Close to Milan there's just one place where you should go to see a Christopher Nolan movie about war. The IMAX Arcadia in Melzo has the Best New Screen of the Year 2017 (focus on technical renovation of cinemas, age-group 1995 until now). You are submerged into sounds.
To frame Dunkirk let's have a quick talk about Nolan first. He's now well known for movies such as Inception, Interstellar, Memento. Why, from his filmography, I'm picking just those? Because time and his expression is the fil-rouge you'll find.
And time not only as a clear view of his narrative on the big screen, but time as a recurring elements also in his production. As you may know Nolan started working on Inception long before Memento, and pitched the idea to Warner Bros. right after Insomnia. So time is basically, a metaphor of his life in imaging, writing and directing films.
So it didn't surprised me that Dunkirk is mainly structured on different storylines intertwined and characterized by a different revealing pace.
Moreover the perception of time is a distortion of reality: you know that when your mind is relaxing, time passes by in a blink of an eye, but when you're waiting for something, things change.
Different emotions appear to alter the way we judge the passing of time, with studies showing that watching scary movies makes you feel time has passed slower in retrospect. This is likely to do with the release of arousal-promoting hormones in the amygdala, which appears to increase the metabolism and thus the rate of internal clocks, and which may help us lay down more memories.
Just as it is natural to say that we perceive spatial distances and other relations between objects, it seems natural to talk of perceiving one event following another (the thunderclap as following the flash of lightning), though even here there is a difficulty. For what we perceive, we perceive as present — as going on right now.
What Nolan does in the movie is to divide into storylines and timelines the narration about the Dunkerque militar operation, to follow minor characters involved in the action. He opts for a disruptive timeline, not a linear one, to go deep into a slower pace on the beach waiting for salvation, than a quicker one on the ship in the ocean and finally the fastest one on the plane.
Parenthesis of the same story, happening in a moment all together,
but presented to the audience in a sequential montage.
You may be fooled here: look at the day-night turnover to find out that scenes are not sequential. They are just edited one close to the other to speed up the rhythm of the film up to the final scene. This is just glorious that you don't even need dialogs.
Few words, because the never ending conflict has shut down voices. Bullets and bombs echos all around you in a long, fragmented fight towards the ocean of freedom.