Christopher Nolan discussed his Batman trilogy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on November 28. In Contention's Kris Tapley reports on the conversation, which was moderated by Scott Foundas. Nolan discusses everything from his stance as "not a huge comic book fan" to his love for actors and his faith in film and its audience. He also talks about "The Dark Knight Rises" as the end of the trilogy as he wanted to gell it.
Check out highlights from Foundas' full-length Film Comment article below:
On the realistic tone of his Batman:
Nolan: 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,..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.
On the different sides of Bruce Wayne:
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.
On love for actors:
I do love actors and I feel great actors can find the depth of a characterization that adds to the richness of the film. I felt a lot of the scale of Batman Begins should come through the casting, and once again I looked back to Richard Donner’s Superman for that because he cast Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford and Ned Beatty, all the characters were played by these terrific stars,..'Okay, I know I’ve got Christian Bale and Michael Caine playing this scene together, and they are able to take on the truth of what if the things that happened in The Dark Knight actually happened?'…I’ll write you a scene where these things are coming to bear, these consequences are coming to the surface.” And I know that they’re going to find the truth in that, and that is going to be devastating at times and invigorating at times, and it’s going to take the drama to operatic heights, and extremes of emotion where you really feel something because they found the truth of a situation.
On 70mm and "The Master":
I recently saw a 70mm print of The Master and I realized that, other than my own films, it’s the first photochemically finished film I’ve seen in many years, and it looks the way a movie should look. To me, it’s just a superior form,..it’s simply the best way to make a film, and why more people haven’t done it I could not tell you. The novelty of digital is part of it. For some filmmakers, there’s a fear of being left behind, which to me is irrational because as a director you’re not responsible for loading a camera. You can hire whoever you need to and shoot how you want to shoot, but I think, very simply, industrial economics favor change, and there’s more money in change, whether or not it’s better. But I talk to a lot of young filmmakers who want to shoot on film and see the value in it. I’ve gone out of my way to screen film prints of The Dark Knight Rises for other filmmakers, because no one prints dailies anymore—they’re not seeing the potential of film—whereas I’ve been seeing it every day I’ve been working for the past 10 years.
On his faith in the audience, and in cinema:
I’ve often characterized it as faith in the audience, but it is also faith in the movies, faith in pure cinema. If you can avail yourself of the appropriate cinematic device to make the audience feel something, then cinema is an incredibly powerful communicator. I have faith in that process, that if I get it right and put the pieces together, then people will understand what they need to understand and will feel the intensity of the experience that I’m trying to give them.
On not revisiting Gotham:
For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on.