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How Christopher Nolan Incorporates Time Into His Scripts, Cinematic Themes and Scores

We all know and love Christopher Nolan — the iconic film director responsible for such well-known films as “Inception” and “Interstellar.” Fans of his know how much the director is enamored with the concept of time, as he often finds ways to incorporate it into his films. 

It can be argued that time has become Nolan’s signature cinematic motif, the one element that remains constant throughout his filmography. 

In “Inception” Nolan explores what it would be like to bend time — the farther down the dream layer Cobb and his team go, the more time stretches, eventually becoming an inescapable realm, which manifests itself in the form of the character’s inner subconscious. 

In “Interstellar” Nolan brings Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to life by showing what it’s like to age so drastically relative to Earth’s time amid a perilous mission to save humanity from extinction. Therefore making time the enemy, and something that must be caught up with before it runs out. 

Yet, time also manifests itself much more subtly in his films — films like “Memento” and “Dunkirk” are told in a non-linear fashion, where instead of seeing a film’s events progressing forwards in time, we’re watching it from various points in time and are then forced to connect the dots between what’s already happened and what’s going to happen. 

Just how far back Nolan’s incorporation of time in his films is explored in StudioBinder’s film essay “Nolan and Time — The Defining Motif in Christopher Nolan Movies.” They also include how legendary film scorer Hans Zimmer is able to use his scores to illustrate the passage of time and create tension. 

Check out the video, it may even encourage you to re-binge all of Nolan’s hits, I know I’ll be doing just that.