Nolan On “Dunkirk” Runtime, Cold Criticisms

Though he’s much acclaimed, writer-director Christopher Nolan’s obvious weakness as a director has been one of sensuality, sexuality and emotion. His films are often described as cold, calculated, ingenious puzzles – but they’re also emotionally restrained, the female roles are often thin, and there’s a notable lack of heart.

“Interstellar” seemed like an obvious attempt to change this, offering Nolan at his most blatantly emotional, putting female characters front and center, and laying the sentimentality on so thick even Steven Spielberg might have taken a step back.

In a new interview with Playboy for “Dunkirk,” Nolan has answered his critics claims saying he wants people to interpret his films their own way instead of emotionally leading them:

“I try not to be obvious about it. That gives people a little more freedom to interpret the movies their way, bring what they want to it. I’ve had people write about my films as being emotionless, yet I have screened those same movies and people have been in floods of tears at the end. It’s an impossible contradiction for a filmmaker to resolve. In truth, it’s one of the things that is really exciting about filmmaking though. I seem to be making films that serve as Rorschach tests.”

In a separate interview with Fox 5, Nolan also discussed why his new WW2 epic is so much shorter than his other films of late. Clocking in at just 107 minutes, it’s his shortest movie since his 1998 debut “Following” and a full hour shorter than “Interstellar”.

He says he wanted to subvert common notions of war movies and so keeps the focus to a small scale and tells the story through action rather than excessive dialogue:

“I wanted it to be an intense an experience as possible and therefore as lean and stripped down and short an experience as possible. You can only sustain the degree of suspense and tension that we wanted from the film for so long before you exhaust the audience.

I think perhaps people hearing that I was doing a film about Dunkirk, particularly British people who know the story already are thinking big historical epic, they’re imagining a three-hour film with a lot of talking and all the rest.

What I did is I wrote a script that was 76 pages that is really half the length of my old screenplays because I didn’t want to tell the story in words – I didn’t want the theatrics of people telling the audience why you should care about them.

I wanted to care about them just because of the physical situation they were in, and in that way build up a subjective experience of the events of Dunkirk that would hopefully have a cumulative quality, emotional quality through the course of the film that will pay off at the end of the film without ever being overly theatrical or sentimentalising these real life events.

So the relentless pacing of it and the stripped down nature of it was something I was very determined to stick to with right from the beginning before I wrote the script.”

“Dunkirk” opens in cinemas on July 21st.