Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ Script Is a Radical Experiment in First-Person Storytelling

Christopher Nolan Oppenheimer

Renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan, celebrated for directing masterpieces like Inception, Interstellar, and the Dark Knight trilogy, embarked on a remarkable creative endeavor for his upcoming film centered around J. Robert Oppenheimer, the visionary behind the development of the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project.

In a candid interview with Empire magazine, Nolan disclosed a significant departure in his creative process for this project.

“I actually wrote in the first-person, which I’ve never done before. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done it before,” Nolan confesses.

This unconventional approach allowed Nolan to immerse audiences in the vivid world of Oppenheimer. As he explained, “But the point of it is, with the color sequences, which is the bulk of the film, everything is told from Oppenheimer’s point of view. You’re literally kind of looking through his eyes.”

Utilizing Oppenheimer’s Voice

Nolan’s commitment to authenticity extended beyond the narrative itself. He took an intriguing step by utilizing Oppenheimer’s voice for stage directions, character descriptions, and setting details, acknowledging that it was an “odd thing to do.”

However, this unique technique served as a constant reminder to the entire team, guiding their approach to shooting the film.

“But it was a reminder to me of how to shoot the film. It was a reminder to everybody involved in the project. ‘Okay, this is the point of view of every scene.’ I wanted to really go through this story with Oppenheimer. I didn’t want to sit by him and judge him. That seemed a pointless exercise,” Nolan expressed.

He emphasized the importance of experiencing the story alongside Oppenheimer, facing the same challenging ethical dilemmas, rather than passing judgment from a distance.

“This is a story that you experience with him. You don’t judge him. You are faced with these irreconcilable ethical dilemmas with him,” Nolan states.

Christopher Nolan Director
Christopher Nolan directs Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer / Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Cillian Murphy Shared Christopher Nolan’s Vision for Oppenheimer

Taking on the role of Oppenheimer is the talented Cillian Murphy.  And Murphy shared Nolan’s desire for the film to engage audiences in a way that many movies often struggle to achieve.

Murphy explained, “There’s the idea of how we get in somebody’s head and see how they were visualizing this radical reinvention of physics. One of the things that cinema has struggled with historically is the representation of intelligence or genius. It very often fails to engage people.”

With Nolan’s innovative first-person narrative approach and Murphy’s captivating portrayal, Oppenheimer promises to be an extraordinary cinematic experience that immerses viewers in the mind and world of a remarkable historical figure.

Oppenheimer releases in theaters on July 21, 2023.


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