Christopher Nolan Tells French Mag 'Dunkirk' Will Have a Triptych Structure

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Credit: Warner Bros.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ (Photo: Warner Bros.)

After helming a series of hits in the superhero (The Dark Knight trilogy) and sci-fi (Inception, Interstellar) genres, Christopher Nolan will be shifting his attention to more realistic material with this summer’s Dunkirk, a WWII epic based on the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, in 1940. With a formidable cast that includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and One Direction’s Harry Styles (in his big-screen debut), it’s shaping up to be another larger-than-life effort from the acclaimed director, who’s now finally begun spilling details about the largely shrouded-in-secrecy project.

Related: Meet Fionn Whitehead, the Lead of Christopher Nolan’s Highly Anticipated Battle Epic ‘Dunkirk’

Speaking to French Premiere (as translated by The Playlist, using Google), Nolan has revealed that the film will be a triptych that assumes the unique perspective of three different characters:

“The film is told from three points of view. The air (planes), the land (on the beach), and the sea (the evacuation by the navy). For the soldiers embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; and if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; Even if the story, once again, is very simple.”

Related: Christopher Nolan’s WWII Drama ‘Dunkirk’: On-the-Set Photos Posted From France

From the little footage we’ve so far seen, that probably means Hardy will be manning the airborne portion of the aforementioned action, while Branagh and Murphy will be at sea, and Styles and his comrades will be on the beach itself. As for why he wanted to tackle this moment in WWII, Nolan made it clear that Dunkirk was a defining turning point in the conflict:

“This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate. And the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the U.S. would not have returned to war,” he said. “It is a true point of rupture in war and in the history of the world. A decisive moment. And the success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory, which allowed him to galvanize his troops like civilians and to impose a spirit of resistance while the logic of this sequence should have been that of surrender. Militarily it is a defeat; on the human plane it is a colossal victory.”

Related: Christopher Nolan Leads Panel at ‘Heat’ Screening Reuniting Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Michael Mann

Nolan will make a bid for summer box-office triumph himself when Dunkirk opens on July 21. To read more about what he said to Premiere, head over to The Playlist.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’: Watch a trailer:

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