How author Tom Shone incepted himself into the world of Christopher Nolan with The Nolan Variations
In his book The Nolan Variations: The Movies, Marvels, and Mysteries of Christopher Nolan (out Tuesday) author Tom Shone sought to mimic the erudite and often tricksy vibe of The Dark Knight director's own movies in his overview of Christopher Nolan's career. The author dives deep into such Nolan influences as Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges and even incepts himself into proceedings as Shone recreates conversations he had with Nolan in which the author presented theories about what makes the auteur tick. “The aim was to recreate, as much as I could, the experience of a Christopher Nolan film,” says Shone, whose previous books include 2004's Blockbuster and 2014’s Scorsese: a Retrospective. “It’s got a strange sort of Alice in Wonderland structure to it. Nolan was very encouraging of all the stuff that is more unusual about it.”
Shone first interviewed the director two decades ago about his breakthrough movie, Memento. Over the years, the author repeatedly suggested he write a book about the director but Nolan demurred. “He would say, ‘I don’t think I’ve made enough movies yet to justify a full-length book about my career,'" says Shone. "But I kept up and eventually either he relented or just made enough movies that that excuse wore thin. After Dunkirk, he said ‘Yes.’”
The Nolan Variations concludes with a chapter about Tenet and the writer stayed in contact with his subject as the coronavirus repeatedly disrupted Nolan’s release plans for the film. “I never detected any frustration,” says Shone about the director’s mood over the last summer. “The thing he likes is problem-solving. I think the kind of Rubik’s Cube that was the release of this movie was just one more problem to wrap his brain around.”
Shone says that, if he could only save one of Nolan’s films from oblivion, then it would be Inception. “That’s the movie that I would find most difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t seen it,” says the writer. “That, to me, is a sign of its singularity.”
So, what does Shone think is happening at the end of Inception?
“You mean the spinning top?” says the author. “What I think is happening at the end of Inception is that Christopher Nolan is f---ing with us.”