Q: Describe at least one challenging setting in the text. Explain how this setting helped you understand an important idea in the text
400,000 soldiers, diminishing boarders, three separate timelines. ‘Dunkirk’, a film directed by Christopher Nolan revisits the miraculous evacuation at the beaches of Dunkirk as the Allied troops, hoping for deliverance, faced entrapment in World War Two by the Germans. Nolan strategically utilises the challenging settings of ‘The Mole’, ‘The Air’, and ‘The Sea’ woven in a non-linear timeline, showcasing the immense contributions and massive scale of the evacuation. Such challenging settings intricately woven together and the sheer determination to overcome that encouraged me to understand the important idea of survival and its multifaceted nature.
‘The Mole’ was a long unstable infrastructure that formed a pathway from the beaches of Dunkirk to the evacuating ships. To substantiate the challenging nature of the Mole, Nolan employed the use of the historically accurate diegetic sound of the German dive bombers. The siren like whistle that crescendo-ed induced anxiety and allowed the audience to feel the inevitable doom faced by the soldiers. This emphasised both the physical and mental struggle of this setting. The unpredictable and constant bombing threatened the physical survival and the terrifying diegetic sound signifies the psychological impact on those soldiers as the eerie tune approaches. With the difficulty of the low tide and the combination of the constant bombardment on the fragile structure, the Mole was a challenging setting. However, through all its difficulties soldiers persevered as seen with Tommy and Gibson. In desperate need to survive, they took a stretcher and rushed across the unstable Mole to the hospital ship. Their wordless co-ordination, as they walked across the thin frail plank in order to get to the ship and other soldiers cheered them on. This encourages audiences consider endurance fuelled by the desperation and this challenging setting just illuminates how we will go through many lengths to survive.
‘The Air’ became a battleground for RAF pilots and the German forces as they engaged in intense dogfights. Nolan utilises the point of view camera shot to show the disorientating and difficulty faced by the RAF pilots in the air. The point of view shot showcased the dives and rotations of the plane as if the audience were on the wing of the plane. This allowed the audience to experience the disorientating and unstable environment the RAF pilots steered through to ensure the safety of soldiers on the ground. Furthermore, the vastness of the air seems both expansive and constricting. With the use of the point of view shot, the audience can see the clear sky in front of them; however, it creates tension from the lack of cover as the battlefield seems endless and that danger can come from all sides. Despite all these challenges, Farrier, who is one of the RAF pilots stayed to protect the troops. With his oil Gauge malfunctioning, he had a reason to drop out of the operation. However, he continues on fighting until the last German plane was shot out of the air. His self-less act saved thousands of soldiers and facilitated the success of the evacuation. In doing so, he sacrificed his life as he was captured by the enemies at the end. Him overcoming this challenging setting encourages the audience to consider the crucial part that self-sacrifice for the greater good plays in survival. In the context of modern society, the actions of people such as emergency responders echoes a similar spirit of survival as they come in aid of other people risking their survival. This parallel demonstrates how in real world scenarios, we all depend on each other for survival, and it reveals the good that can come out of people in a time of crisis in order to help others.
‘The Sea’ was the setting of the English Channel, the only way home. Nolan captures the high stakes of this setting using Hans Zimmer’s Shepard tone. This is a non-diegetic sound which has an illusion of a forever rising pitch that causes a sense of unease. Such sounds are applied when Tommy was drowning due to the evacuating ships being torpedoed by the German U- boats. When his body was submerged under the water and he struggles to breathe, the Shepard’s tone is present and creates a rise in tension as the audience holds their breathe with him. This scene represents many of the challenges faced on the opened sea. The sea is a very expansive setting, it is a never-ending mass that can engulf you whole at any moment. Furthermore, it is the setting of the civilians, pilots, and soldiers, where everyone’s paths converged. The challenges on the sea setting were significant as it was the challenges that everyone had to overcome in order for the evacuation to be successful. For the civilians, they bravely sailed across the ocean, risking their safety in order to load soldiers on to bigger ships. For the pilots, they engaged with dogfights in the air to keep Allied soldiers and civilians safe. Through the unity displayed in order to overcome these challenges Nolan highlights the importance of people coming together in a time of crisis. As young people, we may feel pressure coming from all sides in this time of constant change. However, it is important to know that it is beneficial to seek help from others and that you don’t have to take it all on by yourself. This is even portrayed in physics in the form of a formula: P=f/a. The ‘P’ being pressure and it can be reduced by increasing the surface area. Similarly in real life, when facing a lot of pressure, increasing the surface area, or seeking help from people around you can alleviate that pressure.
In Christopher Nolan’s film ‘Dunkirk’ three challenging settings were intricately woven together to display the overall theme of survival. At the Mole, the soldiers navigated through the constant bombardment from above displaying perseverance fuelled by desperation during a matter of life or death. In the Air, the RAF pilots displayed self-lessness for the greater good as they gave their lives in order to protect the soldiers down below. Across the English Channel, every life involved crossed paths as it became a melting pot of bravery, unity, endurance, and sacrifice. Through the clever use of sound and camera angles, Nolan displayed that surviving was a victory and how survival is self-less, survival is perseverance and survival is unity.