirit 'rising.' It's very alchemical, the notion of fire bringing about some sort of greater purity.
When you add in the way in which Bane puts the fire to Bruce: a cultural icon like Batman being broken so viscerally, with so much violence and horror? The moment is so strong, and is an example of some of Nolan's best direction.
Bonus: it's clear that Bruce / Batman adopts the enemy's way of thinking in each film. In TDKR, in the climactic action scene, the score cue "Imagine the Fire" combines both Bruce and Bane's themes! What a phenomenal way of showing Bruce's fullness.
Talia / Ras
- Talia has a mark on her shoulder. Bruce asks her about it, and she says "just an old mistake." ... the mark on her shoulder is identical to the crescent that that the League of Shadows uses to brand its members.
- Talia tells Bruce "do what's necessary" when he comes back. When Bruce defeats Ras in Begins, Ras says "you finally learned to do what is necessary.
- When Bruce / Batman kills Talia, the framing of how the truck falls down is the exact same as the moment when Ras is in the train and it crashes. Exact same framing.
Talia is such a fascinating character. She helps Bruce but they become enemies after long. Her motive of revenge and the sincerity of it is cast in doubt by her actions earlier in the movie. She tells Bruce "if you want to save the world, you have to start trusting it." This is the opposite of something that Ras would say! Ras holds extreme contempt for the modern world, as does Bane. So what happens?
In between Bruce and Talia sleeping together, Bruce of course gets broken and then thrown into prison. During this time, Bane probably had some words with Talia to get her focused on their mission. Great directors are notable for what they DON'T show. There's obviously complexity between Bane and Talia but we don't see most of it. That doesn't mean it's not there.
One more note on Talia: she is the catalyzing force that awakens Bruce's spirit. It's her love, her goodness as a character (as Miranda) that pushes Bruce out of his slumber and sends him towards Bane. On a psychological level, Talia acts as the anima, the feminine pyschic force that is contained within all men. Jungian psychology -- greatly simplified -- states that we can only be whole when our masculine and feminine sides of our psyche are balanced. What happened to Bruce in TDK? He lost his anima, in Rachel. This is why the character has been in a state of inaction for the events between TDK and TDKR. Bruce finds two feminine forces, Talia / Miranda and Selena, that awaken him and allow him to take action again.
(The psychology of these films is a wholly other thing that deserves its own post)
...I'll stop it for now. I think it's pretty obvious how I feel about TDKR and I hope some of this was informative!