The director of Inception and Interstellar makes an unlikely champion of the power of the circle. But then again, maybe it’s not so unlikely. After all, a circle is a powerful shape in nature.

It’s ubiquitous in astronomy and cosmology, drawing us to the notion that some kind of great order underpins everything.

The circles we see in movies, on the other hand, are mostly illusions. Christopher Nolan’s films are filled with characters trapped in circular rooms, or trapped on circular tracks.

How Christopher Nolan Uses Circles

christopher Nolan’s use of circles

Christopher Nolan has been using circles in his films since his first feature film Memento.

He uses them as a way to show the mind of the character. The central theme of Christopher Nolan’s movies is that there are layers of metaphor hidden behind the surface images.

In The Dark Knight, Batman has a conversation with Harvey Dent. At first glance, it seems as if they’re having a normal conversation, but by listening to the way they talk to each other and looking at what they say, we can see how the dialogue is actually partaking in a deeper meaning.

This concept inspires Christopher Nolan’s frequent use of circles in his movies.

For example, in Inception, the movie revolves around a group of professional thieves attempting to steal secrets from a new type of dream.

As you watch them trying to do this – going back into the dreams of others – you start seeing repeated images: spinning top, an upside-down man falling through rings, tree branches enclosed by a circle (a circle within a circle).




Christopher Nolan And Circles

While it’s not a common question, many people are curious about Christopher Nolan’s use of circles in films. 

The director is known for his cinematic techniques and has worked with many different types of films, ranging from the big-budget, expensive films like Batman Begins to the smaller-scale films like Memento.

Christopher Nolan is an expert at using circles to tell stories.

As he mentioned on a podcast (Radiolab), what he finds interesting about circles is that, unlike straight lines or curves, they can be all things to all people. 

“I think there is something very comforting about the idea of circles,” Nolan said, “Circles somehow connote this completeness.”

As a genre director, Nolan has become known for his ambitious scope and scale. His movies can span decades or even centuries, and take place on an enormous canvas that encompasses distant galaxies and alternate dimensions within our universe.

It’s pretty heady stuff — literally — and it takes a lot to try to wrap your mind around it all.

At the same time, though, Nolan is also a devotee.


Why Does Christopher Nolan Love Circles

Filmmaker and writer Christopher Nolan is famous for his use of circles to give a sense of perspective and depth to his films. In the Nolanverse, the lines between reality and fantasy are often blurred, which makes it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.

Nolan uses circles in many different ways, from representing the different sides of a conflict or an idea (Time) to representing characters’ relationships with one another (The Dark Knight).

In all these cases, he uses them as metaphors for something else.

Illustrator Mark Townsend at graphitized has an excellent explanation of how he came up with these shapes. It boils down to using “the simplest means possible” to create images that tell a story.

The Dark Knight is the most critically acclaimed film of 2008. It’s also one of the most commercially successful and has helped immortalize a franchise that continues to draw in crowds and earn hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nolan, who also made Memento and Insomnia, has an unique style that makes use of circles, curves, and even reflections. He uses these devices to great effect in his films and it’s interesting to look at how he does it.

Christopher Nolan Loves Circles

Nolan uses circles in his movies to create an incredibly powerful visual style. You see them throughout the Dark Knight trilogy, but there are many examples to choose from. For instance, the opening shot of Batman Begins shows us a circle around a cross – this imagery returns throughout the movie as we see Batman (Christian Bale) struggle against his enemies (the criminals).

The Joker (Heath Ledger) is introduced on a TV screen with a green circle behind him. 

Circles are also used in Inception, which Nolan wrote as well as directed. When Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally breaks through to his children after being trapped for years inside a dream world he sees them sitting on chairs that form a giant circle around him.

Circular Filmmaking – The Shape Of Christopher Nolan’s Films

There’s a shape to Christopher Nolan’s films. A central character is faced with a problem and through their journey, we see the progression of the problem, the obstacles they face, and the eventual resolution.

The structure can be seen in all his films: Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar. Each has a clear beginning, middle, and end. 


You could almost draw a line through them and it would look like a circle. It’s called circular filmmaking.

So why does Nolan choose to write his scripts this way? And why do audiences respond so positively? 

I believe the reason is that the circle helps us to feel that we are following a character on a journey toward an inevitable conclusion.

We start with someone at point A and watch as they move through struggles toward point Z. The circle is satisfying because we know where we started and where we will end up — it gives us comfort that we are not lost in time without direction or purpose.

This structure also appeals to our desire for narrative closure. Without closure, audiences might get frustrated with the many questions about how the main character solved their problems; we want to know that they are getting closer to a solution.

Christopher Nolan’s Directing Techniques

In the world of cinema, Christopher Nolan is a master. He has made several hit films that have been critically acclaimed and have earned billions at the box office. 

Nolan has also written or co-written many of his films, earning himself a reputation as an author as well as an artist.

There are certain directing techniques that Christopher Nolan applies to all of his movies. He does not use these techniques to make every movie look the same, but rather to ensure that viewers never get tired of one of his movies.


Christopher Nolan Directing Techniques: Use Multiple Angles

You may think that using multiple angles in a film is just a gimmick, but this technique is crucial to keep your audience engaged throughout the movie. One angle may show what the character sees while another captures what the character hears.

This can help when editing takes place later on because it will be easier for editors to find where different scenes need to be cut together. Another reason why directors use multiple angles is that they can give a greater sense of depth and emotion to their movie.

Think about it: if you were watching a movie with only one angle, you wouldn’t feel as engaged in what’s going on because there would be no depth perception.

Christopher Nolan And Motifs

The great thing about the art of Christopher Nolan is that he’s unafraid to put his films out there and to allow them to be picked apart and discussed. This is a director who isn’t afraid to discuss his films with the public or to explain them in detail.

He also has no problem discussing the films that inspired him, which can help us gain a greater understanding of his work. 

The Dark Knight Trilogy is possibly the best example of Nolan’s motifs because each film involves an element of escalation. Things grow bigger and bigger until the final film.

The first sees Batman rise against a group of criminals, then we see him rise against the Joker, before seeing him rise against Gotham itself (a metaphorical stand-in for America). The second film takes these ideas one step further, seeing Batman rise against a gang of super-villains, after which he rises against Gotham’s authorities.

And finally, in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman rises against all of Gotham – its people included. We see a man driven by idealism (Batman), being forced into a corner by forces beyond his control and becoming something else entirely.

Christopher Nolan Screenwriting Techniques

One of Nolan’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to create a tense, atmospheric tone and sustain it throughout an entire film. In The Prestige, he holds a dark, brooding mood throughout the story.

The increasingly intense arcs of the two main characters are mirrored by the increasingly tense nature of the story itself. The film culminates in an explosive finale that brings together all of these elements.

Nolan uses similar techniques in Memento to build a very intriguing noir thriller with an unreliable narrator and multiple shifting timelines. Inception is another great example of Nolan’s talent for maintaining a mood throughout a film.

The entire film takes place inside one man’s dreams, so Nolan must create the world on screen entirely from scratch. He does this brilliantly through the use of color, lighting, sound design, and other less obvious choices that subtly suggest reality without actually showing it directly.

How Christopher Nolan Uses Structure

Christopher Nolan is known for his complex, interwoven storylines that captivate audiences and make them think. With hits like The Prestige and Memento, Nolan has proven his ability to tell a story in an engrossing and thought-provoking way.

Towards the latter part of his career, Nolan began making films with a more straightforward structure. While Inception and The Dark Knight Rises have been praised for their complexity, the films are still told through a linear plotline.

While this may seem like a surprising move for Nolan, it makes sense when you consider how he has used structure in the past. The Prestige focuses on two magicians who are trying to outdo each other by creating the best trick of all time.

The film takes place over ten years and is divided into three sections: past, present, and future. Each section consists of chapters that further divide the story into smaller chunks. 

This gives the audience a chance to see how everything fits together before it comes together at the end of the film.


It also allows each character to be introduced gradually as we learn about their motives and how they fit into the overall story of The Prestige.