Unexpected Disappointments can Give Us Unexpected Delights
I started writing about why It (2017) is surprising and Dunkirk (2017) also makes an impact on me, despite its lack of cohesion in the expected unfolding of a film narrative.
Of course, what one viewer sees as a lack of cohesion is another person’s deliberate attempt (director Nolan in Dunkirk) to provide some sense of cohesion in the midst of chaos, with an aim to unsettle the viewer and to give a small indication of what it feels like to be inundated with information – aural and physical – mostly bullets, bombs and explosions – which doesn’t add up to our expectation of the form in which the information cinema wants to present itself to the viewer most often, and how it reveals itself. In this film it’s in a different way. Just like Interstellar and Inception, Nolan is still intent on telling stories out of order – like his first critical acceptance in the non-linear, Memento.
Like Welles in Citizen Kane and Kurosawa with Rashomon, where different versions of the same events are shown, events revealed outside of their chronology gives greater freedom to the storyteller, writer or director.
It’s one of a director’s great tools, allowing manipulating of the audience. An example from the last few years, is the book and film, Gone Girl. There are two sides to every story – at least. It’s not just a cliché.
It works well if the intention is to confuse, unnerve or throw the viewer off-balance. Or to lead the viewer down one path before revealing another. In Dunkirk, it serves to underline emotional states of characters in the film.