What ‘Tenet’ Can Train Us Concerning the Limits of Exposition


Welcome to The queue – Your daily distraction from curated video content from across the web. Today we’re watching a video essay on how Christopher Nolan overextended exposure in Tenet.

Exposure is a kind of swear word. While spicing up a movie with explanatory dialogue isn’t inherently a bad thing, you run into problems when the audience is pulled out of a story.

What makes us do it Christopher Nolan‘s principle. To put it as simply as possible: Nolan’s latest puzzle box is about preventing World War III with time travel. And conservatively, every other line of dialogue in Tenet is a representation.

Now Nolan is no stranger to questioning narrative frameworks. And engaging with complex (and even incomprehensible) concepts can give your audience the ability to understand things visually and emotionally. The most compelling at IntersteAt homeThe Tesseract scene isn’t the expository dialogue that breaks down how it works and why it exists. Indeed, when that annoying voice comes through on Cooper’s radio and insists on explaining what is going on, it actually cheapens the moment.

Nolan clearly cares about the ability to show rather than tell. He doesn’t throw semi-trailers through the streets of Chicago to save money. Despite his attention to the visual elements of filmmaking, Nolan has also (paradoxically) developed a reliance on exposures, which with Tenet turns out to be disastrous. It’s one thing to enjoy a movie that you don’t fully understand. It’s another thing for a movie to get lost in its own sauce.

The following video essay shows Nolan’s pattern of unmotivated and uninteresting presentation: from undercutting his own visual storytelling to directly replacing critical emotional stakes with cheap, hand-waving dialogues.

Clock “TENET – Nolan has an exhibition problem.”::

Who did that?

This video essay was created by the Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas flightwho runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Thomas Flight and view his catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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