Nolan's Trademarks

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This thread is just for pondering about some of the recurring themes, techniques and styles of Nolan's films that distinguish his films from the crowd.

From psychlogical thrillers to spectacular blockbusters, Nolan has proven to be an incredibly diverse director. Despite this, there are commonalities in all of his films that feature his signature techniques which also separate himself from other directors working today.

In short:

1- What do you think separates Nolan's films from the crowd?

2- What are some of Nolan's trademarks present throughout his films?

To start off, once I heard it on iMDB, I realized that all of Nolan's films have a shot in the beginning showcasing someone's hands performing an action.

What do you think?

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I think Nolan's and Wally Pfister's style are so much connected to each other that we can't separate them. But it isn't a bad thing, of course it's not.

There are certain shots that Nolan and Pfister use in the movies, for example the starting scene of TDK, when we see the camera slowly moving towards the tall building, and I think this has a lot in common with the scene in The Prestige when we see the funeral of Hugh Jackman's charater's wife - the camera moves towards the crowd slowly. I think these scenes are so "Nolanish"... they are very typical examples of the visual style of Nolan and Pfister.

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DHOPW42 wrote:I think Nolan's and Wally Pfister's style are so much connected to each other that we can't separate them. But it isn't a bad thing, of course it's not.

There are certain shots that Nolan and Pfister use in the movies, for example the starting scene of TDK, when we see the camera slowly moving towards the tall building, and I think this has a lot in common with the scene in The Prestige when we see the funeral of Hugh Jackman's charater's wife - the camera moves towards the crowd slowly. I think these scenes are so "Nolanish"... they are very typical examples of the visual style of Nolan and Pfister.

I agree that Nolan and Pfister's styles are inseparable but I would disagree that using a slow dolly move is a trademark Nolan/Pfister move.

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Oh, I didn't mean that every slow cameramovement is the trademark of Nolan :D I meant that these shots in the Prestige and The Dark Knight are very typical. Not in the technical term, but in the atmosphere of that scenes. I'm not sure if you understand me :D Those shots' atmosphere are... you know... as I said: "Nolanish".

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In the last scene of his films, two of the main characters reflect upon the events that occured.

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The greatest filmmakers is the filmmakers you don't always notice. (Sidney Lumet, Ingmar Bergman, Bernardo Bertolucci and so on) Nolan falls in that category.

Greetings from Norway ;)
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Well I have noticed in all of his films that he likes to focus on their hands for some reason. He also tends to focus on obsession and revenge in his films. I wouldn't say he's an auter like Bergman,Kubrick or Wells but he does tend to let the camera move a little not like Greengrass mind.

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The theme that prevails in all of his films, that connects all of them, is identity and identity conflict. It is the major focus of my book on Nolan that is near completion. Obsession and revenge are certainly there, but identity rules the roost. All of the major characters in his films have to grapple with some identity conflict to some degree or another. Allow me to quickly skim the surface and break it down:

Following: The main character is a writer that is bored with his meager existence. So what does he do? He follows people around to learn something about them, keep himself occupied. He becomes fixated on one guy in particular and then begins to emulate him. To change what he does and how he lives his life. He sheds his old identity to begin life as someone else.

Memento: This is hard to miss. The main character can barely remember what happens around him and who he is. He tries desperately to reconstruct the events of his life not only to unmask his wife's killer but to learn more about himself.

Insomnia: Not only is the main character trying to hunt down the identity of a killer but he is also trying to reconcile what he has done in the past with his present and future. He is haunted by an event from his past where he crosses the line of cop and criminal, thus becoming what he fights against. Throw in to the mix his struggle to sleep and you have someone who is slipping and trying to cling to the person he thinks he is.

Batman Begins: Bruce Wayne struggles with his identity as the richest man in Gotham. But he wants to be someone else. To tame this urge (or harness it) he becomes a masked crime fighter. He lives two lives and tries to mesh the two of them together. The film also delves into the nature of masked villains, like Scarecrow, who's true nature is not so well hidden from the public.

The Prestige: This one really discusses the nature of dual identities. The film is all about magic but also the nature of the identities that these performers assume and how it effects their lives, on and off the stage. Borden strives to achieve the perfect trick by using his identity and that of
his brother
to help him on all consuming quest.

The Dark Knight: In TDK we see Wayne really struggling to juggle both of his identities. We also get Harvey Dent, a man that is secure in his identity but also harbors a darker side that is waiting to be unleashed. His struggle with both of these identities is pushed to the edge with one winning over the other. The Joker is also the very absence of identity conflict, the complete reverse. He exists to cause chaos and destruction as a pure individual, and thus we don't get any conflicts or backstory. He just is.


Like I stated before, this really only skims the surface. There is so much more.

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filmfanatic wrote:It is the major focus of my book on Nolan that is near completion.
Whoa! You're writing a book on Christopher Nolan? Amazing! Best of luck!

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filmfanatic wrote:Batman Begins: Bruce Wayne struggles with his identity as the richest man in Gotham. But he wants to be someone else. To tame this urge (or harness it) he becomes a masked crime fighter. He lives two lives and tries to mesh the two of them together. The film also delves into the nature of masked villains, like Scarecrow, who's true nature is not so well hidden from the public.

The Dark Knight: In TDK we see Wayne really struggling to juggle both of his identities. We also get Harvey Dent, a man that is secure in his identity but also harbors a darker side that is waiting to be unleashed. His struggle with both of these identities is pushed to the edge with one winning over the other. The Joker is also the very absence of identity conflict, the complete reverse. He exists to cause chaos and destruction as a pure individual, and thus we don't get any conflicts or backstory. He just is.
Don't forget - Bruce Wayne is the mask, Batman is the true identity.

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