A lot more than just a director: Christopher Nolan (2)
“The most powerful way to tell a story is to show the audience not what happened, but how it happened.”
- C. Nolan
In the previous article, we discussed deconstruction in art. Although this concept, also known as deconstructionism, was initially used in literary theory by Jacques Derrida, it eventually found its way into all fields of art. Derrida stated that deconstruction involves analyzing a text by questioning its internal hierarchies and contradictions. However, over time, this concept evolved to become an important tool for questioning the structure of film, narrative forms, and visual language, especially in cinema.
Traditional (classical/traditional) cinema often follows a linear narrative structure: beginning, middle, and end.
You may remember from syllable metrics:
-a -a -a -b
-c -c -c -b
This is how it goes.
In Tarantino films, time doesn’t flow as expected. This is where deconstruction disrupts this chronology. Even though others may have done it before, Quentin Tarantino applied it magnificently and boldly.
The classical flow becomes something like this in Tarantino’s films:
-c -e -b -a
-a -d -c -b
However, deconstructionist cinema breaks this linear structure. The events can be played out in chronological order, and the beginning and end of the story can be made uncertain.
The pioneering innovators of cinema often needed explanatory text to keep the audience engaged when they turned this structure upside down, saying things like “five years ago, ten years later, the next day, etc.” Tarantino completely disregarded this and encouraged the audience to actively engage with the film.
On the other hand, Deconstructionist films also question the visual language of cinema. By challenging traditional camera movements, editing techniques, and composition rules, they can surprise the audience and offer an experience outside the norm.
In the West, numerous theses and books have been written on this subject. In classical narrative, characters often have distinct characteristics and motivations. The screenwriter/director usually provides these characteristics to the audience in the first quarter of the story, which is seen as too convenient by deconstructionists. In deconstructionist cinema, the identities of characters can become uncertain, their motivations and desires can become more complex. In other words, the director tells the audience, “There’s no resting easy and watching the film with your back supported.”
However, deconstruction also blurs the boundaries between reality and illusion. This makes the audience question what is real and what is fiction. Such films challenge the audience’s perception and encourage them to interact actively with the film.
In fact, all of these challenges and efforts serve a purpose. This is why Tarantino receives the most criticism here, because he hasn’t gone to such lengths for profound things. It’s as if he does it just for fun. (If we examine Tarantino’s cinema, I can explain what I mean in more detail.) But Christopher Nolan is never like that, which is why Nolan doesn’t do deconstruction for nothing!
Nolan’s cinema has the capacity to question ideological and cultural norms, including gender norms, race, class, and other cultural issues. This forces the audience to reevaluate their own beliefs and values.
Of course, Christopher Nolan is not the only one who does this successfully.
For example, David Lynch’s film “Mulholland Dr.” can be considered an example of deconstructionist cinema. The film has a structure that questions narrative, character identities, and the perception of reality.
In the end, deconstructionist cinema invites the audience to an experience beyond the ordinary. Such films do not allow the audience to passively consume the film; they force them to interact actively with the film and question it. This is one of the strongest evidence that cinema is not just an entertainment medium but also a thought-provoking and questioning art form.
A Taste of Quentin Tarantino’s Cinema Analysis
I think we shouldn’t postpone talking about Tarantino cinema. Let’s briefly talk about it.
Some critics may not like him, but it’s a fact that Quentin Tarantino is a cinema genius.
Because Tarantino is one of the directors who play with time in the world of cinema. Tarantino’s films are known for their non-linear time structures, flashbacks, and intricate storytelling. This not only allows the audience to understand the film more deeply but also enables them to explore different aspects of the story.
“Pulp Fiction” is perhaps one of the first films where we can say that Tarantino played with time. Of course, his previous film can fall into this category, but that film is not as bold as Pulp Fiction in this regard. Pulp Fiction tells three different stories intertwined, but these stories are not presented in chronological order. This structure requires the audience to put the events together to understand the whole story. Not every scene in the film may be directly related to the previous or next scene, but all the pieces come together at the end of the film.
As we said, “Reservoir Dogs” also has a similar structure. The film tells the events before and after a robbery, but the robbery scene is never shown. This allows the audience to visualize the events in their own minds and fill in the missing pieces of the story on their own.
Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” series also plays with time. In this film, which tells the revenge story of the main character, events are presented not in chronological order but according to the emotional journey of the character. This allows the audience to establish a deeper connection with the character and understand her revenge journey more comprehensively.
The film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” demonstrates Tarantino’s mastery of playing with time. The film is set in Hollywood in the late 1960s and is based on real events, but Tarantino reinterprets historical events with his creative vision.
We must say this: Quentin Tarantino has a unique place in cinema when it comes to playing with time. His approach in his films not only presents a story but also engages the audience and allows them to look at the story from different perspectives.
Here are some characteristics of Tarantino films:
Firstly, his manipulation of time and deconstruction.
Secondly, his dialogues. They are so effective that many other directors have asked Tarantino to write a few dialogues for them.
Many Tarantino dialogues that often seem like mere chit-chat to me are actually related to the tone of the story and the depth of the character’s effort.
Tarantino presents information in the most entertaining way in cinema. Especially his references to popular culture are amazing.
Unfortunately, we cannot say the same things about his aestheticization of violence. Yes, some scenes are so bloody and nauseating that it’s impossible not to object.
In a panel he participated in at Cannes in June, Tarantino made an interesting confession. It turns out that the reason for legitimizing violence is his mother. Tarantino’s mother once told him that people can endure violence if the context is provided. What he did was to establish this context effectively.
His music selection is also interesting. He goes to the archive and finds tracks among the dusty shelves that manage to become popular again.
Quentin Tarantino generally prefers character-focused stories. He aims to strengthen the relationship between the audience and the protagonist. The originality of his stories is also remarkable.
And I think one of the most important features of Tarantino’s cinema is his respect for cinema, its history, and filmmakers, which he often incorporates into his films. In addition to that, he rediscovers many forgotten film stars in their retirement, helps them get back on their feet, and elevates them to the top.
The relationship between Tarantino and Nolan is also interesting.
One of Christopher Nolan’s biggest fans is Quentin Tarantino.
After directing “Interstellar” in 2014, Nolan openly confessed this in an interview with The Guardian. He said, “Since ‘The Matrix,’ I realized I wasn’t actually that interested in going to see a film without knowing what I was going to see… It’s almost something you’d expect from Tarkovsky or Malick.”
And some interesting remarks from the same interview:
“Even the elements, the fact that there’s dust everywhere, and they live within this dust bowl that covers this whole region of the world. It’s not a science-fiction adventure film, it’s something that almost could be expected from Tarkovsky or Malick.”
Andrei Tarkovsky and Terrence Malick… Two dervishes of cinema… Two masters who deserve separate articles.
In the same interview, Tarantino said that he really wanted Nolan to direct “Battle of the Bulge,” while there was also a debate about whether he poked fun at Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.”
Let’s continue with Nolan’s life story tomorrow and take a detailed look at his first film.