Thursday, January 30, 2020

"Circular Filmmaking: The Shape of Christopher Nolan's Films" from Studio Binder

Circular Filmmaking: The Shape of Christopher Nolan’s Films” , from Studio Binder, explains the devices by which Christopher Nolan’s films hold an audience’s attention in an unusual way.

History repeats itself.  Everything comes back.  Ideas early in my life, associated with my time at William and Mary in 1961, have come back in retirement.  A major Internet fiasco involving one of my websites when I was substitute teaching back in 2005 came back – and cost Hillary Clinton the election and led to Trump’s presidency.  I’m not kidding.  The same traps catch everyone.  There are real ironies in the course of my life that are absolutely stunning.

So how does Christopher Nolan show this?

One technique is “clues in motifs”.  A motif is sometimes a prop, like a spinning thimble in “Inception” (2014) representing the reality layer of life.  The film mentions cats in "The Prestige" (2006).  The sea in "Insomnia" (2002).

The short says that Studio Binder production software has the tools to embed motifs into a script. Apparently this is robust competition for Final Draft and Screenwriter.
A second is non-linear stories or layered plots.  Nolan believes in writing a script in the same order the audience will see it.  In my view, the problem with a backstory is usually it is seen through the eyes of one character.  How will the other characters learn the story except by trusting the first character’s presumed narration?  What if the backstory is itself fiction in a story that the first character wrote?  Then I think, at least in the sci-fi script of mine (“Epiphany”) other devices like telepathy could work.  Another character could be a good receptor for the telepathy based on a physical attribute of the character (I call this the “Theta Property” in my own notes, but that is comparable to an abstract motif). Another possibility is recurrent contacts between other characters at key events in the past.  (I use baseball games in flashbacks as such a setting, although it sounds like MLB licensing fees for events – like Bucky Dent’s 1978 home run in Boston, maybe, are probably expensive).  Another obvious idea is that another character has done “ethical hacking” and can confirm the backstories in unusual ways (P2P, dark web, access to the cloud backup of unpublished materials) etc.  But a screenplay needs to make it credible that other characters understand the backstory and have some “skin in the game” in interacting with the character.   But a strong image about a setting or event (sports, games,  concerts, rehearsals, dance floors, pride festivals, etc) for encounters can be treated as a “motif” to explain how other characters have “skin in the game”.  Pewdiepie is on to something with his idea of “memes”. 
A third idea is “bookends”, using motif’s to show circularity (like in Insomnia, the lead character is the guy who crossed the line an never came back). 
The short film here shows a curious scene from “Inception” of a baseball field in a small Kalpana cylinder in space, with all the curvature.
An interesting observation is the notion that the Universe is probably four-dimensional space that has no boundaries, like the inside of a torus or Klein bottle with circularity around more than one dimension.

I see that Don Harmon has videos on "plot circles" and Tyler Mowery has shown them before. 

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