The Narrative of Dunkirk

In 2017, writer-director Christopher Nolan released his much anticipated war outing ‘Dunkirk’ which polarized audiences worldwide right from the moment ‘go’. One group, to which I belonged, hailed it as a work of imaginative triumph and as an instant classic, while the other group criticized it for the lack of a human core and labelled it a bland and pretentious by nature.

Much hate in particular was vented towards the non-linear narrative, which the naysayers of the film rendered needless and out-of-the-place within the subject matter of the film. This brief write-up of mine hopes to prove the contrary :-

  1. CONFLICT :-

Although I am aware of the exceptions to this rule (Walden, Man With A Movie Camera, Chelsea Girls to name a few), it goes without saying that almost of all the movies we see thrive on the progression from the establishment of a conflict to its resolution/non-resolution. They make the work engrossing and act as an invisible adhesive that joins scenes together by giving them a route of focused and logical progression. The fracturing of time ‘is’ the conflict of Dunkirk with its incoherence prodigiously utilizing our inherent need to juxtapose the events in linearity so as to draw us into the work. Many have argued that Nolan should have rather opted for a straightforward, linear narrative, but they do so in complete ignorance of what the film hopes to accomplish in the first place – portraying war through a collective consciousness rather than an individual one. A conflict situation in the context of Dunkirk would have only emanated in a linear narrative had it been approached from an individual perspective (say The Pianist) or a battalion perspective (like Saving Private Ryan), but doing so would be completely at odds with the crux of the movie. The nature of the narrative acts a syntax here doing what Rosebud does in Citizen Kane, molding into a cohesive whole what would otherwise have been hanging threads, full of potential but no viable means of exploring it with.

2. NATURE :-

Dunkirk is a work epic in its scope and fittingly, so are the antagonists at play in it – land, water, air. Less is inflicted on the Allied forces by the ‘enemy’ compared to the hindrances the elements of nature bring to the fore. The non-linear narrative enhances the feeling of entrapment omnipresent in the film by creating the sense that all events are materializing at the same time, which contributes to the development of an aura that all the elements of nature have risen up together at the same time, up in arms to prevent the escape of the soldiers stranded at Dunkirk. It levels the stakes to an unparalleled high which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

3. TIME :-

As a medium, cinema lets us fracture time, elongate it and more importantly in this case, compress it. The evacuation of Dunkirk is so massive in its scope and so distant in its varying geographical settings that to have to make this film with a linear narrative would have meant risking a runtime mirroring a Tarr or Diaz film, a risk Nolan couldn’t afford to take considering the production values riding on the film. More importantly, the non-linear narrative helps put a clock on the events, menacingly ticking louder and clearer with every passing scene. Nameless these soldiers remain, but the clocks act as a connective tissue making them human and knowable to us, causing us to care almost beyond bearing about their fates and in process, transfixing us to the screen, watching in fear of what might happen to them. And us.

Advertisements

Dunkirk Review

The moment the credits started rolling in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, a peremptory silence shrouds the theater. I walk out to find it is raining cats and dogs outside, but instead of reaching out for my umbrella, I saunter through the crowded streets. In this moment, I was aware of life happening all around me, a feeling as rare as they come. And there I understood the silence back in the theater. It was a moment of our gratefulness to the Almighty that we were alive, present in that moment. The last time I experienced such emotions was three years ago, when I watched a little movie called The Shawshank Redemption.

Dunkirk works on a three-level non-linear narrative structure which eventually comes together as a cohesive whole. What results because of this is probably one of the most thrilling experiences you will ever have at a cinema theater. Laden with a sense of urgency from the very first frame, the overall tension builds up with each passing scene, with great help from Hoyte Van Hoytema who has captured the finest war footage since Vittorio Storaro in Apocalypse Now. Frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer’s score is exhilarating, and the use of the ticking clock sound works wonders after some time, for it starts to sound like nails being bitten in the midst of this macabre.

The Dunkirk evacuation was a desperate cause, and this is a desperate movie. Almost all the characters in Dunkirk are anonymous, as if to not attract attention to the bravery of a selected few ignoring the whole picture. But this move worked on a psychological level for me as well. What if the reason why no one is named is because everyone knows each other ? Have they been stuck here for so long ?

Even though the questions about his greatness have drawn divisive responses, the veracity of the belief that Christopher Nolan is the greatest visionary to have graced cinema in 21st century is hors concours.With Dunkrik, he has crafted one of the great haunting visions of cinema which will be talked about in the same breath with works such as Aguirre. This is his ticket to the hall of the greats.

I went into it, expecting a character-driven emotional drama which Nolan’s work is characterized by. Never have I been more happy to be disappointed.

 

RATING :- 9.4 / 10

THANKS FOR READING. IF YOU HAVE LIKED/HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS / HAVE ANY  DOUBTS, PLEASE SHARE. I WILL RESPOND TO IT AS SOON AS I CAN. AND PLEASE SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE. YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE TOO https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011549616628 YOU CAN ALSO E-MAIL ME ON castlebang786@gmail.com OR favebook2011@rediffmail.com

Photo Rights : Google Images, Wikipedia

Copyright : All written content on this site, unless otherwise noted, has been created by the website owner. As such, the content is the property of the website owner. This content is protected by Indian and international copyright laws. If you wish to reproduce, re-post, or display any of our content on your own site please only do so if you also provide a link back to the source page on this website and properly attribute authorship. Our preference is that you seek our permission before doing so. If you see anything on this website that has not been properly attributed to its originator please contact me. In response, I will attempt to correct the attribution of the offending material or remove and/or replace it. All material on this website is posted in accordance with the limitations set forward by the Information Technology Act, 2000. If a documented copyright owner so requests, their material will be removed from published display, although the author reserves the right to provide linkage to that material or to a source for that material. As a website devoted to discussing and reviewing movies and television I will at times, for illustrative purposes, present copyrighted material, the use of which might not always be specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available  for purposes such as criticism, comment, and research. The website owner believes that this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material because the articles published on this website are distributed for entertainment purposes

The Prestige Review

Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige is about a tragedy which cause a great rivalry between two aspiring magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) as they both try to defeat each other by creating the greatest illusion in the history of magic.

When you see the name Christopher Nolan, you know you are in for something great. The guy even made the superhero genre great and that is your pass to the hall of legends and if this guy isn’t the Stanley Kubrick of our times, nobody is. I had my doubts with The Prestige, I admit. It is based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. Now, I had my doubts not because I thought the Nolan siblings are going to falter in the film-making but I had serious doubts if during the process of adapting a 404 pages book into a 130 minutes movie will falter. Magic, as we know it, is the perfect harmony of the steps and if the magician falters in one step, the whole act goes down. And to adapt a 404 page trick with steps being interconnected in every phase is a humongous task to be accomplished in a 2 hour movie. But, I forgot we were talking about Christopher Nolan.

The screenplay became the trick, and what it made it more special, what made it great, is the showmanship. There is a tension that Nolan carries right from the dressing room after the first show to the climax that drifts us away to the later half of the 19th century. The Prestige begins on a slow note. The story progresses as a tragedy of mishaps and we see, and sorry I stand corrected, we feel the tension between them. And then, it is time for the big guns.

When Borden comes up with The Transportation Man, the greatest trick Angier ever sees. And in it, Nolan triggers pure sheer magic and also the demonic nature of a rivalry which intensifies after every performance. There is a driving force beyond each of the character. Angier’s is the demise of his love, after which he works just to justify his title ‘The Great Danton’. Borden’s is his conquest to do something great, so great that Angier won’t be able to figure it out.

The common mistake that directors do when they make a movie which pits two individuals of the same calibre is that they make the audience love one of them from the start to the end, and the other one repugnant from the first to the last. There are dire need of moments when the audience is in a fix about which character they will chose as their sweetheart. The most accomplished work in this aspect is Ron Howard’s Rush which put me in Niki Lauda’s side first, then James Hunt and then did the unbelievable, in the climax, I viewed them both as equals, without any prejudice cornered to any of them. I won’t say this movie accomplished this aspect, and thankfully it shouldn’t have as well, but there is a line from Rush in which Niki says, and I am paraphrasing ,”You learn more from an enemy than you learn from a friend. And a good nemesis keeps you going.” The tragedy or the reason of the satanic fog around the rivalry of Angier and Borden is their inability to comprehend this fact.

Hugh Jackman is brilliant as Angier. Christian Bale is superb. Michael Caine works like he always does, the safe bet of Nolan. Scarlett Johansson gives an average performance. Andy Serkis and David Bowie are spectacular.

The cinematography is just beautiful. That scene in which those light bulbs flash in a white snowy layout is just fabulous. Wally Pfister then follows the lead of Dick Pope by using small lightings set against a dark background giving the set-up a dark and grim sensation, just like Pope’s The Illusionist released the same year, when magic smeared the cinematic arena.

And obviously we do have to talk about the climax, the big twist which I won’t spoil. But, if you haven’t seen the movie, you may find some of the sentences ahead uncomprehending and sunder. Some say that Nolan leaves the audience at an ambiguous point, and yes, you end up feeling or awe or fucked up, but I think the main intention is that Nolan must feel that audience must comprehend what was the nature of the movie. We see that Angier is the better showman and Borden is the better magician. The end actually turns the tables on it. The complexity of his thoughts, his so called desire, Borden sold the idea of an unimaginable apparatus of the trick to us, the audience and to Angier which just says he was always the better showman, not the magician. But Angier on the other hand, was always the better magician. There is a scene in which Michael Caine enhances the simple pigeon act into a modification which was worthy to be the climax of a show. Angier took a trick and stretched it into impossible heights. He just didn’t realise he was the better one.

There is a line ‘Are you looking closely ?’ that Bale uses constantly. We undoubtedly are. The climax is the prestige. It is an illusion for which we won’t find the secret because in quite honesty there were a lot of markers about the twist. We didn’t pay heed to them, because we never really were looking closely, we always wanted to be fooled.

The Prestige is grim and magical and a superb character study. My heart thumped with every footstep Angier took when he unveiled his great illusion and I found myself sitting amongst the audience, full of anticipation and clapped when the prestige materialized. That is what I always wanted a movie to be, a magical journey, a portal to another world, where we are perplexed, observing and more than that, amazed.

 Rating : 9.4 / 10

THANKS FOR READING. IF YOU HAVE LIKED/HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS / HAVE ANY  DOUBTS, PLEASE SHARE. I WILL RESPOND TO IT AS SOON AS I CAN. AND PLEASE SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE. YOU CAN FOLLOW ME ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE TOOhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Demanded-Critical-Reviews/1565666967024477?ref=hlYOU CAN ALSO E-MAIL ME ON castlebang786@gmail.com OR favebook2011@rediffmail.com

Photo Rights : Google Images, Wikipedia

Copyright : All written content on this site, unless otherwise noted, has been created by the website owner. As such, the content is the property of the website owner. This content is protected by Indian and international copyright laws. If you wish to reproduce, re-post, or display any of our content on your own site please only do so if you also provide a link back to the source page on this website and properly attribute authorship. Our preference is that you seek our permission before doing so. If you see anything on this website that has not been properly attributed to its originator please contact me. In response, I will attempt to correct the attribution of the offending material or remove and/or replace it. All material on this website is posted in accordance with the limitations set forward by the Information Technology Act, 2000. If a documented copyright owner so requests, their material will be removed from published display, although the author reserves the right to provide linkage to that material or to a source for that material. As a website devoted to discussing and reviewing movies and television I will at times, for illustrative purposes, present copyrighted material, the use of which might not always be specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available  for purposes such as criticism, comment, and research. The website owner believes that this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material because the articles published on this website are distributed for entertainment purposes.