Christopher Nolan may make blockbuster films for large audiences, but he seemingly does so on his own terms with his own storytelling idiosyncrasies. His earlier indie films like Following and Memento may not have been for audiences everywhere, but they still garnered cult followings thanks to both the craft on screen and Nolan’s subtle work in creating complicated narrative techniques. And while he has his own visual language he likes to preserve, Nolan also puts his own spin on more traditional storytelling, even in the studio efforts like Insomnia, The Prestige, or The Dark Knight Rises.
A new video essay by YouTuber James Hayes examines the three most-often used elements of Nolan’s storytelling and how it has proven effective and enduring with audiences. The video is a fairly rudimentary examination of Nolan’s favorite three techniques for putting kinks in his stories—frame narrative, non-linear storytelling, and crosscutting between stories—that deliver head-scratching but engaging films that delight audiences with their tricks and sleight of hand, all while laying everything out in the open.
From Inception to Interstellar, Nolan has delighted in subverting audience expectations and shifting focuses within his film by playing a type of shell game where he diverts attention and reveals more than he lets on, sometimes without the audience realizing until the very end. It’s a simple video, but helps layout the ways a filmmaker (or any storyteller) can also add befuddlement to their works while engaging the audience at a higher cerebral level.