NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks to movie director Christopher Nolan about his latest movie, Tenet, and why time is a major theme in most of his movies, 14.12.20:
“…SHAPIRO: You know, you’ve talked about how crucial time is to cinema. What is it about you as a person that keeps being drawn to these questions of how we experience time?
NOLAN: What I like to say about my fascination with time is I’ve always lived in it. And it’s a glib response, but there’s a truth to it. And as I get older – you know, I turned 50 just before I released the film. And as I get older, as my kids get older, your sense of time changes – that kind of feeling that we all have as we get older of losing things and things slipping away and things moving ahead without us. And there’s a tremendous sense, you know, coming into middle age of acceleration of time.
SHAPIRO: It’s funny – not to belabor the point, but as you talk about your relationship to time over the course of your life, it occurs to me that “Memento,” which you made in the year 2000, is a film where every moment is totally new and totally fresh, which is a very young person approach to time. And this is sort of a very different approach to time, which is, can you go back and undo things that maybe you wish had not been done?
NOLAN: (Laughter) Yes, exactly. Can you root around in the past and, yeah, see things you didn’t see the first time or last time or salvage something or, you know, what have you? Yeah. No, I think it is. I think I’ve always wanted to work on films where you connect with it in a very – as a filmmaker, you connect with it in a sort of personal way, not literally, not biographically or anything like that. That I’ve never been interested in – but from a sort of emotional point of view of trying to really feel, you know, the world you live in, the things you’re worried about losing and playing with that and playing with how the audience could respond to that.
SHAPIRO: I have to confess, when I got to the end of the film, I wasn’t totally sure that I understood every moment, beat by beat, point by point. And with a story this intricate, that sort of seems inevitable. Are you OK with that? Do you go into it with an acknowledgement that some people may walk out of the theater being like, wait; so in that scene…
NOLAN: Yeah. The interesting thing is – we dealt with this a lot on “Memento” where, you know, people would say, OK, does everybody understand every aspect of it? And I would say, well, the interesting thing in movies is – looking at the thriller genre in particular – you’re not meant to understand every single aspect. You’re meant to go on the journey, pass through the maze, understand the things you need to understand. That’s the key.
And I felt – right back to “Memento” – people who just come to the movie and want to be entertained – they tend to understand the movies pretty well. People who sort of feel like, oh, I’ve got to interview the director after I watch it…
NOLAN: But it’s – you watch it very differently. And I think, you know, the idea that you’d watch, you know, a large-scale, you know, studio blockbuster or whatever and come out feeling like maybe there are things I didn’t understand that I should go back and take a look at or whatever – I think that’s kind of fun. The challenge is – my job as a filmmaker is to make sure that the first time you see the movie, you are entertained, and you are gripped. And that you can’t lose sight of. And, you know, that’s a challenge and something I spend a lot of time wrestling with.
SHAPIRO: Well, Christopher Nolan, thank you so much for talking with us. It’s really been a pleasure.
NOLAN: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: That was Christopher Nolan on his new movie “Tenet,” which will be available tomorrow on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming.”