{Dave J Hogan}

Directed Focus: Christopher Nolan

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”

Christopher Nolan is probably the Best Director of all time. His capacity to synthesize and merge complex story narratives with breathtaking cinematic set pieces is unique and due even more spectacular to the fact he authors what we see, or usually what we try our best to understand.

Whether it’s dissecting quantum physics in Oppenheimer, time reversibility theory in Tenet, space dimensions in Interstellar, lucid dreaming in Inception or anterograde amnesia narratively structured as a hairpin in Memento, Nolan is not solely capable of producing colossal cinematic pictures but the immense study and detailed thought behind each film is what truly makes him great.

Shivers and nerves are the minimum requisites for a Nolan film, and who would have it any other way. His championing of IMAX lends his films to be most imposing during the multiple climaxes of each, just when you think a cinematic pinnacle has been reached, another presents itself within a half hour.

Our Most Mind-Blowing Scenes:

Oppenheimer’s Interrogation
Inception’s Dream Training
Batman vs Bane

Nolan combines his scientific impulses with the popular needs of a mainstream audience, he has distorted any notions of what a filmmaker should be by developing into a class of his own. 

Despite his films revelling in complexity and intricacy, he has transgressed the line between what a mainstream audience will with their premise’s not being of what the big studios commonly produce for the audiences of today, nevertheless what is acceptable to them. Exhibitors rely heavily on the what the next Nolan film will be. His films aren’t on the premise of what the big studios want but are still successful. 

After graduating from UCL with a degree in English Literature, Nolan became a script reader and director of corporate films. Friend and Secretary of the UCL Film Society, Matthew Tempest told the Guardian: “It was pretty obvious to anyone at the University College London film society in the early 1990s (which comprised about half a dozen of us in a windowless, airless basement) that Chris Nolan was going places. I thought his career might even go all the way, and he might shoot a few adverts before eventually (if he got lucky) directing episodes of The Bill and Coronation Street. 

Nolan said, “That was simply how the UK film industry was back then. The only career path was to worm a way into directing for telly or commercials. It had been generations since John Schlesinger, Ridley and Tony Scott, Adrian Lyne and Alan Parker had managed to make the leap from London, and telly, to Hollywood. Chris, however, was different. Not only in appearance (a permanent open-collared shirt and linen suit as an undergraduate, even as the rest of us took pride in our early-90s indie-grunge student status) but in his ambition and focus.”

In 1996 he wrote, directed and funded, Larceny, a short filmed with the UCL Union Film society’s equipment. Appearing at Cambridge Film Festival, it is considered UCL’s best, however it has since been lost to public viewing, desperate fans have scoured the internet since to find a trace. 

In 97, Nolan filmed another short, Doodlebug, concerning an anxious man chasing an insect with his shoe only to be revealed that the bug is a miniature of himself, when he crushes the bug, he is subsequently squashed by a larger version of himself. The Daily Telegraph coined it as “Displaying Christopher Nolan’s talent for constructing unsettling narratives early on.”

Nolan’s first attempted to make a feature, Larry Mahoney, was scrapped after he made it and during this time, mid 90s, Nolan had limited success in establishing his projects for production, he told the Guardian: “There’s a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it’s a very clubby kind of place.

“In Hollywood there’s a great openness, almost a voracious appetite for new people. In England there’s a great suspicion of the new. In cultural terms, that can be a good thing, but when you’re trying to break into the film industry, it’s definitely a bad thing.

“I never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry, other than Working Title, they let me use their photocopier, stuff like that, which is not to be underestimated.” 

After dispensing Larry Mahoney, Nolan devised his first proper feature, Following, released in 1998 and made for a budget of around £3000, the film The film depicts an unemployed young writer who trails strangers through London, hoping they will provide material for his first novel, but is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. The cast and crew were acquaintances of Nolan and to conserve film reel each scene was rehearsed extensively to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final edit.

Following won several awards during its festival run, including the Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Best First Feature prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others.

Following from Following, Memento was incepted, released in 2000 and the rest is cinematic history. 

Christopher Nolan’s Feature Film Filmography