Inception's Singular Lack of Unity Among Christopher Nolan's Puzzle Films

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Contribution to Book

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Without endorsing an auteur theory of film in any strong sense, one can reasonably divide Christopher Nolan's extant films into two groups: the more and less personal. The more personal films are those with respect to which Nolan had more control over the script from the outset. These include his first feature-length film, Following (1998), his breakthrough sleeper-hit Memento (2000), his first big-budget film that was not a remake, The Prestige (2006) and the sci-fi action film Inception (2010). I thus classify as less personal Insomnia (2002) (a remake of the Erik Skjoldbjærg's 1997 debut of the same name) and Nolan's Batman trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012). One could quibble with the principle or its application. On the one hand, both Memento and The Prestige were based on literary works; on the other, there is a lot of flexibility within the conventions of remaking a film and the constraints of the Batman myth. But there are also broadly formal features shared by the more personal films that I believe justifies discussing them together for some purposes. In particular, in all these films, central narrative and thematic puzzles are posed not only by the story ‒ what happens in the fictional world of the film ‒ but also by the plot ‒ the order in which elements of the story are presented.


Jacqueline Furby & Stuart Joy




Columbia University Press


New York


9780231173964, 9780231173971

Publication Information

The Cinema of Christopher Nolan: Imagining the Impossible