Christopher Nolan is a household name now, largely owing to his retrieval of the Batman franchise; breathing a new life into the characters than Frank Miller & Bob Kane created. There are many of us who have been fans of Christopher Nolan’s movies for a long time, and many more joining in post the success of the Batman trilogy. I first started off with The Dark Knight and then went back to watching all of his movies, right from Doodlebug, his first short. His movies are more than just a visual spectacle, having sharply etched characters that you take home with and ponder upon, way after the credits roll. There is much we can take out of Chris Nolan’s movies, the ones that he created and also those that he adapted to the big screen. These are some lessons that I realized, upon multiple viewings that his movies may not need, but truly deserve!
Note – There are no spoilers in this post.
1. “Man’s reach exceeds his grasp? It’s a lie. Man’s grasp exceeds his nerve.” – Nikola Tesla, The Prestige.
In tough times, when failure shows its ugly head, most of us believe that we are limited by our abilities in performing that particular task that we failed in. We tend to believe that knowing something superficially is good enough and do not find a need to get into the details, or rather barely reaching the subject instead of grasping it. Through this quote, we are introduced to the idea that we are limited by our inability to explore new possibilities, thinking out of the box or taking risks; and not by our inability to do something. This quote is of an important consequence in the movie, and if taken in the right spirit can lead us to expanding our possibilities! The only lasting limits that are imposed are those imposed by ourselves!
2. “Now you are looking for the secret, but you won’t find It because of course, you are not really looking” – Cutter, The Prestige.
This is a simple line with a lot of depth in it. Often, we come across problems that seem impossible to crack, or tasks that remain pending for a long time. What could be the reasons for this – we choose to conveniently or situationally ignore them, or we simply aren’t trying enough to solve them. It’s not just about wanting to solve an issue, it is about trying all at hand and all that is possible to achieve the desired result. How many of us actually put in our 100% in everything that we do? Point to ponder upon.
3. “What is the most resilient parasite? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” – Dom Cobb, Inception
“True inspiration is hard to fake” – Arthur, Inception
We are what we see ourselves to be. Genuine inspiration that comes from within is what makes people succeed in what they do. No amount of coercing or cajoling would help in that regard. What the mind can conceive and perceive, it can achieve!
4. “Why do we fall Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up” – Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins
This is a simple line that goes a long way in shaping the character of a self-made individual. A friend once told me that situations and experiences are what make a person brave. To quote Nietzsche, “Something that doesn’t kill you simply makes you stronger”. Failures are important in one’s life as it is in times of adversity that the true abilities of a person are tested.
5. “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become legend Mr.Wayne” – Ducard, Batman Begins.
Ok, this is a dramatic dialogue at the first glance. However, it can be weaved into our life by visualizing ourselves as being symbolic to atleast one strong ideal or trait, and living by it completely. For example, Mother Teresa is a symbol of peace, Steve Jobs is a symbol of innovation, Bhagat Singh is one of the many symbols of the struggle for Indian independence. These are people whose names will live on for a long time after them, as they have been immortalized by their value systems, for living their lives by one ideal. If I devote myself to the pursuit of perfection, I can ensure that I perform all tasks to the best that can ever be. If I dedicate myself to the pursuit of happiness, I turn out to be an optimist in life.
6. “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I am flesh and blood I can be ignored and destroyed; but as a symbol I can be incorruptible and everlasting” – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins.
“Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding” – Ducard, Batman Begins.
I wish our politicians see this quote and live by it! The recent molestation incident at Guwahati is a clear indication of the apathy that exists within us. It is disgusting enough to realize that we live in a country where a girl is molested in public, what makes it worse is that it wasn’t one or two individuals, but close to 30 people violating all laws of humanity by indulging in this act. This incident is spoken about for a few days or maybe weeks in the media, and finally one fine day the accused will walk free, all ready to molest his next victim.
Would a public trial of the accused and meting out life terms for such people be dramatic enough? I cannot say! The judiciary needs to be the symbol of hope that the citizens perceive to be incorruptible. Happens only in Utopia, many might reckon, and I don’t disagree!
7. “Men fear most what they cannot see. What you really fear is inside yourself” – Ducard, Batman Begins.
The whole of Batman Begins talks about fear and its ramifications on the lives of the characters. It is primary to identify the fear within oneself in order to overcome it. As shown in this movie, it is imperative to first embrace the fear and then confront it. I used to be acrophobic, having a fear of heights. It took me one jump off 2000m to get me out of it. That incident of paragliding reduced my fear to look down from a height by a great deal! Though this is a shallow example considering the intensity of this statement, I think it pretty much conveys the point.
8. “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you” – Rachel, Batman Begins.
Many of us plan many things that we intend to do, but never end up finishing them. People are recognized by what they’ve done and not what they intended to do. MK Gandhi is remembered for using non-violent methods for leading a nation to freedom, in spite of all the stuff that is written about him in recent books. He defines nonviolence. Adolf Hitler was a perfectionist who was obsessed about perfection in all that he did. But he is remembered for the Holocaust which led to the unfortunate deaths of millions. Actions definitely do speak louder than words!
9. “People are only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” – The Joker, The Dark Knight.
Most people might have missed the genius in this dialogue. It talks about how opportunistic people can get when it comes to survival. When pushed to their limits, or even otherwise, there are few of us who actually stick to our value systems all along, and take the tough path to success.
10. “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us” – Selina Kyle, The Dark Knight Rises
Though this dialogue has an important consequence in the plot of TDKR, I couldn’t help but notice how it talks about the economic disparity in society today. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a comfortable life. How many of us are doing our bit to give back to the society, and bettering the lives of our lesser fortunate countrymen.
11. “Victory has defeated you” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises
Bane means this in a different light when he says this, but I am not getting into the plot of TDKR. The way I see it is this. We sometimes tend to get complacent with success and might reduce on the quality of work that we do, not intentionally, more involuntarily. And this, when done, leads to one’s downfall. Complacency brings in a false level of satisfaction that leads us to lower our standards.
12. “You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak. How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death?” – Prisoner, The Dark Knight Rises.
The best part about the trilogy is that all along, fear is acknowledged, not run away from. I feel this is very relevant in life. The fear of failure brings in a drive that pushes us way beyond our established boundaries, enabling us to do things that we once thought were impossible.
13. “A hero can be anyone” – Batman, The Dark Knight Rises
I liked the way this is put in the movie – casually quoting that anyone who wishes well and does their bit to help others can be a hero. A small deed can make a huge difference in the lives of many people. It’s all relative!
I acknowledge that this post has rushes from this blog on Forbes. I have added content that I observed from his movies and those I suppose Nolan intended the audience to know. There are many other movies that have things to learn from, but there has been a consistency in Nolan’s heartfelt storytelling that I find some details hard to miss! I am sure there are other details I might have left out. As with any viewer, perspectives and opinions differ.
This post is written out of reverence to the content that needs to be told, and not out of my misplaced sense of self righteousness :)