Friday, August 15, 2014


This week, the Film & Art Study resumes with a special Crime Thriller film festival, inspired by the HBO series True Detective and NBC’s Hannibal.

The Film & Art Study will begin at 6:15 on Wednesday, August 13, in the Reel FX screening room.


Detective Ellie Burr: "A good cop can't sleep because he's missing a piece of the puzzle. And a bad cop can't sleep because his conscience won't let him."

Nightmute, Alaska

 Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan was born in London. His British father, Brendan Nolan, was an advertising copywriter, and his American mother, Christina (née Jensen), worked as a flight attendant. His childhood was split between London and Chicago, and he has both British and American citizenship. He has an older brother, Matthew, and a younger brother, Jonathan. Nolan began making films at age seven, borrowing his father’s Super 8 camera and shooting short films with his action figures. From the age of 11, he aspired to be a professional filmmaker.

Nolan was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College, an independent school in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, and later read English literature at University College London (UCL). He chose UCL specifically for its filmmaking facilities, which comprised a Steenbeck editing suite and 16mm film cameras. Nolan was president of the Union's Film Society, and with Emma Thomas (his girlfriend and future producer) he screened 35mm feature films during the school year and used the money earned to produce 16mm films over the summers.

During his college years, Nolan made two short films. The first was the surreal 8mm Tarantella (1989), which was shown on Image Union (an independent film and video showcase on the Public Broadcasting Service). The second was Larceny (1995), filmed over a weekend in black and white with a limited cast, crew, and equipment. Funded by Nolan and shot with the society's equipment, it appeared at the Cambridge Film Festival in 1996 and is considered one of UCL's best shorts.

After graduation, Nolan directed corporate videos and industrial films. He also made a third short, Doodlebug (1997), about a man chasing an insect around a flat with a shoe, only to discover when killing it that it is a miniature of himself. During this period of his career, Nolan had little or no success getting his projects off the ground; he later recalled the "stack of rejection letters" that greeted his early forays into making films, adding "there's a very limited pool of finance in the UK. To be honest, it's a very clubby kind of place ... Never had any support whatsoever from the British film industry."

In 1998 Nolan directed his first feature, Following, which he personally funded and filmed with friends. Following depicts an unemployed young writer (Jeremy Theobald) who trails strangers through London, hoping they will provide material for his first novel, but is drawn into a criminal underworld when he fails to keep his distance. The film was inspired by Nolan's experience of living in London and having his flat burgled: "There is an interesting connection between a stranger going through your possessions and the concept of following people at random through a crowd – both take you beyond the boundaries of ordinary social relations”. Following was made on a modest budget of £3,000, and was shot on weekends over the course of a year. To conserve film stock, each scene in the film was rehearsed extensively to ensure that the first or second take could be used in the final edit. Co-produced with Emma Thomas and Jeremy Theobald, Nolan wrote, photographed and edited the film himself. Following won several awards during its festival run and was well received by critics; The New Yorker wrote that it "echoed Hitchcock classics", but was "leaner and meaner". On 11 December 2012, it was released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection. 

Insomnia (Title Card)

Impressed by his work on Memento, Steven Soderbergh recruited Nolan to direct the psychological thriller Insomnia (2002), starring Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) considered directing the film. Warner Bros initially wanted a more seasoned director than Nolan, but Soderbergh and his Section Eight Productions fought for Nolan, as well as his choice of cinematographer (Wally Pfister) and editor (Dody Dorn). With a $50 million budget, it was described as "a much more conventional Hollywood film than anything the director has done before”. 

Al Pacino, Insomnia (2002)

A remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Insomnia is about two Los Angeles detectives sent to a northern Alaskan town to investigate the methodical murder of a local teenager. It was well received by critics and performed well at the box office, earning $113 million worldwide. Film critic Roger Ebert  praised the character-driven film for introducing new perspectives and ideas on the issues of morality and guilt, rather than being overly reliant on the original film. "Unlike most remakes, the Nolan Insomnia is not a pale retread, but a re-examination of the material, like a new production of a good play." Dave Montalbano stated that in Insomnia, Nolan "concocts his own recipe for film noir and creates his own cinema art form.”

Al Pacino, Insomnia

As of 2010, Insomnia is the only film directed by Christopher Nolan in which Nolan does not have an official writing credit - even though he wrote the final draft of the screenplay himself. 

Detective Will Dormer's name comes from the Latin word "dormire" - to sleep.  

Hilary Swank, Insomnia
Insomnia (2002)


Insomnia was directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Hillary Seitz.
Rated R, 118 min, color, Dolby Digital/SDDS, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio.

Christopher Nolan's next film is Interstellar, to be released in 2014 and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. 


Next week's film will be Clint Eastwood's Crime Thriller, Changeling (2008).

Fredrick Gardner
Art Director

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