Christopher Priest

The Prestige

Christopher Nolan
When Newmarket Films offered to option The Prestige, CP had never heard of Christopher Nolan. The offer was accompanied by a videotape of Nolan's first feature, Following, and a note from Aaron Ryder of Newmarket. "Look at this, then try to imagine what Nolan could do with the facilities of a Hollywood studio behind him."

Following had been shot in monochrome over many weeks and months, using borrowed equipment and unknown actors. It was self-evidently made on a shoestring, but it had a mysterious, oblique quality that CP found uncannily like some of his own books. Although other offers had been received for the film option, CP chose to go with Newmarket, largely because of this interesting approach.

Before the deal was completed, Nolan's second film, Memento, arrived in Britain. It was exactly what Aaron Ryder had predicted: all the rough edges from the first film had been smoothed away, but the sharp intelligence remained and the offbeat approach to storytelling was intact. Although garlanded with multiple prizes from critics, film festivals, and so on, Memento was unjustly overlooked for the major awards. In particular, the screenplay (Nolan co-wrote the script with his brother Jonathan), the editing (Dody Dorn) and the direction have had a seminal influence on many filmmakers who have followed. It is now rightly regarded as a classic.

Nolan's next two films were major studio productions: Insomnia (a remake of a 1997 Norwegian thriller, directed and co-written by Erik Skjoldbjærg), and Batman Begins, a blockbusting epic that is said by those who know to have rejuvenated the comics-to-movie genre in general, and the Batman franchise in particular.

Now The Prestige, a return to offbeat material and a more personal style of film-making. Other than writing the novel on which everything is based, CP has made no contribution to the way the film is written or made. Nolan says he and his brother Jonathan adapted the novel freely (which is only to be expected).

The next film Nolan has committed to is The Dark Knight, a sequel to Batman Begins. After that, there are reports he will be making a big-screen version of The Prisoner. CP would prefer him to look at some of his backlist of books ...