Archiv der Kategorie: Christopher Nolan

The Power of Survival

Film review: Dunkirk (Director: Christopher Nolan)

By Sascha Krieger

What a beginning: a few soldiers are roaming a deserted street, peep into windows, look at the fliers sailing down from a peaceful sky. Suddenly a shot. One of the soldiers collapses. They start running. More shots. One by one they fall. With one exception: a very young soldier jumping over a fence, running until he reaches a beach. Vast. Full of people waiting. Waiting to be rescued from this deadly prison the town has become. This is how Dunkirk opens, Christopher Nolan’s film about one of the turning points of the Second World War. When after being stranded in the northern French town of Dunkirk, completely surrounded by German troops closing in, 350,000 mostly British soldiers were evacuated, this giving Britain the basis to continue and eventually win the war. A miracle many call it.

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Unfinished Business: More Films from 2014

Short reviews of Interstellar, A Most Wanted Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fault in Our Stars

By Sascha Krieger

Interstellar (Director: Christopher Nolan)

Christopher Nolan is a master of time, imagination, interlacing realities and the unravelling of certainties of time and space and what is real. Interstellar takes his art of dream weaving to space. It tells the story of a former astronaut caught on a drying planet resigned to accepting its fate of dying a slow death. Of course, he will embark on a quay to save earth taking him to the edges of the universe and beyond. If this sounds like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, then because it is meant to. As always, Nolan’s story-telling is impeccable, his visualization of a great duster-ridden earth and an empty, not very welcoming space even more so. He asks the big, existential questions and has a fine cast lead by Matthew McConnaughey for this. The problem of the film is two-fold: one, the homage to Kubrick occasionally crosses the border to pure copying, particularly in the film’s finale. Secondly, unlike in earlier films, Nolan not only asks big question but tries to answer them as well. This takes the viewer’s imagination largely out of the equation and turn the unknowable and unsettling into bland certainty. As understandable as Nolan’s admiration of Kubrick is, as much dos it provide a stumbling block for his film. Having said that, Interstellar is for much of its duration a mesmerizing story to the edges of human comprehension, interweaving the real and the imagined, waking and dream. The point is: it could have been even better.

A Most Wanted Man (Director: Anton Corbijn)

A Most Wanted Man will likely be remembered for being Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film. That’s alright but the story of a German intelligence officer trying to combat terrorism but being entangled in a web of confusing and shifting loyalties does deserve to be appreciated for its own sake. Based on a John Le Carré novel, the film is laconically and quietly narrated, featuring long immobile sequences, accentuated by plain close-ups, all of it drenched in pale, greyish colors that seem to suck of life from a story that tells of people becoming more and more like robots. Seymour Hoffman is the perfect fit for Gunther’s stubborn, hard-edged and robust personal, keeping his secrets while reveling them at the same time.A Most Wanted Man is a quietly and unpretentiously narrated film about guilt, betrayal and getting by. And while it reminds us of the power of one of the greatest actors of the last few decades, it also reveals a lot about Anton Corbijn’s very much matured skill of story-telling.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Director: James Gunn)

A small-time criminal, a moving tree, a raccoon, a green-skinned martial arts expert and a muscle man. The most likeliest bunch to save the universe? Obviously not. But do they have style? You bet. Guardians of the Universe is somewhat of a miracle: an action-packed and highly entertaining Hollywood blockbuster, a fast-paced and hilarious comedy, a sharp-tonged persiflage and a visually stunning feast for the eyes. Mind, this is all one film. If one wants to see Guardians of the Galaxy as a funny good versus evil science fiction tale, one may. At the same time, it both caricatures and pays homage to the genre while creating visual effects and a dark-tinged yet colorful imagery that is entirely original. Its protagonists are ridiculous and heroic, everyday as well as fairy-tale. Guardians of the Galaxy is popcorn cinema, a cineast’s wet ream and food for the brain. And the best: you only have to pay for one film to get all of it. Now isn’t that a bargain?

The Fault in Our Stars (Director: Josh Boone)

John Green’s novel about two teenagers suffering from cancer is one of the best-selling adolescent books in recent years, having gathered a large and highly demanding fan base. Living up to expectations wasn’t easy for a film adaptation but Josh Boone accomplishes this feat. Much of this is due to his stellar cast, particularly Shailene Woodley as the resigned, bitter and self-pitying Hazel Grace and the ridiculously optimistic Gus. Unlikely matches, their characters fall in love and they manage to make all of the plot twists, the unlikely relationship, every single cliché more than bearable – they render them credible. Boone’s direction is relaxed, giving the actors much room to unfold their stories, bathing them in soft light and framing them in calm images that never overdo the use of close-ups. The film has, despite its dramatic content and far from happy ending a light-hearted and life-affirming feel that mixes tears with laughter and smiles – the characters’s as much as the audience’s. No small feat indeed and one of the most moving as well as heart-warming films of 2014.

Missing in Action

Film review: The Dark Knight Rises (Director: Christopher Nolan)

By Sascha Krieger

There are moments when art and reality clash in such a brutal and inescapable way that art seems to lose its (presumed) innocence, perhaps even its freedom and is forever tarnished by something that it cannot control and is not responsible for. When a 24-year-old man walked in to a Colorado movie theater and murdered twelve people who were watching the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, such a horrible, catastrophic moment occurred. Far from bearing any responsibility for the killings, The Dark Knight Rises will forever be connected to what happened in that Aurora theater. Even more so as the random meaninglessness of the atrocity might appear to mirror the recurring central plot element of the films: the intended annihilation of an entire city’s population for the community’s alleged sins, an attempted mass murder as random and meaningless as the very real horror that occurred on the film’s opening night. The film and its makers will have to live with this and with the fact that inside many viewers another film takes place while they are watching this one.

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Film Review: Inception (Director: Christopher Nolan)

>What is real and what is not? How do we perceive reality and what is reality anyway? Can we ever really know it and if so, how? If one wants to summarizes what drives Christopher Nolans film, these questions may provide a starting point. Nolan is a master of playing with levels of reality, of unsettling certainties, shattering beliefs, dissolving what we call facts. Deconstruting time and memory in Memento, disassociating fact from perception in The Prestige, even reinventing the Batman franchise as a study in roleplay, perception and interpreting reality, recreating it in the process: Nolan, like no other director of his generation, uses film, the ultimate medium of illusion and make-belief to question as well as challenge our relationship with reality.

Inception is just a logical next step in this adventure. It is the story of a man whose job it is to invade other people’s dreams, even create them, in order to extract their secrets or, hardest of all, to plant ideas in their subconscious. A story that is ideal to test the limits of reality and to wonder where it starts and ends. The dream, that mighty illusionist, that pretender of reality and truth – is there a better subject for somebody like Nolan.

It is not the first time, sleep plays a role in Nolan’s cosmos. In Insomnia ist was sleeplessness that alters the protagonist’s experience of the world and blurs reality so much that in the end it is hardly recognisable as such. This time, we follow the protagonist and his crew into one dream level after the other in order to plant the idea that may free him from his own demons. The way Nolan stages this is much more straightforward and less surprising than in previous films. The viewer always knows where he is, or thinks he does. Even the conclusion is not too surprising but the certainty is treacherous as so often in Nolan’s films. Because the film does not end when the credits are rolling, it continues in the viewer’s head where suddenly what seemed straightforward and clear dissolves into vagueness. How many layers of dream and reality are there? Is there a level of ‚reality‘ and if so which is it? And who is dreaming anyway?

So what seemed simpler and more logical than Memento and The Prestige turns out to provide even less certainty than those who at least offer a satisfying conclusion in the very end. Nolan is a master in creating false certainties and then removing the ground from under the viewer’s feet.

The visual cosmos of the film plays its part. The world of the different reality levels looks like ours but with a twist. Gravity can disappear, a city unfold on itself, ordinary houses appear in strange surroundings. The combination of what is real, what is remembered, what exists and what is purely imagined, what does not and cannot exist, this peculiar logic of the dream – Nolan finds the perfect images for this, for this unstable, fantastic and frightening state dreams can be.

So if this review is a little less structured, more meandering and possible less logical than others, the reason may not lie in the incompetence of the reviewer alone but maybe also in the shaky ground and ever changing environment the film creates. And isn’t this, this play with illusions and imagination, this creation of worlds entirely their own, what cinema was created for?