July 24, 2017

What to Watch After Dunkirk?

Dunkirk goes to show many elements of film that are missing from blockbusters lately. If you are interested in looking into director Christopher Nolan's head and picking out his influences, you've come to the right spot.


Recently Nolan curated BFI Southbank's season of films that directly influences Dunkirk. While you may think that war would be the only player in influence, Nolan wanted to create a film based on as much pure visual storytelling and suspense as possible. He wanted constant tension with a story that would throw the audience directly into the crosshairs of war. Here are a few selected films.

Greed

Courtesy of MGM Studios
After she wins the lottery, Trina McTeague's life starts to crumble from her paranoia and the people around her.  Greed is a silent film, released in 1924, and filmed by the great auteur film director Erich von Stroheim. Nolan mentions Greed as a silent epic that stands as purely visual in storytelling. Other directors, including Guillermo del Toro, mention the influential importance of Greed.


Courtesy of MGM Studios
Nolan discusses how geography is very important in storytelling. He uses Ryan's Daughter as the quintessential example of "geographical spectacle." In Ireland during World War I a married woman falls in love with a British soldier. The two lovers must contend with adversity as they stand strong against the nationalist Irish. Ryan's Daughter is available on Amazon.

The Battle of Algiers

Courtesy of Igor Film, Casbah Film, Image Entertainment
Taking place during the Algerian War, The Battle of Algiers is a complex morality tale. Faced with great odds what would you do to survive? The film focuses on the struggles to survive during war and the lengths a person will go to live, even when outnumbered by the enemy. These themes give way to what Nolan describes as, ". . . empathy with its characters in the least theatrical manner imaginable."

The Battle of Algiers is available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

Saving Private Ryan

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, DreamWorks
In modern cinema no war film would be complete without influence from Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Saving Private Ryan. However, Nolan's influence from Saving Private Ryan is extremely different. Set during and directly after the event of D-Day during World War II, a small group of soldiers sets out to find and return the remaining son of an American family. Saving Private Ryan was praised with its portrayal of the storming of Normandy beach by Allied forces. The film graphically shows the gruesome nature of war. Nolan did not want any of it and decided to rid the gruesome depictions for something more suspenseful. Nolan's argument was that the depictions in Saving Private Ryan made the audience look away in horror. He wanted his audience to keep looking at the screen in suspense. Saving Private Ryan is available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.


Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Dunkirk is a pure ensemble piece with no one character more important than the other. Nolan expresses this as, "resisting the convention of finding meaning and logic in individual fate." His influence for this comes from Lewis Milestone's classic All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Based off the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, the film follows young German soldiers who fight through the gruesome events of World War I. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) is available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

Speed

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nolan didn't just look at silent epics and war films. He wanted to delve into films that had classic, non-stop tension. Speed follows a Los Angeles cop (one of the best Keanu Reeves performances) who must keep a bus above 50 miles per hour or else it will explode. The film has all the classic ingredients for a nonstop thrill ride. Nolan wanted to look underneath the film at the mechanics of a thriller. Speed is available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Dunkirk wastes no time getting to the action. At a little more than an hour and a half, the film is a thrill ride from start to finish with no sign of slowing down. Nolan wanted to throw the audience into the action as soon as possible; letting the audience deal with the events of the film with the characters. The best example is George Miller's recent Mad Max: Fury Road where the film spends near two hours on action. Mad Max: Fury Road is available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

More Influences:

Alien: Available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

Chariots of Fire: Available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

Foreign Correspondent: Available on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

SunriseAvailable on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

UnstoppableAvailable on Amazon and Netflix DVD.

The Wages of Fear: Available on Amazon.

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