As the movie world continues to barrel toward a digital future, there are more than a few, and very prominent, filmmakers who are trying to keep analog formats alive. Christopher Nolan is certainly one of them, and ever since “The Dark Knight,” the director has been playing with larger format film, all the way to this month’s “Dunkirk” which will open on 125 screens in 70mm. It might not change where the industry is going, but it’s at least a minor victory in stemming a sea change to bits and bytes.
Speaking with Little White Lies, Nolan was cheekily asked if he’s in a “70mm club” along with Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, who have both used the format for recent pictures, and the filmmaker said that in fact, they do assist each other.
“We all learn from each other. In the last few years, photochemical process has come under threat from electronics companies and studios. I got in touch with Quentin and Paul and we spent a lot of time talking about what can be done. I had a lot of inspiring conversations with JJ Abrams about shooting in IMAX,” he said. “I actually have a very good IMAX lens that helps to shoot at night which I lent to JJ. I also lent it to Zack Snyder for ‘Batman v Superman.’ There’s a lot of interesting collaboration that goes on. As photochemicals come under such pressure and such threat from economic forces – those not wanting to deal with it from a business or an industrial point of view – filmmakers have had to stand up and be counted.”
Nolan believes that part of the fight to keep 70mm alive involves simple education, and making people aware that digital doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper.
“As far as the cost, it’s a complete fallacy. I’m making my films cheaper than anybody working at the same scale on digital. There are no efficiencies to be gained there and no money to be saved. There’s been an aggressive fight against photochemicals by companies who make money by change,” the director said. “They make money by selling you new equipment and building new equipment. The studios saw an opportunity to stop paying as much for release prints and follow more of a television model where you’re broadcasting films rather than physically shipping them. But all of that’s irrelevant. I gave a speech some years ago where I was asked to defend film, and I said that I felt like a stonemason defending marble. It’s ridiculous. This is why we’re all here. It’s what we do. This is film. Every digital format so far devised is just an imitation of film.”
Very strong words from Nolan, who certainly won’t be backing down an inch from keeping film formats alive. “Dunkirk” opens on July 21st.