By: Reymundo Salao
CHRISTOPHER Nolan has quite a fan following. And while many other films that have been headlining blockbusters consists of comicbook adaptations, superheroes, and sequels, Nolan’s newest film, “Dunkirk” is a breather from all that.
“Dunkirk” is a World War II-era film that follows Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France who are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle, but as Nolan says in a new interview, Dunkirk is less a war film than a survival film.
In chatting with Fandango, Nolan spoke at length about the harrowing story of Dunkirk, his ambitious use of IMAX cameras during production, and the film’s stunning visual storytelling. There was a rumor that the filming saw the crashing of a vintage, World War II-era plane? Nolan clarifies that it’s “Not true. I think the reason that rumor developed was because we did a lot with real planes”
He also went on to explain why this story, of all stories, was the one he chose to tackle for his next film:
“It’s one of the great human stories, and it’s one of the most suspenseful situations that I had ever heard of in my life. You have 400,000 men – the entire British army – trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Their backs to the sea, home is only 26 miles away and it’s impossible to get to. The enemy is closing in, and there’s a choice between annihilation and surrender. I just think it’s the more extraordinarily suspenseful situation. That, I think, speaks to a lot of things that I am interested in with film.”
We previously reported that a substantial amount of Dunkirk would be shot with IMAX cameras, but Nolan goes into a little more detail about just how much here:
“Really, I think Dunkirk represents the culmination of all of these experiences we’ve had over the years [with IMAX]. How to work with that format, and how to really try to give the audience the most visceral experiential two hours that they can hope for … There’s absolutely more IMAX [than we’ve ever done]. The entire film is large format film photography, and I’ve never done that before. Very few people have ever done that before, and no one has ever shot as much IMAX as we’re doing. Most of the film is IMAX. With every film we’ve learned more and more how to maximize our ability to use those cameras, and we found ways to get those cameras into very unusual places for a camera that size, but the image quality speaks for itself. I think it’s going to be an extremely exciting presentation, particularly in those IMAX theaters.”
While historians and history buffs alike will know the ins and outs of Dunkirk, Nolan hopes to bring that history to life with his movie:
“I think people who know the story of Dunkirk, in particular, may be surprised by the intensity of the experience. It’s a very suspenseful story and we really try to do justice to that. The pacing is relentless, and the story and action scenes are extraordinarily intense. I think the lean, stripped-down nature of that, and how fast it moves, and what it puts you through in this short space of time… I think it has a different rhythm that I’ve worked in before.”
One of the things Nolan, and his fans, are looking forward to are the stunning aerial sequences he shot for the film:
“I think every kid – or certainly British kids – would love to be able to fly a Spitfire. [That was] just an extraordinary experience for me. And then to try to give the audience that same experience, we had to find a way to get giant IMAX cameras into these tiny vintage planes, and really try to be in the experience of a dogfight in a Spitfire above Dunkirk – that was remarkable. It’s an experience I will remember for my whole life.
I don’t think anyone’s ever tried to do aerial combat the way we’ve done it and photographed it in this film. My DP, Hoyte Van Hoytema, just never gave up. When we would look at how you can’t fit a camera in the cockpit and fly the plane, we would build a special kind of snorkel lens and put the camera there. We’d work with the pilot and plane owners to really just go for it, and do as much of it for real as possible.”
Another interesting aspect of Dunkirk will be Nolan’s decision to aim for visual storytelling over dialogue and exposition:
“Yeah, you know it’s the kind of film where the visual aspect of the film is dominant right from the get-go. There’s dialogue in the film, but we really tried to approach the storytelling very much from a visual point of view, and an action and suspense point of view. Trying to create suspense visually — a visceral sense of what it would be like to be confronted by this awful paradoxical situation.
I think the visual nature of the storytelling is something I’m excited about. It’s something I value in films and film history; I’m an incredible lover of silent films. The challenge of taking on what I call a present-tense narrative – that is to say, we don’t learn a lot about the people we’re experiencing this with. We really just try to live in the moment and experience it with them, and look through their eyes. That was the challenge of the film, and as it is shaping up I think that, for me, is the thing that I challenged myself the most with and I am excited about that.”
DUNKIRK stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, and Harry Styles, Dunkirk opens in the US July 21st, it opens in the Philippines a day early: July 20, 2017.