Nolan makes movie magic

‘Inception’, the newest film by Christopher Nolan, takes place inside the dreams of the main characters and pulls no punches when it comes to twisting plot lines and confounding situations. | Warner Bros.

For all the money that Hollywood burns through, they put out very little new content.  Most studios seem very content mastering the formula of what makes a perfect box-office gross instead of trying to push the envelope and make something great.  But it wasn’t always this way.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, directors were trying to get away from the contrived methods of telling stories — and arguably none were more successful than Alfred Hitchcock, a man who re-engineered the way thrillers are told.

Fast-forward to today’s movie landscape, and one man stands out like Hitchcock once did.  Amidst the rubble of Michael Bay knockoffs and cheap horror remakes, Christopher Nolan is poised to bring back intellectual movies like Hitchcock did so long ago. Nolan, like Hitchcock, actually believes his audience is intelligent. He gives them just enough information for them to draw their own conclusions, and doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Instead of explaining everything to death, Nolan will show something important — and leave the interpretation up to the viewer.

Both Hitchcock and Nolan are obsessed with strong characters as well.  In Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb provides the lens through which we view the action; in Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window Jimmy Stewart provides the same strong character focus for the plot to revolve around. Nolan’s Memento and Hitchcock’s Psycho are also complete character studies; we are singularly obsessed with Memento’s main character’s inability to remember the past, just as Norman Bates’ passion for killing fuels Psycho’s narrative.

The similarities don’t stop there. Nolan and Hitchcock are both obsessed with the darker side of humanity; from Nolan’s obsession with anti-heroes to Hitchcock’s fascination with murder, both directors seem to hone in on the distressed side of emotions and how they force people to do terrible things. However, while Hitchcock was always cognizant of his audience’s discomfort and tried as hard as he could to keep the uneasiness flowing, Nolan takes things a step further — he makes his audience confuse themselves with each new scene. It’s like he’s playing Jenga with his plot structure, always taking things higher and higher, balancing the different elements perfectly until people no longer know what the original shape even looked like.

Hitchcock once said, “Give them pleasure – the same pleasure they [the audience] have when they wake up from a nightmare.” Nolan wholeheartedly shares this concept. From his early black-and-white movie Following to 2000’s Memento, Nolan is focused on creating a world filled with liars, cheats and thieves — and those are the good guys. Nolan’s villains (once again, like Hitchcock’s) are terrifying portrayals of exactly how twisted a person can become; the Joker and Norman Bates are some of the most purely evil creations to grace the silver screen.

When Hitchcock started to make movies, Hollywood’s finest stood up and took notes; you can see his influence everywhere, from horror to drama to psychological thrillers. Moviegoers can only hope that Nolan’s influence is as powerful and far-reaching as his predecessor’s continues to be.

Leave a Comment