Being one of the most successful, acclaimed directors working today makes life pretty good for Christopher Nolan, but one of the few criticisms some of his films have gotten is that they rely on heavy exposition. One way to fix that would be to ignore dialogue altogether, which is what much of Dunkirk does. Nolan, however, wanted to go even further, originally.
THR has reported that Nolan initially wanted to shoot Dunkirk without a script at all. Nolan says he became so immersed in the details of the film, that he would have felt comfortable with a script-free approach.
“I got to a point where I understood the scope and movement and the history of what I wanted the film to address, because it’s very simple geography. I said, ‘I don’t want a script. Because I just want to show it,’ it’s almost like I want to just stage it. And film it”.
Nolan’s wife and co-producer, Emma Thomas, advised him to rethink the idea and Nolan eventually filmed Dunkirk with a script, though the film still eschews plenty of dialogue in favour of wall-to-wall sound and huge set pieces revolving simply around survival.
Nolan went on to say he wrote the script very quickly, with it eventually coming in at a very short 76 pages. It’s fair to say that the film turned out exceptionally, and Thomas was probably right to persuade Nolan to stick with the tried-and-tested script. You know, the thing that tells the actors what to do.
Finally, whether you consider this good news or bad, “I will be coming back to dialogue”, Nolan assured.