After exposition-heavy films like Inception and Interstellar, Christopher Nolan set out to prove that he could make a thrilling film using virtually no dialogue. The resulting film, Dunkirk, shows that once again, this is Nolan’s world and we’re just breathlessly buying tickets to live in it for two-hour chunks. But in an interview published with the Dunkirk screenplay, THR reveals that Nolan almost shot the film with no script at all.
The interview, hosted by Nolan’s brother and frequently collaborator Jonathan Nolan, reveals a man at the top of his craft. With dialogue-heavy films, Nolan “felt like [he’d] kind of mastered that form.” Pretty hard to argue with that. Because of Dunkirk’s intentional lack of dialogue, Nolan felt like a script might actually bog production down:
“I got to a point where I understood the scope and movement and the history of what I wanted the film to address, because it’s very simple geography. I said, ‘I don’t want a script. Because I just want to show it,’ it’s almost like I want to just stage it. And film it.”
Nolan’s wife and producing partner, Emma Thomas, shot down that idea, so Nolan conceded and quickly hammered out a brief 76-page script. For comparison, notoriously dialogue-centric writer Aaron Sorkin recently handed over a 201-page script for 2015’s Steve Jobs.
While Nolan promises, ”“I will be coming back to dialogue,” we’re excited for what the director’s next experiment with form will be. An entire film upside down? We’ll watch.
Read Paste’s glowing Dunkirk review here, and our essay on Nolan’s war on time here.