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Christopher Nolan Defends ‘Tenet’s Complexity Against Annoyed Audience

The filmmaker has recently spoken out about the reactions to his 2020 film, ‘Tenet.’

When it came out, ‘Tenet’ received mixed reviews due to its complex plot, leaving some viewers puzzled, especially about the ending. Christopher Nolan suggested that understanding his movies wasn’t the point during a recent appearance on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’:

“If you experience my film, you are getting it. I feel very strongly about that. I think where people encounter frustration with my narratives in the past; sometimes I think that they’re slightly missing the point. It’s not a puzzle to be unpacked. It’s an experience to be had, preferably in a movie theater but also at home, hopefully in an unbroken period.”

‘You’re Not Meant To Understand’

While failing to be a major hit in 2020 due to the pandemic, unlike what was expected, ‘Tenet’ introduced a concept where characters moved forward and backward through time. The film’s action scenes and visuals received praise, but its storyline raised questions from the audience.

Nolan drew parallels with his earlier film ‘Inception’ when he said of the complaints:

“You’re not meant to understand everything in ‘Tenet.’ It’s not all comprehensible. It’s a bit like asking if I know what happens with the spinning top at the end of ‘Inception.’ I have to have my idea of it for it to be a valid, productive ambiguity, but the point of it is that it’s an ambiguity. The point is that the character doesn’t care if it falls or not.”

He Wants To Be Ahead Of His Audience

This approach to filmmaking isn’t new for Christopher Nolan. Other films of his, like ‘Inception’ and ‘The Prestige,’ have also sparked discussions about their complex plots. Nolan seems to prefer leading his audience through a narrative that’s more about the experience than piecing together every detail.

Speaking about his style and storytelling, the director shared last year:

“You don’t want to understand the entire story right from the beginning. Otherwise, there’s nothing to unfold. And so, you know, really the film of the filmmaker, the job of the filmmaker is to try to be a little bit ahead of the audience, not too far ahead, not too far behind.”

His most recent work, ‘Oppenheimer,’ shifts towards a more straightforward story, focusing on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb. The film has received 13 nominations at the upcoming 96th Academy Awards in March 2024.

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