Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s approach to filmmaking has always seemed one of fairly meticulous construction. He understands the fundamentals, crafts a detailed and often exposition heavy screenplay, and then shoots without much in the way of improv from his actors.
His recent war film “Dunkirk” though was a different story. Boasting a minimalist approach with very little dialogue, the film does employ his trademark playing with temporal relativity within his story structure. In this case three different and ultimately converging subplots set over three different spans of time (week, day, hour).
To do that required at least some framework which the film ultimately had in the form of a relatively short 76-page script. As part of an interview about that screenplay, Nolan says while doing research for the film he became so immersed in the details that he felt comfortable that he could wing it:
“I got to a point where I understood the scope and movement and the history of what I wanted the film to address, because it’s very simple geography. I said, ‘I don’t want a script. Because I just want to show it,’ it’s almost like I want to just stage it. And film it.”
Nolan went on to say that he felt he’d “kind of mastered” the form of films driven emotionally by dialogue and wanted to try something more spontaneous. However, his wife and producing partner Emma shot down the idea: “Emma looked at me like I was a bit crazy and was like, okay, that’s not really gonna work.”
He conceded she was right, and so “very, very quickly” planned the triptych timeline structure and wrote the script. He does say that after this film though: “I will be coming back to dialogue.”
Source: Heat Vision