Christopher Nolan’s upcoming epic “Dunkirk” drew inspiration from classic films of all genres, and the director has teamed with BFI Southbank for Christopher Nolan Presents, a series of movies handpicked by the director that gave him inspiration for his latest film. IndieWire readers in London will be able to attend the screenings in person, but for the rest of the world, Nolan and the BFI released detailed notes about the series. Click through this gallery to see how some of Nolan’s favorite films brought his vision to life.
Nolan calls this Erich von Stroheim classic a “silent epic.”
F. W. Murnau’s romance helped Nolan to “explore the possibilities of purely visual storytelling.”
Nolan cites Lewis Milestone’s classic as a game changer: “One look at James Jones’ essay on ‘Phony War Films’ (in which he takes down several of my old favorites) immediately shows you the perils of taking on real-life combat in a dramatic motion picture. In Jones’ estimation, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ said it first and best: war dehumanises. Revisiting that masterpiece it is hard to disagree that the intensity and horror have never been bettered. For me, the film demonstrates the power of resisting the convention of finding meaning and logic in individual fate.”
“No examination of cinematic suspense and visual storytelling would be complete without Hitchcock, and his technical virtuosity in ‘Foreign Correspondent’s portrayal of the downing of a plane at sea provided inspiration for much of what we attempted in ‘Dunkirk,'” Nolan said.
Nolan referred to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s high-octane film as an “established classic of tension.”
Nolan cited Gillo Pontecorvo’s war film as “a timeless and affecting verité narrative, which forces empathy with its characters in the least theatrical manner imaginable. We care about the people in the film simply because we feel immersed in their reality and the odds they face.”
David Lean’s romance moved Nolan because of the “thrilling windswept beaches and crashing waves…The relationship of geographical spectacle to narrative and thematic drive in these works is extraordinary and inspiring. Pure cinema.”
Ridley Scott’s seminal thriller was another film Nolan referred to as an “established classic of tension.”
“The visual splendor, intertwined narratives and aggressively anachronistic music of Hugh Hudson’s ‘Chariots of Fire’ combined to create a masterpiece of British understatement whose popularity rapidly obscured its radical nature,” Nolan said.
Director Jan de Bont’s pacing inspired Nolan, as it’s a “ticking-clock nail-biter.”
“The relentless ‘Unstoppable’…explores the mechanics and uses of suspense to modulate an audience’s response to narrative,” Nolan said.