Identity Construction and Ambiguity in Christopher Nolan’s Films

Erin Hill-Parks


This article examines the connections between thematic similarities in director Christopher Nolan’s films and the development of an auteur persona for Nolan. Nolan’s films, despite their seemingly disparate natures, remain in many ways thematically and stylistically similar. This similarity can be credited to the role of Nolan during their production. The author, it has been argued, provides a unifying force behind his or her texts which can help to clarify and expose meanings for the audience. Thus, while the ultimate meaning of a text is determined by the viewer, the framework of comprehension is presented by the auteur. It is achieving this unifying force that partially determines who is an auteur in contemporary Hollywood. Nolan’s films are filled with ambiguity and unease, which are partially transmitted through journeys of identity construction and through the films’ endings. These points engage with the audience and also ensure links between Nolan’s films that attempt to ensure a group of films that develop an auteur persona for Nolan which is eventually reinforced through extra-textual sources. The identity crisis of the films’ characters and the ambiguity of the endings contrasts with the relative stability of Nolan’s auteur persona in extratextual materials, such as interviews, suggesting how to understand Nolan’s claim to contemporary Hollywood auteur status.


Hollywood; Director Cinema; Auteur Theory

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