Fox 5 D.C.’s in an interview with Kevin McCarthy, Christopher Nolan has explained why he made the new World War II movie Dunkirk is short (1 hour, 47 minutes). He said:

“I wanted it to be an intense an experience as possible and therefore as lean and stripped down and short an experience as possible. You can only sustain the degree of suspense and tension that we wanted from the film for so long before you exhaust the audience. I think perhaps people hearing that I was doing a film about Dunkirk, particularly British people who know the story already are thinking big historical epic, they’re imagining a three-hour film with a lot of talking and all the rest. What I did is I wrote a script that was 76 pages that is really half the length of my old screenplays because I didn’t want to tell the story in words – I didn’t want the theatrics of people telling the audience why you should care about them. I wanted to care about them just because of the physical situation they were in, and in that way build up a subjective experience of the events of Dunkirk that would hopefully have a cumulative quality, emotional quality through the course of the film that will pay off at the end of the film without ever being overly theatrical or sentimentalising these real life events.

“So the relentless pacing of it and the stripped down nature of it was something I was very determined to stick to with right from the beginning before I wrote the script.”

Source: Fox 5 D.C.

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