Dunkirk and the abyss: a slight hope at the border of inhumanity

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Silence. Five soldiers seen from behind, in their old uniforms, getting far from the observer in a deserted street. A single noise: the one of colored sheets falling from the sky, in a slow-motion turbine, while everything around the scene looks like the apocalypse. A soldier picks up one of the fallen sheets from the ground and opens it. It’s a flyer, with red tints and black, aggressive characters, sent by a faceless commander. Dunkirk: we surround you.”

This is how Dunkirk begins, the descent into the abyss conceived by Christopher Nolan. It begins in silence, and in that silence it shows its sharpest claws. Because the war has always been the furthest place where the human being can arrive, and in the war the man discovers the most dangerous extremes of the possible emotions. Walking along a dangerous border, from which there is often no come back. And in the silence of the outposts of humanity and inhumanity, evil falls from the sky and explodes close to the camera’s point of view. Silence amplifies. It’s Hans Zimmer’s best ally, who in silence brings out his most dry, acidic and corrosive soundtrack, like the liquid flowing out of the aircraft engines.

It’s one of the main merits of Christopher Nolan’s contribution to war cinema: it makes you fall into the battle. It gets you straight into the planes, into the attacked ships, in the beaches transformed in a constant target. It makes you feel blood brother with the protagonists, involved in that mousetrap that that little town on northern France became in 1940. Targeted by the enemy. And the enemy – another strong stylistic choice by Nolan – doesn’t have a face. No identities. The enemy is just an endless avalanche of grenades and lead falling from the sky. Inhumanity at the last stage.

With this tension, with this love for silence, the claustrophobia of the ships that sink and the soldiers forced to contend the place to survive, Dunkirk drag the spectator in the horror of the war as only the best movies on this genre can do. There may also be detractors, but this will remain in any case one of the most successful works of director Nolan and composer Zimmer. A unsafe crossing at the border of humanity, where we observe hope and the way it can still exist, also there. The events told in the movies are those that really happened about Dunkirk’s miracle and the aesthetic trasposition is strong. Face it with confidence and don’t be afraid to remain terrified.

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