Auteur Criticism and The Dark Knight All of Christopher Nolan’s films revolve around themes of ambiguity and identity construction. Nolan’s films follow male protagonists who are struggling to form their identities in uncertain worlds. The narrative and stylistic elements of his films have noir qualities and his use of realistic mise-en-scene grounds his films in realism (Wardak). His films are similar visually and often include conservative camera angles and aerial extreme long shots to establish locations (Wardak). This use of aerial extreme long shots can be seen in Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception. The first scene of Memento begins with an aerial shot so the viewer can establish the scale of the environment. This technique can also be seen in The Dark Knight when Batman is preparing to capture Lau, Nolan establishes the scale of the skyscrapers where the shot takes place by using an aerial extreme long shot. His use of extreme close up usually portrays a character’s hands with an item that is tied to the overall theme of the film.(Wardak). In The Dark Knight Nolan uses extreme close ups to show Harvey Dent’s coin several times at key points of the film. Throughout the film Harvey Dent is portrayed as a crime fighting district attorney who works alongside Commissioner Gordon and Batman to rid Gotham of crime. Dent’s coin is shown as being the same on both sides symbolizing his good nature but later in the film, after he suffers the loss of Rachel at the hands of The Joker, one side of Dent’s coin becomes burned and destroyed just like Dent. Up to this point the viewer saw Harvey Dent as an upstanding moral citizen but the death of a loved one has caused him to fracture his identity and become Two-Face. This is much like Leonard in Memento, both characters are driven by avenging the death of a loved one. Acting as Two-Face, Dent betrays Batman and threatens to kill Gordon’s family. Shifting identities and allegiances, along with “breaking apart of stable identities is common among Nolan’s movies (Hill-Parks 4). Harvey Dent’s radical transformation into Two-Face both shocks the viewer and forces them to re-evaluate their notions about Dent which is also common among Nolan movies. The director constantly gives the audience a new piece of information about his characters that conflicts with earlier information which leads to ambiguity in his films (Hill-Parks 2). In all his films Nolan challenges his viewers to form a social identity about his character based on the information he gives them (Hill-Parks 3).
Nolan’s films examine how individuals develop both inner identities and outer identities (Price). Their inner identity is often different than the one they portray to the world. In The Dark Knight Bruce Wayne struggles between balancing his inner identity of Batman with his social identity of Bruce Wayne. Society views Bruce Wayne as the billionaire playboy of Gotham City when in reality he is the city’s masked protector. Both of Wayne’s identities rely on the other to exist, without Bruce Wayne, Batman would be unable to fund his gadgets (Hill-Parks 11).
There are several scenes in the film where Batman relies on information he gathered as Bruce Wayne which symbolizes his inner and social identities developing together. One scene in particular happens early in the film when Wayne encounters Harvey Dent on a date with his ex-girlfriend, Rachel Dawson, who he is still in love with. Harvey was telling Rachel how it took him a month to get a reservation at the restaurant when Bruce Wayne walks up with a beautiful woman on his arm and tells Harvey that he owns the establishment. Nolan is portraying Bruce Wayne as the arrogant playboy society believes him to be at this point. As the scene progresses Wayne asks Dent how he feels about Batman and finds he supports him. Wayne uses his socially constructed identity Bruce Wayne to help develop his inner identity Batman.