Why Christopher Nolan prefers celluloid over digital?

Christopher Nolan is in India (this time for real), and as one of the few directors who champion the celluloid film over the new-age digital filmmaking (one other being Quentin Tarantino), his India trip, too, is based on saving a dying medium.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi | Updated: March 31, 2018 1:49:28 pm
christopher nolan celluloid over film Christopher Nolan cannot stop talking about what a beautiful medium celluloid is.

One of the biggest directors working in Hollywood today, Christopher Nolan is known for epic, visual-driven filmmaking. His films manage to include both high-concept ideas and dramatic elements that turn his films into blockbusters. This is pretty Steven Spielberg-y, if you come to think of it. Nolan is in India (this time for real), and as one of the few directors who champion the celluloid film over the new-age digital filmmaking (one other being Quentin Tarantino), his India trip, too, is based on saving a dying medium.

Nolan simply cannot stop waxing eloquent about celluloid. He even excoriated Netflix for its very model earlier. Whether celluloid or film is better is… well, subjective. Both digital and film have advantages and disadvantages. Celluloid is beautiful, but one could say when it was the dominant medium, filmmaking was limited to rich studios. Digital medium has democratised filmmaking. But Nolan continues to make his films on celluloid, and due to his clout, people take what he says seriously. Warner Bros, the studio with which he has worked continuously since The Prestige, has allowed him to do whatever he wants in his movies. He has freedom in making films like nobody else. And WB is a studio pretty notorious for meddling.

Nolan had said in 2015, “For years, filmmakers who wanted to shoot digital would promote the fact that the cameras are lighter, easier or whatever. But my response would always be, If David Lean, or rather David Lean’s crew, can put a 65mm camera in the desert, why should I care that your camera is lighter, unless you’re doing something with it you couldn’t do before.” David Lean was an English director who is most well-known for legendary films like The Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai. He won an Oscar for both movies in Best Director category.

While talking to Entertainment Weekly, he had admitted the heftiness of the IMAX celluloid camera, “Hoyte hand-held the [IMAX] camera for a few sections of Interstellar very effectively, and then on this I had to break the news to him that he was going to be doing it for a massive amount of the film [in Dunkirk]. We definitely bought him a lot of massages along the way.” It can be safely said Nolan is not going to shoot a movie on an iPhone anytime soon like Steven Soderbergh did with Unsane recently.

Not just digital, Nolan has also expressed his distaste for CGI, preferring to employ practical effects wherever possible. While other directors would use a few real people and multiply them by using computers, Nolan brings in hundreds of people to shoot a scene involving a crowd. This is pure craziness, though you cannot deny that there is a passion there.

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