Acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan has responded to the critics who say his films are “emotionless.” Ever since his breakthrough film Memento in 2000, Nolan has become one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood to consistently deliver quality, critically-acclaimed (and sometimes Oscar-nominated) and financially successful films one after the other. In the process, he’s become the highest-paid director out there.
Nolan’s greatest box office achievements, of course, came with The Dark Knight Trilogy, with the last two – The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises eclipsing the billion-dollar mark in global ticket sales – yet he’s never leaned on one particular genre to help tell his uniquely-crafted stories. From a mysterious tale about rival magicians who go to extraordinary extremes to one-up each other in The Prestige; to the mind-bending heist thriller Inception that probed the human consciousness and unconsciousness; to the exploration of the boundaries of space and time in Interstellar, Nolan has continually challenged himself – and most importantly, his audiences – to engage themselves with though-provoking scenarios with his films.
And yet, for all Nolan’s accomplished in his 19 years as a feature filmmaker, film critics have continually harped on his films for what they perceive as a lack of emotion. In an interview with Playboy (via Imgur) for his new World War II epic Dunkirk, Nolan gives his take on critics’ claims, saying:
“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.”
As usual, Nolan is handling the criticism of his films with class, opting not to go on the attack of the critics of who are complaining about his films, but rather, concentrating on those who matter most to him: the people in the seats of the theater.
Being a director is a difficult position to be in when it comes to expressing any sorts of emotion through their vision, and Nolan’s keen to say how reading varies from person to person. It’s almost a certainty that those same critics who are bashing him for his so-called “emotionless” films would also be ripping on him if he used elements like the music of his frequent composer Hans Zimmer to manipulate his audiences to react to his films one way or the other. It’s a tricky balancing act, but Nolan appears to be in tune with most audiences because he himself is as much a fan of film as they are.
Granted, no film is ever perfect, and Nolan no doubt realizes that. But don’t think for a second that he’s not going to remember those mistakes when he embarks on new projects. As far as the critics complaining about the emotional aspects of Nolan’s films are concerned, they should just be happy with the fact that there’s a filmmaker in industry that still has enough clout to make the stories he feels will appeal to an viewer’s intellect, rather than a mindless one that’s going to insult their’s – and the audiences’ – intelligence.
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