Cinematic Faith

Director Christopher Nolan on set
Director Christopher Nolan on set

I found an article online titled Cinematic Faith, within this article was an interview between director Christopher Nolan and journalist Scott Foundas. Not only did I find this interview intriguing due to my interest in Batman, but because I found it to be unlike any other interview. Not only are the questions asked unlike most that simply inquire into irrelevant information such as, what inspired this film? Who is your real life hero? Why choose Christian Bale? Instead they are more in depth and thought provoking. Christopher Nolan’s answers are perfectly to match, they are detailed and serious. His love for this trilogy and Batman’s history is evident. His ten years working on these films show his research and knowledge as he is fully aware of the political and religious aspects incorporated into the film. He talks about how this is a entirely different type of cinematic experience which has brought seriousness, darkness and realism into the Hollywood forever changing the way superhero stories can be told. And Furthermore, he explains the reasons behind his actions on some topics that may have interested you. For example, during The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan made the decision to play “Star Spangled Banner” from start to end, and I loved it but I could never quite put my finger on it to say why it was so… perfect, for that scene.  Every time I watch this movie the suspense builds inside of me as this song goes on and you just know that something big is about to happen. Nolan described it perfectly as, “the scope and scale of the action is built from smaller pieces that snowball together so you’re cross-cutting, which I love doing, and trying to find a rhythm in conjunction with the music and the sound effects, so you’re building and building tension continuously over a long sustained part of the film, and not releasing that until the very last frame…In The Dark Knight Rises, from the moment the music and sound drop and the little boy starts singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it’s kind of like the gloves are coming off.”

As mentioned in my Post The Dark Knight I discuss Nolan’s use of realism, how he turned Batman into a more realistic version that we could all relate too, and this quote below explains how accurate I really was. Though, he uses the term “relatable” instead, he is saying how he chose to make Batman darker, but in the same way wanted you to be able to imagine yourself walking down a street with the Dark Knight suddenly swooping overhead.

The overall tone of the film is realistic compared to most comic-book- derived movies.The world around Batman is plausible and not particularly stylized or exaggerated.

The term “realism” is often confusing and used sort of arbitrarily. I suppose “relatable” is the word I would use. I wanted a world that was realistically portrayed, in that even though outlandish events may be taking place, and this extraordinary figure may be walking around these streets, the streets would have the same weight and validity of the streets in any other action movie. So they’d be relatable in that way. And so the more texturing and layering that we could get into this film, the more tactile it was, the more you would feel and be excited by the action. So just on a technical level, I really wanted to take on this idea of what I call the tactile quality. You want to really understand what things would smell like in this world, what things would taste like, when bones start being crunched or cars start pancaking. You feel these things in a way because the world isn’t intensely artificial and created by computer graphics, which result in an anodyne, sterile quality that’s not as exciting. For me that was about making the character more special. If I can believe in that world because I recognize it and can imagine myself walking down that street, then when this extraordinary figure of Batman comes swooping down in this theatrical costume and presenting this very theatrical aspect, that’s going to be more exciting to me.

In my post Introduce a Little Anarchy, I am discussing the “bad guys” and their similarities but what I did not touch on was their religious view and their differences. Here is a little taste of that.

And then you have the anarchy of The Joker, and in The Dark Knight Rises you come back with the followers of Ra’s Al Ghul who are trying to enact his plans by masking it as class warfare.

Class warfare but also in a militaristic, dictatorial approach. If you look at the three of them, Ra’s Al Ghul is almost a religious figure, The Joker is the anti-religious figure, the anti-structure anarchist. And then Bane comes in as a military dictator. And military dictators can be ideologically based, they can be religiously based, or a combination thereof.

In my post Introduce a Little Anarchy, I wanted to touch on politics within Gotham. What made this difficult was that Gotham is obviously a made up city so deciding its position on the political spectrum was all hypothetical. Yet the “bad guys” certainly expressed  political views that appeared left-winged via their actions and the rest of the film appeared to be right winged. At the same time, I mentioned that it seemed more about expressing and exposing some of the good and bad of each style. It satisfying me to know that Christopher Nolan did not intend this film to be “politically specific” and that it’s open to interpretation. I believe that to be the perfect approach as any specific political influence would seem inappropriate and there are very clearly two different views, not a specific one. To say that it was one or the other would be inaccurate and would have as he said, “ignoring huge chunks of the film.”

It was interesting to see the spectrum of reactions to The Dark Knight Rises, with some arguing that it was a sort of a neoconservative or very right-wing film and others seeing it as being a radical leftist film. And one of the things the film seems to be talking about is how easily the political rhetoric of one extreme can be co-opted by the complete opposite extreme.

Absolutely, and then you get into the philosophical question: if an energy or a movement can be co-opted for evil, then is that a critique of the movement itself? All of these different interpretations are possible. What was surprising to me is how many pundits would write about their political interpretation of the film and not understand that any one political interpretation necessarily involved ignoring huge chunks of the film. And it made me feel good about where we had positioned the film, because it’s not intended to be politically specific. It would be absurd to try to make a politically specific film about this subject matter, where you’re actually trying to pull the shackles off everyday life and go to a more frightening place where anything is possible. You’re off the conventional political spectrum, so it’s very subject to interpretation and misinterpretation.

When I saw this question in the interview I was very excited to see what the response would be considering I (while scared to death) posted my theory on the political aspects of this film in Introduce a little Anarchy.  In doing so I included how I believed Nolan to have utilized sympathetic elements when depicting the “bad guys” in order to draw in OWS types. It was more of a “food for thought theory”, I never believe that Nolan did this specifically as the film is not intended to be political, but more so that it simply fell under this desire to “pull the shackles off everyday life” and make things more frightening. As Nolan said below, this was written before the actual protest took place, but during the banking crisis of 2008 when everyone was in fear of the “what-if scenarios”. Therefore, as said “a lot of the ideas underlying the film come from a situation in which the economy was in crisis” drawing in people of a left-wing perspective.

When you were starting to write The Dark Knight Rises, were you thinking about what was going on with the economy and movements like Occupy Wall Street, in terms of the depiction of society on the brink of a kind of second American Revolution?

We were writing years before Occupy Wall Street, and we were actually shooting at the time that it arose, but I think the similarities come from Occupy being a response to the banking crisis in 2008. We were sitting there in a world where, on the news, we were constantly being presented with what-if scenarios. Like: “What if all the banks go bust?” “What if the stock market is worth nothing?” These questions are terrifying, and we were taking the view that we should be writing about what’s most frightening. We came to the idea of how in America we take for granted a stability to our class and social structure that has never been sustained elsewhere in the world. In other words, this sort of thing has happened in countries all over the world, why not here? And why not now? So a lot of the ideas underlying the film come from a situation in which the economy was in crisis and therefore even on the news questions are being asked—unthinkable questions about what might happen in society.

Within a few of my posts I was touching on how Frank Miller’s, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Batman is often seen as a vigilante as apposed to a hero, or a watchful protector. Both the comic and the film The Dark Knight Rises express Batman’s dark side. I included this interview question because I believe it does a good job of explaining Bruce Wayne’s multiple identified and how they are all necessary in order to compose him as both Bruce and Batman successfully. While also revolutionizing the way Batman appears on film, just as Frank Miller revolutionized the way Batman was seen in comics.

Something you seized on is the fragmented identity of Bruce Wayne/Batman, which is certainly a central part of the character, but it’s much more present in these films. At the end of The Dark Knight on some level he senses that maybe he’s become the villain of the story, that maybe he has too much blood on his hands, and that Batman should go away and leave Gotham alone. Those are dark areas that no Batman movie really ventured into before, and they seem related to an interest you have in the dual or sometimes more than dual nature of identity.

It’s paradoxical, but in order to get at the duality of Bruce Wayne, we had to make him into three people. I sat down with Christian early on and we decided there’s the private Bruce Wayne, who only Alfred and Rachel really get to see; the public Bruce Wayne, which is this mask he puts on of this decadent playboy; and then the creature of Batman that he’s created to strike back at the world. By making him into these three aspects, you really start to see the idea that you have a private person who is wrestling with all kinds of demons and trying to make something productive out of that. I think the most interesting moment to me that Christian pulls off in Batman Begins is the scene at the party when he pretends to be drunken Bruce Wayne being rude to his guests to get them out of the place, to save them from Ra’s Al Ghul’s men. But there’s some truth to it which comes through, and you can see that in his performance. It’s an act, but Bruce Wayne as an actor is drawing on something that he really feels. It’s quite bitter, and I like the layers that Christian was able to put in there.

I would also like to link you all to this blog, The Von Weiland File as it was this blog that led me to this interview. And also because, they said, “December 4 I will be posting an my interpretation of The Dark Knight Rises to coincide with its release date. You can expect it to be heavy on the politics.”  And I find it interesting that everyone is so interested in the political side of Batman when Nolan blatantly says “All of these different interpretations are possible. What was surprising to me is how many pundits would write about their political interpretation of the film and not understand that any one political interpretation necessarily involved ignoring huge chunks of the film” and “It would be absurd to try to make a politically specific film about this subject matter.” I mean call me hypocritical, as I touched on the political side as well, but hopefully I successfully accomplished my goal of saying how it wasn’t politically specific as well … and if not then I’m just another pundit I suppose…but regardless I am interested in seeing this analysis especially since they have read the same interview as I, and are posting after reading it, as apposed to prior to like myself.

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5 thoughts on “Cinematic Faith

  1. […] TDKR and stated, “you can expect it to be heavy on the politics.”  An excellent blog entitled Citizens of Gotham correctly questioned why we would have a political discussion when Nolan makes it blatantly clear […]

    • Sarah Petrie says:

      You’re very right, politics truly are inevitable regardless of whether or not it’s a political movie, there are still aspects within in. This is very detailed blog and very interesting! I hope to be able to re-read again to fully grasp everything. Thanks for pinning my link. “It was a fair question as the author points out we had obviously read the interview so why focus on the politics? I should have been clearer with our intentions however this post will contain a great deal of politics” I hope you did not take what I said as a negative comment it was pure interest actually and well done!

  2. rebel_diamonds_ says:

    Reblogged this on RebelDiamonds and commented:
    If you’re a DC/Dark Knight fan then this is a must read!

  3. Reblogged this on Midnight musings and commented:

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