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Are Christopher Nolan Movies Emotionless? Here's What The Director Says

The Dark Knight Poster

Two decades into his career as a filmmaker, Christopher Nolan has never made a horrible movie. Opinions vary as to which project stands as his masterpiece, but the consensus seems to be that pretty much everything from Memento to Interstellar has been well-made and generally enjoyable. That said, one notable assessment that critics often level at his films is the fact that they are "emotionless" in nature. Now it appears that Nolan has finally addressed this critique ahead of the upcoming release of Dunkirk, and it sounds like he's far more interested in letting audiences find the emotion in his movies than spoon-feeding it to them. The Hollywood legend explained:

I try not to be obvious about it. That gives people a little more freedom to interpret the movies their way, bring what they want to it. I've had people write about my films as being emotionless, yet I have screened those same movies and people have been in floods of tears at the end. It's an impossible contradiction for a filmmaker to resolve. In truth, it's one of the things that is really exciting about filmmaking though. I seem to be making films that serve as Rorschach tests.

You're free to take Christopher Nolan's comments on this matter anyway you wish, but the basic gist seems to be the fact that his films don't wear their messages on their sleeves. He doesn't beat the audience over the head with the emotional direction of his projects, which can ultimately make them feel hollow for someone who isn't looking for his or her own unique take. It's impossible to determine who will respond well to something like The Dark Knight trilogy, and who will not, so Nolan sounds far more content to merely make his films and let the audience figure out the rest.

This admittedly feels like a hard debate to sustain because the emotional content of a film is entirely subjective. In the same way that everyone has a different favorite Nolan film, everyone responds to Nolan's movies differently. One person may think that Inception has a remarkably complex emotional throughline, while others may simply believe that it represents a case of style over substance. Neither of these opinions is wrong; they're just different. Faithful to the "Rorschach test" analogy offered up by Nolan himself, it's all about what you choose to take away from it in the end.

Based on Christopher Nolan's recent remarks to Playboy about his films, it doesn't necessarily seem like he cares too much about these criticisms -- and rightfully so. The majority of his films are on the IMDb Top 250 list, and he has handily become a modern icon in the realm of blockbuster cinema (after all, the guy knows how to deliver an amazing spectacle). Some may accuse his films of lacking emotion, but the fact of the matter is that an overwhelming number of mainstream moviegoers still like his work, and will likely continue to do so in the future.

We will just have to wait and see what type of emotional response audiences have towards Dunkirk when Christopher Nolan's latest film debuts in theaters on July 21. Beyond that, check out CinemaBlend's movie premiere guide for more up to date information on the rest of this year's theatrical releases.

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Conner Schwerdtfeger

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.