Influences: Directors…

Posted: February 6, 2011 in Media

As well as David Fincher, director Christopher Nolan I felt has also influenced me a lot throughout the process of my project…

Bio

Full Name: Christopher Johnathan James Nolan

D.O.B: 30th July 1970

Birth Place: London, England, UK

Background: Nolan had an early start in the film making business, using his father’s camera at only seven years of age to make films involving his toys in the replacement of actual actors. He soon moved onto making films with real people, and made a short film named ‘Tarantella’ (1989). At university Chris studied English Literature at the University College, London while making 16mm films at the college’s film society at the same time. His career really got started when his short films ‘DoodleBug’ and ‘Larceny’ gained him some good publicity in the film-making world. Although he started making low-budget films such as ‘Following’ which, being his first full feature-length film, cost only $6000 to make, this film was still very successful and led onto Christopher profiting and able to make the notable ‘Memento’ just 4 years later. This proved to be a hit which would take his career to a whole new level. Leading to him make films today with a budget of up to $160 million as opposed to $6000, and still making $823 million in the process! (Data based on Nolan’s recent film ‘Inception’)

His most notable films

The Prestige (2005)

Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars:

Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlet Johansson, Michael Caine, David Bowie

Genre:

Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy

Summary:

 Two magicians, Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) work together in magic shows around the country and are constantly trying to be the  absolute best at what they do. But when an act goes terribly wrong and a life is lost, a hate-filled feud is sparked off between the pair. And what starts as a competition merely of magic tricks soon develops into a battle driven by hate and revenge

Trivia:

The main characters’ initials spell…

 Alfred

Borden

Robert

Angier

as in ABRAcadabra, a word commonly used by magicians.

Borden’s child is in fact played by one of director Nolan’s children

Alfred Borden takes on the stage name of ‘The Professor’. This is the nickname that was given to Dai Vernon, the man many consider to be the best modern-day sleight of hand magician.

Batman Begins (2006)

Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars:

Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

Genre:

Thriller, Fantasy

Summary:

After witnessing his own parents’ murder before his very eyes as a child, millionaire Bruce Wayne travels to Asia to train in his fighting skills and battle his inner torment at what he has lost. With this new-found strength, Bruce is determined to strike fear into the criminals of his hometown, Gotham, and thus get rid of the evil that threatens its citizens. But soon he is confronted by villains with more darkness than he’d ever imagined, such as ‘The Scarecrow’ who uses hallucinogenic tormenting weapons, as well as an old mentor-turned-enemy who knows Bruce’s very skills and weaknesses. But the biggest thing he must learn to face is his very own fears… 

Trivia:

During interviews that promoted the film with Christian Bale (Batman), he continued using the American accent he’d adopted to play Bruce Wayne/Batman. He explained that he didn’t want potential moviegoers to be confused about why Batman, an American institution, was being played by a Welshman. However, this may not be the whole truth, as Bale rarely gives an interview in his native Welsh accent. It is believed that this is because Bale is always using whichever accent is required for his next role, which reflects his commitment as a method actor.

While shooting on the streets of Chicago, a person was said to have accidentally crashed into the Batmobile. The driver was apparently drunk, and said he hit the car in a state of panic, believing the vehicle to be an invading alien spacecraft.

Director Nolan is said to have been so fascinated with Cillian Murphy’s bright blue eyes, that he kept trying to find reasons or ways to have Crane (the actor’s role in the film) remove his glasses.

The average length of a shot in the film is 1.9 seconds.

The Dark Knight (2008)

 Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars:

Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhall

Genre:

Thriller, Action, Fantasy

Summary:

When new district Attorney Harvey Dent arrests almost the whole mob from the streets of Gotham, Batman begins to think that Dent is the hero Gotham needs, not him. That is until things start to get very dark when a super villain known only as ‘The Joker’ starts to bring death and destruction to absolutely anyone who gets in his way. Although every hero’s conscience is put to the ultimate test, Batman soon realises he must be the one to find a way of stopping the madman before it’s too late…  

Trivia:

This is the first Batman feature film that doesn’t incorporate the word ‘Batman’ in its title.

In preparation for his role as The Joker, Heath Ledger is said to have hid away in a motel room for around six weeks. During this extended stay of seclusion, Ledger delved deep into the psychology of the character. He devoted himself to developing The Joker’s every tic, namely the voice and that sadistic-sounding laugh. Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker’s appearance was primarily based off of the chaotic, disheveled look of punk rocker Sid Vicious combined with the psychotic mannerisms of Malcolm McDowell’s character, Alex De Large, from the film ‘A Clockwork orange’ (1971).

Michael Caine on Ledger’s performance in the film: ‘Jack (Nicholson) was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath’s gone in a completely different direction to Jack, he’s like a really scary psychopath. He’s a lovely guy and his Joker is going to be a hell of a revelation in this picture.” Caine bases this belief on a scene where the Joker pays a visit to Bruce Wayne’s penthouse. He’d never met Ledger before, so when Ledger arrived and performed he gave Caine such a fright he forgot his lines.

This film reached the $200 million mark in only 5 days, quickly achieving another box-office record. This jumped to $300 million on the 10th day, setting yet another record.

Blood is only ever seen three times on-screen: on the face of the civilian previously thought to be a dead Batman, on Harvey’s pillow in the hospital, and on Batman’s arm due to the dog attacking him; most of the violence either occurs off-screen or is obscured by camera angles.

Heath Ledger posthumously won a total of 32 Best Supporting Actor awards for his work on this film, including the Oscar and the Golden Globe amongst various others

Heath Ledger merely improvised when he started clapping inside his prison cell in a mocking and sardonic capacity as Gordon is promoted. Nolan liked it so much he insisted the cameras continued to roll and capture this moment.

Inception (2010)

Brief Synopsis on the film:

Stars:

Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Pete Postlethwaite

Genre:

Thriller, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Action

Summary:

Dom Cobb is a thief who specializes in stealing from people in their most vulnerable state: their dreams. While manipulating the dreamer, Cobb is able to extract their deepest and  most valuable secrets from them without them even realising- if all goes well that is. But after one of his ‘extractions’ goes wrong, Cobb is offered a task that though terribly difficult, will reward him his old life back: to carry out an ‘inception’. An inception, thought to be impossible, is to put an idea into the mind of a dreamer without him realising it. Taking on this task, Cobb and his team go deeper and deeper into the layers of a dream, and not only are their lives at stake of falling into ‘Limbo’ but Cobb’s tormented past and memories literally come back to haunt him and jeopardize his chances of ever finding a way back to his family… 

Trivia:

According to Cinematographer of the film, executives from the company Warner Brothers approached Nolan about making his recent film in 3D, but he refused the idea, claiming ‘it will distract the storytelling experience of Inception’.

The film has around 500 visual effect shots in total

Nolan’s fifth film (out of seven) to enter the IMDB Top 250, along with ‘Memento’ (2000), ‘Batman Begins’ (2005), ‘The Prestige’ (2006), and ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008).

Phonetically, ‘Cobb’ means ‘dream’ in Urdu.

The character of ‘Mal’, short for the name ‘Malorie’, is a name derived from French word ‘malheur’, meaning misfortune or unhappiness. The shorter version ‘Mal’ means wrong/bad or evil (when a noun) in French, as well as some other Latin-based languages

A direct translation of the lyrics for the song “Non, je ne regrette rien as performed by Edith Piaf is: “I regret nothing/no, I have no regrets/I regret neither the good things that were done to me nor the bad things/They are all the same to me/…The past is payed, swept away, forgotten/I don’t care of the past anymore/I set my memories on fire/My agonies, and my pleasures/I don’t need them any more/Swept away in the agonies of love/Swept away forever, I’m restarting with nothing…” Nolan has made a point of saying that he chose the song specifically for the movie, which is heavily concerned with the effect of memories on the psyche, and specifically the disastrous effect that not letting go of memories of love-gone-wrong can have on the subconscious–exactly what the song and film discusses.

In an interview with ‘Entertainment Weekly’, Nolan explained that he based roles of the ‘Inception’ team similar to roles that are used in filmmaking Cobb is the director (he controls the action, and is the ‘leader’ of the group), Arthur is the producer (he backs up others and protects them), Ariadne is the production designer (she designs the dreams), Eames is the actor (he manipulates the dreamer), Saito is the studio (he wanted the inception to take place), and Fischer is the audience (he is being manipulated). “In trying to write a team-based creative process, I wrote the one I know,said Nolan.

The first letter of each of the main character’s first names –

 Dom,

Robert,

Eames,

Arthur (or Ariadne),

 Mal,

Sato

spell the word DREAMS

The one that I feel influenced me the most

Although I can safely say that all of Nolan’s films (that I’ve seen) have influenced me a lot personally and in my own work (especially in the areas of writing the plot for my trailer and then when directing it) there can be only one winner. And that for me, is his latest release, the phenomenal ‘Inception’

Inception

Now, explaining how each part of the narrative of the film ‘Inception’ has influenced me is going to be a difficult task, mostly because the narrative itself is so complex. But bear with me and I might just be able to do it…

The equilibrium (or is it?):

The film opens with the setting of a lonely and calm beach. Soon enough the protagonist of the film, Dom Cobb, is washed up on the shore. As the waves thrash against him, the camera focuses on his face with many close ups- showing him to look worn out, making us wonder where he has come from and what has previously happened to him. There are two children also on the beach, a boy and a girl, who are playing. They are some distance away from Cobb and therefore do not notice him, though he clearly sees them. Soon guards come and find Cobb– and also find he is armed with a gun. We are then taken to a different location, inside a house to where two men (one of the guards and presumably their employer) speak in a different dialect, though subtitles let us see what they are discussing. The guard says that Cobb only had two things on his possession- a small spinning top and a gun. He also asked for the employer specifically and by his name. Cobb and this man meet- at first the man asks Cobb if he is here to kill him and then reveals that he has seen the spinning top before and that it was owned by a man he met in a ‘half remembered dream’. Though Cobb looks compelled by what he says, he does not answer.

 My thoughts:

This is what I love about Nolan’s films- that his beginnings really don’t make much sense. So he therefore makes the audience confused from the very start– it instantly gets them thinking that this film is going to be complex and challenging to understand as a whole. I mean, it’s obvious (to most) that this beginning is really the end of the film (or is taken from it)- as the two characters appear to know each other (Cobb asks for the man by name, the man recognizes the spinning top owned by Cobb) but we don’t know how or what significance this has to the film itself. We also do not know where Cobb has come from/been (as he appears as though he has been on a long and tiring journey) and this can be presumed to be revealed in the rest of the film itself. The children could also another hint to the film- who are they? Are they significant? Overall it really is confusing, yet extremely clever at the same time. As a simple introduction to characters and set up of narrative I often find in films very boring and very cliché. But this beginning is interesting and compelling– the audience is simply thrown into the narrative– with plenty of hints to characters, character relationships, sub-plots etc without anything being physically told to them. This allows the audience more freedom to step back and make what presumptions they want on the film and this scene in particular, and thus this will make them want to watch on to see if their own presumptions about the significance of this first scene were right. If I were to make my trailer into an actual film, this is a definitely a way I’d want to start it off. I’d want to instantly capture the audience’s attention instead of merely desperately trying to get it through a set up of characters/narrative (as other films usually do). It also does remind me slightly of an actual trailer– as there is all this hinting to narrative and the film itself without actually telling the audience anything and this makes them want to watch on– just like a trailer, or in this case, a beginning of a film, is meant to do.

 Equilibrium (the realish one) /disequilibrium:

Quickly enough the film flashes back and we are met with the characters of Cobb, Arthur (his close friend and colleague) and Sato.  Cobb discusses with Sato the notion that in our dreams, we are in a very vulnerable state and it leads to people taking of advantage of us and discovering our deepest and darkest secrets. He offers Sato training so that he can protect himself from having any extractors enter his mind. Sato leaves and says he will think this proposition over. With Sato gone, it is clear Arthur and Cobb are up to something bigger, as they ponder whether Sato knows what is actually going on and can see through their deception. Later Cobb tries to steal the ‘information’ from Sato’s vault (his secrets) but Sato and the character of Mal stop him. Sato reveals he knows that Cobb is trying to steal from him and that they are at this very moment, dreaming (Mal probably helped him to realise this). Cobb kills Arthur (a method of waking up from a dream) and runs off with the information stolen from Sato’s mind. Now Arthur has been woken up the dream steadily collapses and each character wakes up.

Sato calls their methods and techniques obvious- saying that it was clear to him that they were dreaming. Cobb is still eager to get some information Sato apparently hid away, but after being thrown to the floor, Sato realises that they are still dreaming (a dream within a dream). Slowly each member of the team properly wake up (Arthur, Cobb and Nash, their architect) and the they quickly leave before Sato wakes up and their ’employers’ realise they have failed getting all the information they needed out of Sato.

My thoughts:

Well this is a pretty confusing set-up. But in that case it’s a pretty good one, as it directly shows the audience just how confusing the film itself will be. There are some hints at how we can know whether the characters are dreaming or not through extreme close-ups of watches/clocks as they slow down or get faster as they provide transitions in and out of dreams and reality. Showing the characters sleeping in a different location also helps us to realise that what is happening in the other location is most probably just a dream. The biggest questions are pretty much how certain things in reality will affect the dream– for example we see the boy on the train (reality) put the ear phones on Nash and play the music. In the apartment (first level of the dream) we then hear the music play very lightly in the background and Nash and Arthur appear to react to it- but what purpose does it have? I think this set-up is a very good one for that very reason- because it shows a lot– but doesn’t explain a lot to us at all. Like who is Mal? Is she a villain? Who were Cobb’s employers? etc and this makes the audience tense and confused– making them want to watch the rest of the film for these questions to be answered.

 The disequilibrium (or disruption) and then attempt to restore it:

After trying to flee due to their failure, Arthur and Cobb are given a proposition by Sato himself. He offers them a substantial amount of money as well as Cobb the ability to get back to America and thus his family (he is not allowed to go back because he was charged of murder and is technically a criminal on t he run from the law). But he wants inception– instead of extracting an idea from a person’s mind- to plant one. Arthur rules it out as impossible, but Cobb argues by saying he has done it successfully before and because he will do anything to get his old life back, he is willing to take Sato up on the offer.

My thoughts:

Here the film is pretty simple (or as simple as it can be). It is simply that Cobb and Arthur are given a proposition they cannot refuse and this will be something that will help them restore the equilibrium (i.e- Cobb can stop running from the law and go back home to his family a free man). But there is still doubt about whether he or Arthur will be able to successfully do it, as Arthur pretty much writes it off as impossible. This leads the audience to wonder what risks trying an inception has and why it is generally thought to be impossible. And also, if Cobb has carried out a successful inception before, who did he do it to? And why/how? What happened? This is something the audience will be keen to find out as well as many other things- like will they be able to carry out the inception for Sato? Who is Sato targeting and why? etc etc It pretty much sets up the film and therefore makes the audience want to watch on to see what happens.

Attempt to restore the equilibrium:

To carry out inception, Cobb states he needs a good team. After confronting an architect, he reveals to him that he needs a good architect for the job that will help him get back home (inception). So Cobb is meets Ariadne, a young architect student who at first seems quite keen to help. She shares a dream with Cobb to help train her mind and realise what her job will be in the inception- to draw out the locations/structures of the levels of the dream. At first she is keen to explore and push the limits of what she can do, but soon realises that the subconscious of the dreamer can be volatile to anything that seems unnatural– so the more she changes things the angrier the subconscious of the dreamer (in this case, Cobb’s) becomes. Eventually Ariadne finds she has changed things a bit too much and is stabbed by Mal, the character of whom we met before in Sato’s dream. This wakes Ariadne up and then Cobb follows suit. Cobb states Ariadne needs a totem– something small and exact that you will have on you always– something only you personally know what it does or looks like exactly- like a loaded die (Arthur’s totem) of which only he knows the weight of. Despite this Ariadne is scared of sharing dreams with a subconscious such as Cobb’s (which is when we learn Mal is Cobb’s wife) and leaves. Cobb says she’ll be back and states he is off to get Eames– a manipulative character who can use his skills of acting to persuade the dreamer to the idea they want to plant.

 Cobb meets with Eames and explains his idea of inception. Eames seems quite open to the idea and explains they need to start at the basics of the idea for it to stick – if it is too complicated the mind will reject it (as he refers to trying inception before but although they had the idea in place it was too complex to stick). After a scrape with the law Cobb meets up again with Sato and Eames and they all discuss how they can get through this inception successfully. At this point Sato insists to come along for the inception too, to make sure they do it properly. They get a new member of the team at this point also- Yusuf-  a friend of Eames and a chemist who can create them a sedative strong enough to create more than one level of dreaming without the dream becoming too unstable.

My Thoughts: 

Meeting new characters who will supposedly help the inception is a good way to get audiences interested as well as tense. As the characters are all very different– Ariadne being a little naive and vulnerable, Eames being witty and comical, etc this allows a potentially bigger audience to connect with the characters. Having so many more characters in on the  deal also leads the audience to question whether the characters can be trusted (as we’ve only just being introduced to them) and what effect they may have upon the success of the inception. This audiences can only find out by watching on. This part of the film is also interesting and helpful for audiences as it allows them to see what roles each character has to play in order for the inception to work (and they’re all very different) and makes the audience tense about whether their plan is going to work and what will happen to these characters.

Attempt to restore the equilibrium:

Now the team is put together they are given the idea they are supposed to plant within the dreamer’s mind- as well as Sato’s motives for this and the victim himself. The victim is Robert Fischer– an heir to empire that is the biggest rival to Sato’s. So Sato wants the team to get it into Robert’s mind that he wants to dissolve his father’s empire as soon as it comes into his control. So the team research Robert as deeply as they can- so they can know everything about him and thus prepare to get into his mind. Eames then suggests he imitate a man close to Fischer– his Godfather and partner in the business (Browning)- in the dream state to get closer to Robert and thus make their inception a bit easier. So the team start to think about the basic ways that they can put the idea of breaking up his father’s empire into Robert’s mind- they first think about a negative take on it due to the apparent tense relationship between Robert and his father. But Cobb hints that positive thoughts are always more powerful than negative ones, so they decide to focus on planting the idea of: Robert’s father doesn’t want him to follow in his own footsteps– he wants him to be his own man and have his own business (so he’ll then decide to take apart his father’s empire due to this).  

So the team prepares for the inception– with Eames studying Browning so he can imitate him for their benefits in the dream, Ariadne preparing to build the locations of the dream so they have enough time to try and manipulate Robert before his ‘projections’ (from his subconscious) try to stop them and the others thinking about what each level of the dream will be and how it will help them plant the idea into Robert’s mind (which consists of 3 levels). They plan to use each level of the dream precisely so that as they go deeper and deeper into the subconscious, the inception should get more powerful and thus it will be successful.

My thoughts:

 This part is quite interesting as the audience is pretty much given every exact detail of the team’s plan on how they are going to carry out the inception on Robert Fischer. This makes us connect to the characters and thus we want them to be successful in their plan, though all we can do is helplessly watch on, and it makes the audience quite tense. Also, it is quite interesting, while the characters are organising the plan, to see what kind of relationship some of the characters share– for example Arthur and Eames appear to not be on the best terms- with Eames constantly winding him up and enjoying it too, which creates quite a lot of comic relief for the film itself (drawing us away a little from the tension). This whole part of the film is especially good for pretty much placing us in the character’s shoes (which is why we can connect to them so well here) as we know what the plan is, but not what the outcome will be.

Problems occuring:

Just before the team is about to embark on their mission, Ariadne learns from Arthur that Mal is in fact dead– and all the times she appears in the dream are merely Cobb’s projection of her. Cobb then later tells her that America won’t let him back in because they think he murdered her, though it is left unclear about the circumstances in which she died and whether he is in fact guilty or not. Due to all of this new information Ariadne is curious to see what Cobb is doing when he uses the machine to sleep. She finds out a lot she really didn’t want to see. In his dreams Cobb has built a prison-like state in which his deepest and darkest memories are hidden– and where Mal is the most prominent figure. Ariadne realises that Cobb is distraught– longing to see his children again and filled with grief and guilt for his wife’s death. Though it is still left unclear whether Cobb did kill Mal or not, Ariadne still stresses to Cobb when they wake up that his reluctance to let go of Mal could potentially jeopardize their mission. She says if she is not allowed in on the mission of inception to protect the team, she will tell Arthur what she saw. Cobb gives in and Ariadne is actually put into the team too (for the dream state and not just the preparation and structure of it).

My thoughts:

I think planting problems as personal as this to characters just before they attempt to restore the equilibrium is well, a good idea. For audiences that is.  As not only do we connect deeper to the character of Cobb by learning of his troubled past– but we also realise that his reluctance to let go of Mal  could potentially jeopardize his chances of getting home and the success of the  mission as a whole. This builds tension into the viewer as Ariadne rightly points out that Cobb’s volatile subconscious could be dangerous while the team is sharing a dream with him– but will this affect the mission? Or will Cobb be able to let go of his tortured past for the good of the team and success of the mission? We are still left unsure of this, and tension rises as we learn the inception is about to begin– so all we can do is eagerly watch on to find out.

Attempt to restore the equilibrium/problems occurring:

The team get on a private flight with Robert Fischer (his father having previously died) and start the inception. They secretly drug Fischer with Yusuf’s sedative and then drug themselves– all of the team, and Robert, now linked up the machine (Ariadne, Arthur, Yusuf, Sato, Eames, Cobb) their mission begins.

On the first level (Yusuf’s dream) they find themselves in the middle of a busy city centre. The team are at first separated but soon pick each other up in a car. Three of the other team hijack a taxi and then pick up Robert (who is the only one who doesn’t know the teams motives and that he’s actually dreaming) they then proceed to hold him hostage. Everything seems to be going well until a train suddenly arrives out of nowhere and smashes into the taxi. Cars full of men then start to shoot at the team and Robert for no reason. Confused and scared, the team seek solitude in an abandoned warehouse. Keeping to the plan to plant the idea within Robert Fischer, the team handcuff him in a separate room to have him believe he is being kidnapped. With Fischer out-of-the-way the team deal with their problems– the main being that Sato has been hit and is badly wounded. Eames goes to kill him to ‘wake him up’ but Cobb reveals that when they are this heavily sedated, they can’t wake up that way. If they die in the dream they’ll go into ‘limbo’– in other words, raw subconscious. The team are shocked by this news and frustrated even further by the fact Fischer has already had his subconscious trained by an extractor (which is who the men in the cars shooting at them are) which they did not know previously and makes their mission all the more complicated.

Despite their problems the team have no choice but to carry on with the plan they’d organised and go into the second level of the dream.

My thoughts:

As the team attempt to restore the equilibrium through the mission of inception, it is very likely that more and more problems are going to arrise- in this case the fact that Cobb and Yusuf only just reveal to the team that dying is not a technique of waking up that can be used while this heavily sedated- and if they die they drop into ‘Limbo’ (raw subconscious that they could be stuck in forever). This is probably the biggest problem they come across, as it leads for the other team members to become frustrated and frightened- mostly angered by the fact they weren’t informed about this before. Arthur and Eames are particularly angered after being told this, and Ariadne, like the audience at this point, doesn’t even know what ‘Limbo’ is. And the explination of a new and quite deadly threat is very tension building to watch, especially as the characters and the audience seemed to have no idea of what they were getting themselves into before. This potentially threatens to ruin their whole mission– with the team disputing and even threatening to drop out of it (such as, Eames saying that he doesn’t want to go on as it is too risky) but Cobb, reinstating a hero-like status, manages to calm them all down. He says it’s envitable they all go on as they also have another problem- the fact Fischer’s subconscious has been trained by an extractor beforehand- meaning that his subconscious will now try to stop them manipulating Fischer in any way possible. He uses this problem to his advantage– saying they have to carry on as fast as possible before his subconscious kills them (and as time is drawn out in dreams, they will be like sitting ducks waiting to be killed if they give up now). So despite all of these problems, and a lot of tension being built due to it, the team carries on. Though their disputes and the threats they face as they go deeper into Fischer’s subconscious, makes the audience wonder whether they’ll be able to restore the equilibrium at all

Attempt to restore the equilibrium/Problems occurring:

Carrying on with their plan to manipulate Fischer, Eames poses as Browning and reveals to him what the kidnappers (the team) want from them. He tells Fischer that his father wrote an alternative will– one that would give Robert the power to dismantle his father’s empire if he wanted to, that is locked in a safe in his father’s office. Robert is confused by this information and claims he doesn’t know the combination. Browning (Eames) hints that perhaps his father DID tell him the combination but he didn’t know what it was. From this conversation it is apparent to Eames and the team that Robert’s relationship with his father is far worse than they’d previously thought. Never the less, the team carry on and enter the second layer of the dream (only leaving the dreamer, Yusuf, behind in the first level as he can provide the ‘kick’ to wake them all up when the time is right). On the second level Cobb reveals he is going to use the ‘Mr Charles’ technique on Fischer. A dangerous technique as it involves revealing to Fischer he is actually dreaming instead of convincing him what he sees is in fact reality. So Cobb tells Fischer that he is dreaming and warns him that someone is trying to extract the combination of the safe from his mind-  what he doesn’t realise is that Cobb and his team are not his trained subconscious trying to protect him– they are infact the ones trying to manipulate him. This seems to work on Fischer and they enter the next level of the dream (the 3rd one) leaving behind Arthur, the dreamer, to give them the ‘kick’ when required and protect them from Fischer’s subconscious.

My thoughts:

Well at this vital stage in the film, it’s only human to start giving them more and more problems to face– making it look like the team are totally against the odds in their mission to restore the equilibrium. And as at this point we can’t really tell whether they will succeed or not, the audience is likely to want to watch the rest of the film to see what will happen. More problems including the fact that while trying to carry out the idea of inception, Eames discovers that Fischer’s relationship with his father is far worse than he thought. So this makes their idea of inception (that his father wanted him to be independent and not stuck in his shadows) look much more complicated than it was previously thought to be. There is then the introduction of the idea of ‘Mr Charles’ which the audience (and Ariadne) knew nothing of previously, and the explanation that this technique is often very dangerous and usually not successful creates even more tension in the audience- as they wonder whether Fischer will be fooled by the ‘Mr Charles’ technique and how this could potentially affect the restoration of the equilibrium.

Attempt to restore the equilibrium/problems occurring:

 

Using the ‘Mr Charles’ method, the team manage to get Fischer to the ‘safe’ which has ‘his father’s will’ within it, thus planting the idea into Robert’s mind that his dad wanted him to be himself (and thus destroys his father’s empire to create his own). But just as the team are protecting Fischer from his own subconscious, Mal comes out of nowhere and shoots him. The team know that they have to get Robert back for their mission to be complete, so Ariadne and Cobb go onto the fourth level of a dream, leaving behind Sato and Eames to protect them as well as to provide a ‘kick’ when the time is right.

On the fourth level of the dream Cobb confronts Mal (or her projection) and it is revealed that Mal killed herself after confusing reality with dreams when she and Cobb were once stuck in limbo together. Cobb then reveals that he knew inception was possible because he had done it to Mal- when in Limbo he knew he had to get back to reality, so he planted the idea that their world was not real into her mind, thus encouraging them both to finally wake up (by killing themselves). Only the inception worked too well and she still doubted the reality of the world she was in even after waking. She was still convinced committing suicide would wake her up. After she did this, Cobb was convicted of her murder and had to leave his children, and he has been trying to get back to them ever since. While Cobb is finally confronting Mal’s projection, Ariadne finds Fischer and Eames provides the ‘kick’ to wake them up. Cobb tells Ariadne to take Robert and go– as Sato is probably dead by now and he will have to go into Limbo and save him if he is ever going to be able to get back. Ariadne agrees and leaves, taking Fischer with her.

My thoughts:

 This part is probably the most tension building part of the film itself as despite all of the problems they’ve come across (the threat of Limbo, Cobb’s projections invading the dream, Fischer’s subconscious attacking them etc etc) the inception seems to be going as planned. They  even manage to persuade Fischer they are his subconscious (thus turning him against his real subconscious) and get him to the ‘safe’ (where the idea will be planted). But at the final hurdle, perhaps the film’s biggest problem confronts them all – Cobb’s projection of his wife, Mal. She shoots Fischer and thus jeopardizes their mission and it almost looks as though it’s all over for the team- and all their previous efforts have gone to waste. But there still appears to be hope, and at Ariadne’s idea about a plan to save Fischer and carry out the inception successfully the audience is tense at whether this could be successful or not, as there still seems to be hope that the game is not over after all. But the tension is built really at the reveal of Cobb’s use of inception on Mal and how it eventually drove her to her death. And as Cobb refuses to leave with Ariadne at the ‘kick’ we are left wondering whether Cobb will really be able to let her go after all and return to reality. A lot of questions are left unanswered– such as whether Fischer’s mind will accept the idea they plant into it and whether Cobb will find Sato and be able to get out of ‘limbo’ . All of these questions vital to the restoration of the equilibrium and the success of their mission. And the only way to find out any of this for the audience, is to simply to watch on.

Attempt to restore the equilibrium:

Robert eventually goes into the ‘safe’ and the inception is successful. He reveals to Browning (actually Eames) that he has decided to be his own man and build his own Empire, because he believes, on the reveal of the ‘will’, that is what his father wanted. Thus this shows us that the idea has been placed within his mind successfully. So the team, except for Sato and Cobb, all have a series of ‘Kicks’ which allows them to be woken up from each level separately and then woken up altogether (back on the plane).

In Limbo, we go back to the scene which opened the film– with Sato as the old man which claimed he knew Cobb from a ‘half remembered dream’. Cobb explains they have to kill themselves because this world isn’t real.  And the pair clearly do just that, as soon enough, they wake up on the aeroplane they first fell asleep on, and are thrown back into reality.

My thoughts:

Going back to the start is pretty much the best way to end a film. It is tension building to watch as the team are almost at the end of their mission– as they watch Fischer enter the vault (and the idea is planted into his mind) and then eventually get a ‘kick’ to wake them up through all the levels of the dream, all the time leaving Cobb and Sato behind, and are not sure at whether Fischer’s mind will accept the idea they planted or Sato or Cobb will be able to even get back to reality. Finally the very confusing opening scene is explained and now, funnily enough, makes complete sense.  Washing up once again on the shore of his subconscious, Cobb finds Sato, now an old man (having spent a long time in Limbo), and reveals to him that to ‘wake up’ they must kill themselves. And as Cobb wakes up on the aeroplane, and silently looks at each (now awake) member of the team, as if nothing had happened at all, there is a very calm sense of the equilibrium being restored. And as the team relax and Fischer seems to have taken the idea completely on board, the equilibrium seems to be in place– the inception was successful, Cobb managed to let go of his past, Sato got back from ‘Limbo’ and the team are all safe. Though I think the most interesting bit of this equilibrium is how, despite everything that happened in the dream and all of the levels (like the threat of falling into ‘limbo’ or having their own projections attack them) the team wake up afterwards as if nothing had happened– and only the team know what happened and as it is something they shared personally between them– their seems to be a deep sense of connection between them, despite previous differences that threatened the mission’s success itself, even further displaying a sense that we are now in the restored equilibrium of the film.

The restoration of the equilibrium (or is it??):

At the airport the team each go their separate ways having successfully completed their mission of inception. And Cobb happily gets to go back to his children and his country a free man. He spins his totem one last time to make sure this is reality– that he isn’t dreaming, but stops watching it to see his kids again. The top spins for a long time, wobbles, but isn’t actually seen to topple over.

My thoughts:

 The ending being possibly the best part of the film, it is clearly what helps to make Nolan’s directors (and writing) skills unique and totally unforgettable. Just as everything seems to be restored and in balance– it seems this might not be true and the equilibrium perhaps wasn’t even restored after all. As Cobb said before in the film, his totem (which used to Mal’s) will continually spin if he is in a dream. It’ll only topple over if he is in reality. It’s the only way he can be sure when he’s dreaming and when he’s not (which he is seen using a lot throughout the film for this very reason). But as Cobb spins it one last time and then gets distracted by seeing his children again, it doesn’t actually topple over. And it spins for an extraordinary long time. So this leaves the question open as to whether Cobb is in fact dreaming this new equilibrium, or if he is really back in reality. The fact it could be either (the spinning top doesn’t fall nor spin forever as the film ends before we can see what it actually does) is the best aspect– as it allows the audience to mentally connect to the filmdeciding for themselves whether they think it was reality or a dream. This also helps opens their mind at the aspect of dreams and reality (in the film and in general)- giving them far more than just sheer entertainment like any other film ending.

His Trademarks

Trademark

Often has non-linear timelines, like in ‘Following’ and ‘The Prestige’ 

Influential?

Well I like the idea of having non linear timelines as I think they help make the audience concentrate on what they are watching and thus fully connect to the film itself. I think it helps make the films iconic and unique as most films do not usually do this- as having scenes not occurring in order to one another or constantly going back and forth in time is often very confusing- but that’s what helps to keep the audience watching. Because it’s confusing it then becomes more and more unpredictable and thus I think, more entertaining to watch. I think it could possibly work in my own film (if I made it) as I could go back and forth in time constantly from Jack’s childhood to the ‘present day’ (so the audience see why he is getting his revenge and then him carrying out the actual revenge). I think this could be very effective but it doesn’t really apply to my project of creating a trailer most trailers don’t really appear to have timelines like films tend to.

Trademark

Usually starts films with a flashback or a scene from the end of the film itself.

Influential?

I think this technique is very influential, as I personally view it as a brilliant way to start a film– mainly because when the audience gets to the end, it really feels like everything has sort of ‘come together’ (because it is like we’re going back to the start again). Also, I think it is a very good way of grabbing the audience’s attention almost instantly– as if the opening scene is in fact the ending (or close to it) we are thus given full-blown hints to what the end outcome itself will be (or just see it altogether) and thus the rest of the film will either lead us to these events or explain them (or both). If I made my trailer into an actual film I think there would be a good chance of me using this technique as I think it is very creative and different– and most importantly- gets the audience’s attention straight from the off. I think considering the plot from ‘Tainted’ I’d probably include the end scene where Pete has been shot by Jack and then a match is lit by Alice– I’d include minimal dialogue and perhaps only extreme close ups of Jack (to keep his identity hidden like I did in the actual trailer) so although that the audience would know Pete’s character dies, and Alice threatens to burn down the youth clubno real information is given to the audience and it’ll get them confused straight from the start. And then I’d go into the actual equilibrium of the film and tell the chain of events that lead to the opening scene from there.

Trademark

The storyline in his films usually involves a determined character seeking vengeance over the death of a loved one.

Influential?

Well this is clearly very influential to me as vengeance is what my plot for my trailer is pretty much all about (it is my sub-genre and main theme). It does alter a little to Nolan’s apparent trademark as Jack’s vengeance is more about himself and the pain he has gone through- instead of for the death of a loved one. I did choose this idea originally because I feel getting revenge for the death of a loved one (like a family member, wife or child) is a little cliché in thriller- revenge films. Well that was what I gathered from my research in these films anyway (like ‘Gladiator’– revenge for the murder of wife and son, ‘Law Abiding Citizen’– revenge for murder of wife and daughter, ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’– revenge for murder of brother etc) and I felt that the motives for revenge were all a little too repetitive, so I wanted to push the boundaries and conventions a little by making the revenge purely because of something that personally happened to my protagonist, and also, no murder was involved.

Trademark

His films often have obsessive protagonists with a troubled past, who are obsessed to gain justice by any means in life.

Influential?

Well, this is extremely influential to me- as it straight away sounds like the protagonist of my trailer– Jack. Because this character is obsessed with a number of things throughout the plot for the film- like his past and the horrible abuse that he went through, what could happen to Alice and any other innocent children if he doesn’t intervene etc and therefore, due to these obsessions of his, Jack will get revenge/justice in any way he can, which pretty much drives the plot for my film and the trailer also.

Trademark

Typically ends his films with a character giving a philosophical monologue

Influential?

I love this technique as I think it is extremely tension building and helps to make the ending of the film all the more memorable to the audience watching. As a monologue is personal, it appears as though a character is directly talking to the audience, so therefore you’re connecting to the character who’s speaking on a personal level. Also, these monologues usually give the audience more information on the film itself and therefore tell them more than them just watching the film ever could. I’ve noticed that Nolan does seem to use this a lot, and this definitely does, to me anyway, make the film’s ending very memorable and tense. Like in ‘The Prestige’ (which you can watch below):

‘…Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.’

If it came down to it I’d probably use this in my own film (if I created one)- though I’m not sure who’d give the monologue. Maybe what would be moving would be for Alice to give a monologue (as she is the hero of the film and only main character to not be killed or jailed by the end of the film) to the audience about Jack- specifically speaking to the audience about what happened to him after the events of the film as the audience can see him taken away in a police car and she watches the youth club burn down.

Trademark

His protagonists are often seen to resort to tactics of physical or psychological torture in order to gain information (e.g.  in ‘Batman Begins’, Batman uses the hallucinogenic fear compound on Jonathan Crane in order to gain information about his “boss”, in ‘The Prestige’, Angier buries Borden’s assistant alive in order to get Borden to talk, in ‘The Dark Knight’, Batman throws Salvatore Maroni off a building, breaking his legs, in order to gain information about The Joker, in the same movie, Harvey Dent puts a gun to one of the Joker’s henchman and flips a coin for his life every second he doesn’t talk to scare him into talking).

The example from Nolan’s  film ‘Batman Begins’ you can see below:

Influential?

This is very influential to my work, as what I wanted to be different about my trailer (and the plot for my film) is the fact that my protagonist, Jack, resorts to psychological torture rather than physical torture in his revenge on the youth club owners. I chose this mainly because I think psychological torture is a lot more harrowing and shocking to audiences- and makes the film more memorable. Also I think sometimes physical torture can just provide unneccessary gore for films- which takes away the feel and intelligence of a film’s plot really. But my ideas are a little different to why Nolan uses it in his own films, as I wanted Jack to use psychological torture to show just how determined he is to get justice/vengeance rather than to get information.

Personal Quotes

Quote

‘…I studied English Literature. I wasn’t a very good student, but one thing I did get from it, while I was making films at the same time with the college film society, was that I started thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors had enjoyed for centuries and it seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well.’

My thoughts

As I am currently studying my English Literature A level, I think I can connect to this well and understand what Nolan is saying. I think studying English does help me a lot throughout my project and is very helpful when creating a plot for my film in particular. I think Nolan is right that writers and filmmakers should have the same narrative freedoms– as I think often writing can sometimes be overlooked in the film making process. Often I think perhaps film- makers are nervous to break the conventions of films because they may think that audiences will not like it- thus they don’t appear free to make whatever films they like (making films become predictable and cliché). Because making a film costs a lot more I think than for a writer to create a novel, film-makers do not have the choice to take a gamble on something that is different– as it could lead to losing a lot of money aswell as credibility. But I think I agree with Nolan is saying- that film-makers should be, like writers, free to create whatever film they want and push the boundaries instead of be forced to stick to them constantly.

Quote

‘ I always find myself gravitating to the analogy of a maze. Think of film noir and if you picture the story as a maze, you don’t want to be hanging above the maze watching the characters make the wrong choices because it’s frustrating. You actually want to be in the maze with them, making the turns at their side, that keeps it more exciting…I quite like to be in that maze.’

My thoughts

I think this connection between characters and audiences is vital if a film is going to be successful. Nolan’s point that the audience should be sort of ‘positioned’ next to the characterswithin the plot almost, is an effective one. I mean, like he says, simply seeing the characters journey play out in front of you, so you are in control and can clearly see when they’re going wrong or when they’re doing right makes the film mundane and boring. But if we are thrown into the narrative and we, like the characters, have no idea what is going on, or what will happen, that makes the film itself more unpredictable therefore, more exciting to watch overall. 

Quote

‘Films are subjective-what you like, what you don’t like. But the thing for me that is absolutely unifying is the idea that every time I go to the cinema and pay my money and sit down and watch a film go up on-screen, I want to feel that the people who made that film think it’s the best movie in the world, that they poured everything into it and they really love it. Whether or not I agree with what they’ve done, I want that effort there-I want that sincerity. And when you don’t feel it, that’s the only time I feel like I’m wasting my time at the movies.’

My thoughts

Well on a personal note I agree with this totally. I know it involves something I can’t really be sure of myself- whether a cast/crew etc really loved the film they were making and were enthusiastic about it- but sometimes I think it can still be obvious within films. I don’t know how you can realise this point as an audience member, but sometimes (and I think it’s easier to point out if you study films closely or have made your own) it’s just there. It is hard to explain, but the basic line is that if a cast/crew doesn’t love their film to pieces, and work as hard as they can and pour every amount of enthusiasm and energy they have into it, what can they possibly expect out of audiences? It’s something I feel is unfortunately envitable when making a film (or in my case, a trailer) and something I’ve realised myself from first hand experience. So overall, I agree totally with what Nolan is saying, although it is a very hard point to explain.

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