While making Dunkirk, director Christopher Nolan consulted with Steven Spielberg.
When most war films arrive in cinemas they end up being compared to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, particularly in reference to that film’s classic and shocking opening sequence.
This was also true for Nolan’s first effort in the genre, and according to a recent feature by Variety, Nolan didn’t want to try and emulate Saving Private Ryan’s bloody horror, knowing that it would be folly to do so, instead going for a near bloodless approach.
“The film [Saving Private Ryan] has lost none of its power,” Nolan said. “It’s a truly horrific opening, and there are later sequences that are horrible to sit through. We didn’t want to compete with that because it is such an achievement. I realized I was looking for a different type of tension.
“I needed suspense, and the language of suspense is one where you can’t take your eyes from the screen,” Nolan explained. “The language of horror is one where you hide your eyes. You’re looking away. It’s a different form of tension. We constructed our set-pieces not around violence, not around blood, but around physical jeopardy.”
But Nolan also turned to Spielberg, his friend, for some actual consultation, asking the legendary director for a pristine print of Saving Private Ryan so that Nolan could show Dunkirk’s crew how Spielberg hard put together the Omaha beach battle.
Spielberg obliged and also offered the director some advice:
“Knowing and respecting that Chris is one of the world’s most imaginative filmmakers, my advice to him was to leave his imagination, as I did on Ryan, in second position to the research he was doing to authentically acquit this historical drama,” Spielberg recalled.
It’s not every director that can turn to one of the industry’s best for some quick tips and pristine prints of classic movies, but then again, Christopher Nolan isn’t every director.
Dunkirk opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.”
Dunkirk sees Christopher Nolan directing a cast that includes Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Jack Lowden, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney and newcomer Fionn Whitehead.