Nolan’s “Dunkirk” Set Across Three Perspectives

On the surface, Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” seems much like his previous work despite the shift of setting to WW2. There’s IMAX cameras used throughout, plenty of impressive scale big filmmaking and some of his regular acting collaborators onboard.

In a new interview with Premiere this week, he reveals that one key change is the storytelling structure. Nolan’s films are notable for being talky and exposition heavy along with having a relatively straightforward single narrative flow (“Memento” the obvious exception).

Not “Dunkirk” though which reportedly pars back the dialogue to offer something more akin to a survival tale, while the narrative will be split between three different perspectives – namely the soldiers on the beaches (land), the Naval commanders (sea) and the pilots above (air).

Tom Hardy is part of the ‘air’ thread, Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy part of the ‘sea’, and the young faces like Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead are on ‘land’. The film also plays arounds with the time elements of the story:

“The film is told from three points of view. The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different timelines.

On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; and if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one has to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; Even if the story, once again, is very simple.

This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate. And the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the US would not have returned to war.

It is a true point of rupture in war and in history of the world. A decisive moment. And the success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory, which allowed him to galvanize his troops like civilians and to impose a spirit of resistance while the logic of this sequence should have been that of surrender. Militarily it is a defeat; On the human plane it is a colossal victory.”

“Dunkirk” is currently slated to open in cinemas on July 21st.