Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Dark Knight Review – In the style of Cahiers du Cinéma

This review was originally written for a university class exercise. In an effort to cover the whole gamut of film journalism/criticism, Pete Turner (critic, lecturer and friend of The Murmur – be sure to check out his site, I Love That Film, and his Twitter feed) led a lecture on the Cahiers du Cinéma, as a case study of literary writing on film.

To catch any of you up, Cahiers du Cinéma is one of the most influential ongoing film-related publications of all time. It started in Paris in the early 50s with reviews and analysis from a number of highly influential critics (André Bazin etc.). It was also famously tied to the French New Wave, with filmmakers such as Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut all contributing at one time or another.

To finish the lecture, we were tasked with writing the opening to a review in the style of Cahiers du Cinéma, taking into account their support for the auteur theory (belief in the director as the key filmmaking voice). I opted for Christopher Nolan’s modern classic, The Dark Knight, and the results can be found after the break . . .


A lot has changed since 2008 and the release of Christopher Nolan's middle, and arguably most successful, installment in his Batman trilogy. The film's deadly serious tone has been aped endlessly, as the 'gritty' reboot has become the go-to direction for studio's hopeful 'franchise-starters'. This year's 'Fantastic Four' reboot from Fox represented virtually all that is wrong with this new approach. What these executives fail to understand is that it is not enough merely to de-saturate – and often under-light – the frame and throw in angsty antiheroes. The element they're missing, you see, is Nolan himself.

In the perfect pairing of filmmaker and universally known property, Nolan brings an unprecedented might to Bruce Wayne's obsessive vigilantism. He avoids the simplistic black and white struggle between good and evil, in favour of various shades of murky grey.

By setting Batman against his fan-favourite arch-enemy, The Joker (Heath Ledger in an awards-worthy performance), Nolan seems to establish a clear ying and yang relationship; which is again referenced by the coin-tossing Two Face. However, by making The Joker so driven in his anarchy, and Batman so conflicted in his ‘heroism’, Nolan throws any sense of ‘this guy’s good and this guy’s evil’ way up in the air. It’s as if Nolan is seeding his villain’s anarchic world-view deep within this mega-budget studio picture. Which makes him one of the few directors willing to echo the complexities of reality in a billion dollar-grossing blockbuster.