‘Dark Knight Rises’ director Christopher Nolan takes a swipe at digital

Will Perkins
Wide ScreenJune 14, 2012

The normally reserved English director Christopher Nolan had some choice words for Hollywood big wigs last weekend at the Produced By Conference in Culver City, Calif. After debunking rumours that he would helm a fourth installment of the hugely successful Batman series, Nolan said that he believed digital filmmaking technology and the film industry's eager and accelerated adoption of said tech was "devaluing of what we do as filmmakers."

Tough words to hear for a crowd made up of some of the top studio people in Tinsel Town, but they may have been too busy counting the money Nolan had earned them to notice the director's barb. The "Prestige" director remains something of a cinema purist, with actual, physical film being his preferred format. Nolan continues to shoot all of his films on film (go figure), and has worked hard over the past decade to push the more traditional — and tangible — medium forward with his inventive use of the large format IMAX film. The director used IMAX to great effect in "The Dark Knight" and has shot the majority of the action sequences in "The Dark Knight Rises" using the format. Additionally, Nolan's first Bat-flick, "Batman Begins," was recently upgraded to IMAX for its "Dark Knight Rises" re-release.

At the industry conference, Nolan went on the say that he has no interest in making his films a test bed for camera manufacturers to try out their latest models, adding, "it's like filmmakers are being encouraged to buy cameras like we are buying iPods."

Nolan's comments make the state of things clear: Even if you are one of the most successful and interesting filmmakers working today, and you believe that shooting digital would be a detriment to your film, you will not be immune from studio pressure to use the latest and greatest digital movie making toys.

Nolan didn't have much nice to say about digital theatre projection either, calling it a disappointing experience and comparing it to watching a movie in your living room. While that may be an appealing thought to some, Nolan has the right idea. A cinema experience should be just that: An experience. If you want to sit at home and watch a movie, that's fine, but you go to the movies for something bigger and different. There's something to be said for watching a great film on the big screen with a well-behaved crowd. With their large format and impressive visuals, Nolan's Bat-movies were intended for the big screen. Is it any wonder that the filmmaker would decry something that cheapens or perverts that experience?

The director didn't rule out using digital completely, but he believes the format still has a long way to go. "When it is as good as film and makes economic sense, I'd be completely open to it," Nolan said. Here's hoping he sticks to his guns until the technology catches up to his filmmaking abilities.

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