Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk showed his mastery of visual storytelling while also proving that he didn’t need a weird twist at the end to put a bow on his movie. Dunkirk is, for the most part, a methodical and accurate representation of the French and English evacuation of France during the early days of World War II. It’s also nearly void of dialogue, opting to ramp up the intensity of the escaping soldiers through deliberate pacing and fiery glares. Tom Hardy even wears a mask.
The slow-burn proved to be one of the most gripping films in recent years, as well as one of the most unique war films in the long history of them. It proved that a war movie doesn’t need non-stop explosions and guts hanging out of soldiers to get its point across.
Now YouTuber Tom from Like Stories of Old has distilled Dunkirk into an 8-minute silent film, channeling Nolan’s silent film inspirations into a poignant, quick story of the men escaping swarming Nazi forces.
This is a special project of mine unlike anything I’ve ever done before. What started off as a regular essay on Dunkirk’s visual storytelling and its influences from silent films, slowly turned into what is by far my most experimental video to date. It began when I re-edited a few clips from Dunkirk into a silent film style to compare it to existing silent films that Nolan mentioned as his inspirations (and also; because it was just really fun to do). I was amazed at how well it translated and how well it highlighted Nolan’s use of camera angles, body language, facial expressions and staging in Dunkirk’s storytelling.
Taking only the most important part of a white-knuckle tale such as Dunkirk seemed like an extraordinary exercise in patience. Every clip has to push the story forward, molding an 8-minute tale from Nolan’s runtime of 106 minutes. Somehow, it works. Most of the subplots are missing, as are Dunkirk’s playing with time, and the story is far more straightforward, but it shows how powerful the footage truly is. And most importantly, Kenneth Branagh maintains his stoicism, even in silence.