In a new interview with Film Comment, the magazine for the Film Society of the Lincoln Center, Christopher Nolan responds to basically every question you ever had about his Dark Knight trilogy. The thinking behind Gotham’s notorious realism? Check. The maybe-maybe not presence of Occupy Wall Street in Rises? Check. The photochemical processes involved in IMAX film production? Count on it.
The thorough and immensely enlightening interview is worth reading in full, but in case you can’t spare the time we’ve gleaned some of the best bits. Check them out after the jump.
1. Much has been made of the dark and intensely realistic aesthetic presented in the series. This, Nolan says, has a very specific purpose.
“The more texturing and layering that we could get into this film, the more tactile it was, the more you would feel and be excited by the action. So just on a technical level, I really wanted to take on this idea of what I call the tactile quality…If I can believe in that world because i recognize it and can imagine myself walking down that street, then when this extraordinary figure of Batman comes swooping down in this theatrical costume and presenting this very theatrical aspect, that’s going to be the more exciting to me.”
2. The reason the Joker, as well as the other villains, are so memorable is in part because they are driven by sound ideology.
“I think truly threatening villains are the ones who have a coherent ideology behind what they’re saying. The challenging in applying that to The Joker was to have part of the ideology be anarchic and a lack of ideology in a sense. But it’s a very specific, laid-out lack of ideology, so it becomes, paradoxically, an ideology in itself.”
3. Bruce Wayne is all kinds of messed up inside.
“It’s paradoxical, but in order to get at the duality of Bruce Wayne, we had to make him into three people. I sat down with Christian early on and we decided there’s the private Bruce Wayne, who only Alfred and Rachel really get to see; the public Bruce Wayne, which is this mask he puts on of this decadent playboy; and then the creature of Batman that he’s created to strike back at the world. By making him into these three aspects, you really start to see the idea that you have a private person who is wrestling with all kinds of demons and trying to make something productive out of that.”
4. Directing big-budget blockbusters can present all kinds of logistical difficulties, but Nolan would have none of it.
“I would have conversations with my line producer and he’d say, ‘Oh, there’ll be some days where you’ll only get one setup in the morning,’ and I just said, ‘I’ll never work that way, because frankly it’s too boring, and it’s creatively stultifying.’”
5. Nolan has neurological qualms with 3D technology.
“The issue for me with 3D is that even though it’s immersive with its stereoscopic illusion, your brain is performing an unnatural optical function, converging your eyes where you’re not focusing them, and there’s a feeling in your head that it’s hard. There’s literally a feeling in your head that’s a little bit different than what you’re used to feeling, and so I find myself unable to forget that I’m watching a movie. And for me that’s a bit of a barrier.”
6. CGI is best used sparingly, if at all.
“We make the 430 [CGI] shots fit in with the remaining 2,500 that we timed photochemically. For that reason, I’ve never done a film with more than 500 effects shots. These films have about a third or a quarter the number of CG shots of any other film on that scale.”
7. Printing film dailies - a practice largely phased out since the advent of digital - is a must.
“I’ve gone out of my way to screen film prints of The Dark Knight Rises for other filmmakers , because no one prints dailies anymore - they’re not seeing the potential of film - whereas I’ve been seeing it every day I’ve been working for the past 10 years.”
8. No, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t about Occupy Wall Street.
“We were writing years before Occupy Wall Street, and we were actually shooting at the time that it arose, but I think the similarities come from Occupy being a response to the banking crisis in 2008.”
9. Nolan has never used a second unit director (this is very, very rare in film production, especially action blockbusters).
“I went into Batman Begins saying to the studio, ‘Look, I don’t understand how to peel things away from my script and say these aren’t important enough for me to shoot them. Because to me, if they’re not important enough for me to shoot them, they shouldn’t be in the film in the first place.’”
10. No, he will not direct another Batman movie.
“For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol…and the symbol lives on.”
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