Well, this could’ve been an interesting cinematic experiment.
Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk, which has been earning rave reviews across the board, big bucks at the box office, and is already receiving a ton of Oscar buzz, could have come to life without the one thing most films need: a screenplay.
The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar certainly boast strong sequences and moments that are dialogue free, but dialogue is nevertheless key when driving home the filmmaker’s often ambitious ideas. Dunkirk, however, has the filmmaker treading different ground, delivering a ‘you are there’ cinematic experience with minimal conversation between characters. It’s a giant reenactment, if you will, one that Nolan says he considered simply staging and capturing – sans dialogue, since he figured he’d already “mastered that form.”
“I got to a point where I understood the scope and movement and the history of what I wanted the film to address, because it’s very simple geography,” Nolan said in a published conversation with his brother Jonathan that is included with the Dunkirk script (which you can buy on Amazon).
“I said, ‘I don’t want a script. Because I just want to show it,’ it’s almost like I want to just stage it. And film it.”
Even with Nolan’s prowess as a filmmaker, shooting a film on this scale without a screenplay would be a challenge to say the least. Emma Thomas, Nolan’s producing partner and wife, stepped in.
“Emma looked at me like I was a bit crazy and was like, ‘Okay, that’s not really gonna work.'”
Nolan says he ended up writing Dunkirk‘s screenplay, which came in at a lean 76 pages, “very, very quickly.” The 76-page script worked out to a feature 1 hour and 46 minutes in length, which makes this Nolan’s second-shortest feature thus far (his indie first film, Following, clocks in at 1 hour and 9 mins).
Our review of Dunkirk can be found right HERE.