Christopher Nolan somehow manages to see comedy in his ‘Darkly Serious’ movies

Although Christopher Nolan’s movies are always technically impressive (audio notwithstanding), people often argue that it’s sometimes hard to connect with the characters on an emotional level because we’re too busy trying to figure out exactly what happens, or sometimes the movie. is an exhausting watch due to the gloomy tone.

“The Dark Knight Rises” might be one of the best examples of the latter, as it’s basically 2 hours and 45 minutes where everyone is having a bad time. Marvel movies might struggle with putting too many jokes into their stories, but Nolan helped start the DC trend of veering too far in the gritty direction.

But for two of Nolan’s most serious films, “Memento” and “Insomnia,” Nolan doesn’t consider them humorless at all. “I think they’re both pretty funny, maybe nobody else agrees,” Nolan said in a 2002 interview with Movie Web. Although he considers them both “darkly serious”, he still noted that “they bring a lot of laughs during screenings”.

This may seem like a strange thing to say for Nolan. After all, “Memento” was an R-rated thriller about a guy with memory loss trying to track down the guy who sexually assaulted and murdered his wife, which isn’t a fitting premise for particularly funny material. But it turns out there can be plenty of humor to tap into from characters suffering from short-term memory loss – just ask Dory from “Finding Nemo.” In fact, while it might be the darkest, rawest film of Nolan’s career, “Memento” might also be the funniest.

Embrace the absurdity

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Perhaps one of the funniest little moments in “Memento” comes halfway through, where we meet Leonard (Guy Pearce) driving down a road, not really knowing where he’s going. The film takes place in reverse order, so each scene begins with Leonard as confused as we are. He begins to understand that the car behind him is following him, so he stops to try to speak. The car pulls up beside him, Leonard expresses his confusion through body language, and then the guy pulls out a gun and points it at him. Instead of showing us Leonard’s reaction, the film ignores him. When the camera cuts him off, he has already dealt with the situation and presses the accelerator to escape.

It’s a fun visual gag, made funnier when you consider how absurd it seems from the perspective of the hunter, who has no idea Leonard has short-term memory loss. It’s also funny in the way it shows us how much Leonard has gotten used to his current life; he knows nothing will ever make immediate sense, so when confusing things happen he just rolls with it. It’s an attitude that leads to another funny moment later when he’s in another chase scene. “What am I doing?” Leonard said in a voiceover. “Oh, I’m chasing this guy… No, he’s chasing me.”

Who of us hasn’t walked into the other room to grab something, only to find we’ve forgotten what we came for? Well, Leonard gets that feeling a dozen times throughout the movie, except sometimes what he forgets is that someone is trying to murder him right now.

Embrace dramatic irony

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Beyond the understated humor of watching this poor man awkwardly navigate his way through life-threatening situations, “Memento” also gets a whole lot funnier to watch again. Once you know the chronological order of events, almost every conversation Leonard has with a recurring character is now superimposed two-way.

Some of those double meanings are dark – like seeing all the hints this time around that Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) isn’t quite the ally we think she is – but half the time they are hilarious. There’s a scene where Leonard finds a beaten guy tied up in his closet and he asks him worriedly, “Who did this to you?” which is much funnier once you see the whole story of how Leonard beats this guy up and locks him in his closet. The movie is filled with things like this, where the absurd things Leonard does get way crazier from an outward and chronological perspective.

Christopher Nolan never got darker than in “Memento,” which ends on a terribly cynical note and is well-deserved of its R rating throughout. But on the other hand, he’s never been so funny either. Even ‘The Dark Knight’, which got Heath Ledger a lot of zingers as the Joker, never managed to be as funny as a motel owner shyly admitting to Leonard that he tried to get him. charging for extra rooms without him noticing.

While his upcoming film “Oppenheimer” doesn’t exactly sound like a laugh riot either, we hope Nolan returns to his earlier approach of slipping more humor into his stories, no matter how dark the subject gets.

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