Christopher Nolan Wants You to Vibe with Tenet, Not Understand It

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Image: Warner Bros.

Tenet occupies an odd place in Christopher Nolan’s filmography. It became one of the big tentpole movies during the early days of the pandemic, and Warner Bros. simultaneous streamer/theatrical release of its movies led to him jumping ship over to Universal. Ahead of the movie’s upcoming re-release, Nolan’s telling folks that they really shouldn’t think too hard about what the hell’s going on in this movie.

In a recent episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the talk show host mentioned Tenet’s most common criticism of being hard to understand. For his part, Nolan argued that you’re “not meant to understand” everything in the movie. “It’s not all comprehensible,” he admitted. “It’s a bit like asking if I know what happens to the spinning top at the end of Inception.”

Christopher Nolan: You’re Not Meant To Understand Everything In “Tenet”

The larger point Nolan’s making is that audiences will get what’s going on in his movies if they allow themselves to experience them. (The point of Inception’s ending, for example, is specifically meant to be ambiguous.) Watching one in the theater is the best avenue for that, in his eyes, and he thinks that viewers can sometimes miss the forest for the trees with his work. “My narratives…[are] not a puzzle to be unpacked,” he continued. It’s something he feels “very strongly” about, and why he’s stopped himself from commenting on theories for his films.

In that same interview, Nolan reaffirmed himself as a big fan of the Fast & Furious movies, which he called a “tremendous” franchise. (His favorite entry, like many, is 2006’s Tokyo Drift.) For a guy known for twisty narratives and playing around with time, and sometimes painted as humorless, it’s admittedly fun to see Nolan gradually smash those general assumptions about him. He’s also a fan of Talladega Nights, so clearly he’s just always been a regular-ass dude who knows how to direct the hell out of some movies.

Tenet returns to theaters on February 22.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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