So, which writer is the inspiration for the Dark Knight (apart from Frank Miller, obviously). Conan Doyle, for popularising the detective genre? Conrad, who looked into the heart of the human condition like no other before or since?
Nolan identifies Dickens as writer who had the greatest influence on his films.
Speaking at yesterday's press conference for the film, Nolan and his brother and screenwriting partner, Jonathan, answered ComingSoon.net's question about the film's direct and indirect allusions to Dickens' masterpiece:
"When Jonah showed me his first draft of his screenplay, it was 400 pages long or something. It had all this crazy stuff in it. As part of a primer when he handed it to me, he said, 'You've got to think of 'A Tale of Two Cities' which, of course, you've read.' I said, 'Absolutely.' I read the script and was a little baffled by a few things and realized that I'd never read 'A Tale of Two Cities'. It was just one of those things that I thought I had done. Then I got it, read it and absolutely loved it and got completely what he was talking about... When I did my draft on the script, it was all about 'A Tale of Two Cities'.
Jonathan Nolan points out that the film's exploration of class warfare is not limited to a present day struggle:
"Chris and David started developing the story in 2008 right after the second film came out. Before the recession. Before Occupy Wall Street or any of that. Rather than being influenced by that, I was looking to old good books and good movies. Good literature for inspiration... What I always felt like we needed to do in a third film was, for lack of a better term, go there. All of these films have threatened to turn Gotham inside out and to collapse it on itself. None of them have actually achieved that until this film. 'A Tale of Two Cities' was, to me, one of the most harrowing portrait of a relatable, recognizable civilization that completely folded to pieces with the terrors in Paris in France in that period. It's hard to imagine that things can go that badly wrong."
The epic scale of Dickens' tome also matched Nolan's vision of how to conclude his cinematic trilogy:
"It just felt exactly the right thing for the world we were dealing with. What Dickens does in that book in terms of having all his characters come together in one unified story with all these thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama, it was exactly the tone we were looking for."
A Tale of Two Cities paints a vivid story of the class struggle taking place in Europe at the end of the 18th Century. The title refers to London and Paris but also, of course, to the capitals in their indidivual senses: as cities of the rich and cities of the poor. It’s not difficult to draw parallels with Nolan’s work. Plenty of people have written how class – in the form of the Occupy movement – has coloured this final film (although if that really is true, does that cast Bane as the liberator and the affluent Wayne as the cushioned representative of the ruling elite?) Jonathan Nolan suggests that the script was going in the direction of a class struggle before Occupy and while that’s almost certainly true I think it would be naïve to believe that the street protests and the crisis of capitalism has had no effect on how the events in the film will play out. They have coloured the news in the interim between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises and they will have had an influence, either directly or by way of osmosis.
And while that’s all a bit meta for a Monday, isn’t it nice to be able to talk in these terms when we’re talking about an adaptation of a comic book? Nolan really has performed miracles within the genre, and I hope his influence continues to be felt, starting with The Man of Steel next year.
Nolan goes into more detail on the actual craft behind the films in the TV Special. You can watch it in our player here: