How Dunkirk Is Becoming a Guide to Understanding Film Format

How Dunkirk Is Becoming a Guide
to Understanding Film Format

If watching films is just one of the many ways to spend your time, the whole debate about film formats and resolutions might seem ridiculous.

But we’ve arrived at an inteteresting time where depending on the screen you select to watch your film, you might have a very different film experience (imagine Kubrick releasing a film today...). Although this matter is not new –see the the devastating video about “pan & scan” for TV not so long ago- we’ve reiched new height of complexity in the last few years.

Anton Volkov (whom some might remember as a central participant in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo chase), published an infographic showing what version of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan‘s latest feature, you’ll actually watch depending of the film format you pick.

Dunkirk was shot on 70mm and 3/4 of it was shot on Imax film cameras. What that means is that if you want to watch the film the filmmaker decided to make, you should go for Imax 70mm screens. But will you actually see if you watch it somewhere elese?

What’s interesting here in the infographic below is that Volkov scaled the images in both film and digital formats. If you want to read about the experience watching it in Imax 70mm vs. a regular screen, read Volkov’s review.

Yes but let’s not be naive…

There is the theory and then there’s the practice. Everybody doesn’t have the luxury to have or find a theater that screens Dunkirk in Imax 70mm. That’s a point filmmaker Ava DuVernay has publicly raised on Twitter after Nolan said he won’t work with Netflix because of their anti-theatrical release strategy.

For Nolan, the best way to experience Dunkirk is on Imax 70mm and he is in a position on the food chain where he can make it happen. He can also fight for defending theatrical release, shooting on film and keeping the filmmaking market as diverse as possible. Nolan is the elite that somehow talks to the mass. In the Western world, they are two (I actually have zero knowledge about the Indian and Chinese markets and their star filmmakers), so he owns 50% of this rare power .

And then you have filmmakers such as DuVernay who beats the odds, break the glass ceiling, pushses boundaries, fights other fights and is also a filmmaker that talks to the mass. Through a different road, at a different pace, with a different goal.

Having two filmmakers such as DuVernay and Nolan today, who are pointing at different corners of the map and feeding a healthy debate is a gift. Just like having the possibility of watching a single film in dozens of different formats. Aren’t we living in a beautiful world of contrasts…

In the end…

Everyone will do what they can or want. This was made crystal clear to me the day I witnessed a couple watching House of Cards on an iphone 4 with Chinese subtitles on, in a plane, sharing a headset. And I am pretty sure they were having a great time.
de-mo-cra-cy. We all have different interests, needs and expectations.

But, if you’re curious and if you want to try something different or new, you have the possibility to watch Dunkirk on an in-your-face-format. Have a look at Volkov’s infographic below, and see for yourself.