A Dreamer Walking

Christopher Nolan – Director – The Dark Knight

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Screenshot Series by Jacob on September 9, 2014

Chrostopher Nolan

Here we have one of the most iconic images from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Each superhero movie needs it’s “hero shot” and this is Christopher Nolan’s version.  Nolan shoots Batman at a lower angle and has him standing on top of the rubble, as a sort of pedestal. Yet, the cold blues devouring most of the shot and the empty space around Batman seems to be saying something more.

It’s obvious Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer Wally Pfister knows how to work with light. The cold and warm colors create a wonderful complementary color scheme. Just enough light hits Batman in order to have him stick out so we understand his emotional state. This shot takes place right after Batman loses someone dear to him and saves someone who he believes is important to the city. Through this shot Nolan is showing the conflict between the two actions. The burning building is being used to reflect the inner battle Batman is going through. We are looking up to Batman in this shot and he is intentionally put on top of the rubble to suggest he is rising above the destruction. Yet, because of the blues, Batman’s stance, and the emptyness around him we do not see this as a triumphant shot. Instead it communicates a deep conflict between the hero Batman is trying to be and the inner conflict going on inside.

The reason Nolan’s Batman series rises above (excuse the pun) other superhero movies for me is because of shots like this one. All superhero movies show physical conflict but rarely do I see the emotional conflict in a superhero movie treated with such potency. For Nolan this movie was all about questioning our views on what makes a hero. And like the shot above Nolan leaves us with a a hero, but not the one we are so used to seeing. Instead, he turns our concept of what makes a true hero on it’s head and goes into a direction that forces us to see the “superhero” as a human being not immune to the evils of the world he fights in.

Contrast

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on April 19, 2010

One of the keys to making good stories and good characters is contrast. You will not watch a good movie that does not have both goods and evils.

I am a big fan of movies that have good in them. I actually want the core of each of my films to be built out of something good. But my films would be very poor if all I had was good things happen.

Let me use this self-portrait I did to help make my point. If I only used dark shades and did not go any lighter then gray, my picture would not be as interesting. We would have hardly anything to contrast the black with and the dark would not stand out as being anything special. The same principle applies if I only had white through gray with no dark. The drawing would be hard to read, the shapes would lose their strength and nothing would pop.

The point of the drawing is made through contrast. The drawing is trying to say something with one half of the face being light and the other dark. We see some powerful dark lines in the eyes and shadows that contrast the highlights of the hat and face, well.

The same thing applies to any character you make or story you create. Yes, I am a big believer in good winning out in the end, but I need to contrast the good with something evil. We do not know how special the good is until we are able to see what it overcame or what it is fighting.

If you want to make a good villain, do not just have him be completely evil. Give him some good qualities and let us see the light in him. Look at a villain like Darth Vader from Star Wars. Vader is a very evil man (some would call him a monster) who killed many people (Including children). The reason to why he was so interesting however, was the fact that there was some good in him. The idea that Vader was once a good man makes his crimes all the more horrible and interesting. The idea that Vader is not completely evil, gives us as an audience a reason to keep watching him and hoping that he might choose good one day.

Sometimes you might need to sacrifice an interesting villain for an interesting story. Take the Joker in Batman Dark Knight for example. I think that the Joker was played very well, and he was actually a perfect villain for the Batman movie. The only interesting thing about the Joker however was the ways he could test Batman and Gotham. The Joker by himself would not be interesting, he had shown that he was completely evil. The only reason to why the Joker was doing what he was doing, was to test people and blow things up.

The Dark Knight was interesting because of the contrast between the Joker and Batman. In the first Batman movie, we saw that Batman had shown that he was mostly good (light). So what if we tested that goodness with the evil (darkness) of the Joker? The extreme light that Batman was, and the extreme darkness that the Joker was, created a very powerful contrast. For me that contrast was what made the movie interesting.

So in any story contrast is key. The darker the story gets, the more clearly we see the light.

(The picture is a self Portrait I did of myself about 4 years ago. I touched it up a little on Photoshop, so that I could get a bit more contrast. I am very happy with how it turned out, it was one of those drawings that made me first begin to think I could be good at art)