Dunkirk: Does Justice to Archive Footage and Still as Powerful as a Silent Movie

2018.01.08
Dunkirk: Does Justice to Archive Footage and Still as Powerful as a Silent Movie
Column
Lash
by Lash
Dunkirk: Does Justice to Archive Footage and Still as Powerful as a Silent Movie

“I never thought I would see that again”, said Dunkirk veteran Ken Sturdy, a 97-year old Welsh who was just coming out of his teens when he was part of the Royal Navy sent to rescue stranded soldiers surrounded by the German army in Dunkirk during World War II.

For the majority of us, Dunkirk is yet another war movie, brilliantly delivered by Christopher Nolan. However, to a group of men such as Sturdy, Dunkirk was a reality.

Dunkirk

The retelling of the rescue of Dunkirk was made possible thanks to archive footage and photos documented during the war. That and Nolan’s visionary approach made Dunkirk such an exceptional war movie. In fact, the movie was nominated in eight categories at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards and three at the 75th Golden Globe Awards.

To better understand the story of Dunkirk and why it’s different from other war movies, here are three videos you should watch:

1. Realism

While movies like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Thin Red Line (1998) are brilliant war movies, Dunkirk stands out in that it’s steeped in reality. And to offer that added sense of realism, it referenced archive footage to frame the basic structure of the movie. In fact, it seemed so real that when Sturdy was invited to catch the premiere, he said this after watching, “It was just like I was there again."


2. Dunkirk as a silent movie?

“Everything for me in this film is about intensity and suspense, and so I wanted to address the story very much in the language of suspense,” said director Nolan of the movie. When he set out to work on Dunkirk, Nolan wanted as little dialogue as possible, and instead, using cinematography and music to create suspense and, add tension. And if you have any doubt that it would work without dialogue, check out this video, where the story of Dunkirk is told as in three acts- Land, Sea and Air, as a silent movie.


3. The brilliance of Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is no stranger to scoring for war movies, he created the music for The Thin Red Line. Apart from that, Zimmer is also the Academy Award award-winning composer for The Lion King (1995). His works are especially crucial in Dunkirk, because Nolan weaved in music as an integral part of his story-telling in Dunkirk, to create suspense, tension and intensity. You can say that the movie was built around Zimmer’s soundtrack.

The movie is a subject close to Zimmer’s heart, his Jewish mother had escaped the Germans in 1939. To seek inspiration for the movie’s score, Zimmer went straight to the origin. "I wrote by going to the beach, picking up the sand, seeing the misery on that beach. You have to get a movie under your fingers. It's as simple as that," he said.

Close your eyes and let your emotions go on a roller-coaster ride with the Zimmer-composed Supermarine, nominated for Best Original Score at the 75th Golden Globes Award: