Christopher Nolan values consistency. The Dark Knight Rises is immediately identifiable as a Nolan film due in part to his habit of finding people that he likes to work with and sticking with them. He often writes with his brother Jonathan. Actors like Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard return here after their work in Inception. Christian Bale isn’t just Batman, but also in the star of Nolan’s 2006 gem The Prestige. Michael Caine has been in five of the director’s eight features. Editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer have both been working with Nolan since Batman Begins.
Think of the other great director-cinematographer teams: The distinctive looks of their films are as traceable to cinematographers as the directors. That consistency also extends to the immediately recognizable look of Nolan’s films on the screen. Every one of his movies, with the exception of his low-budget black-and-white debut, Following, look like the work of a singular mind. But it turns out that in this case, that singular mind is shared by two people: Nolan and his longtime cinematographer, Wally Pfister, who has served as Nolan’s director of photography on every one of his movies after Following.
Pfister’s role in defining the look of Nolan’s films—those characteristic rich colors, often present even in the deep shadows he also favors, juxtaposed with big, epic landscapes—really can’t be understated. This is a pair of artists who have found complementary visions in each other. Nolan has a man behind the camera who knows exactly how to capture the images he describes, and Pfister has a director just as passionate as he is about very specific ways of making films.
Which is why it’s worrisome that The Dark Knight Rises might be Pfister’s last time shooting a Nolan film.
Continue reading the rest of my piece over at The Atlantic.
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