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23rd Jun 2023

Christopher Nolan’s latest film is so intense viewers are leaving the cinema unable to speak

Jack Peat

‘It’s kind of a horror movie’, the director said

Christopher Nolan’s new Oppenheimer move is so intense some viewers have been walking out of the cinema unable to speak, the director has said.

The biographical drama follows the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, as he devises the weapon that went on to end the Second World War.

Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy plays the theoretical physicist, joined alongside Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in an all-star cast.

Describing it as one of the “most challenging projects” he has ever taken on, Nolan opened up about the challenges of showing an atomic explosion without resorting to computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Oppenheimer led a team in Los Alamos, New Mexico, that worked in complete secrecy to develop the world’s first atomic bomb in what famously became known as the Manhattan Project.

The joint work of the scientists resulted in the world’s first nuclear explosion, near Alamogordo, on July 16, 1945. Oppenheimer had given the site the codename “Trinity”.

The scientist later recalled that, while witnessing the explosion, he thought of a verse from the Bhagavad Gita (XI,12):

“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one”.

Ahead of the film’s cinema release on 21st July, Nolan said recreating that scene was particularly difficult, and that it has had quite a profound effect on those watching it.

“Some people leave the movie absolutely devastated,” he told Wired. “They can’t speak. I mean, there’s an element of fear that’s there in the history and there in the underpinnings.

“But the love of the characters, the love of the relationships, is as strong as I’ve ever done.”

He added: “It is an intense experience, because it’s an intense story. I showed it to a filmmaker recently who said it’s kind of a horror movie. I don’t disagree.”

The filmmaker – who wants the movie to be of ‘immense scope and scale’ – has also explained why Oppenheimer switches from colour to black-and-white.

Nolan said: “I wrote the script in the first person, which I’d never done before.

“I don’t know if anyone has ever done that, or if that’s a thing people do or not.

“The film is objective and subjective.”

He then explained that ‘the colour scenes are subjective’ and ‘the black-and-white scenes are objective’, adding: “I wrote the colour scenes from the first person.

“So for an actor reading that, in some ways, I think it’d be quite daunting.”

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