‘The Dark Knight’ is in Visual Debt to Michael Mann’s Movies
Art and Experience: This video essay looks at the influence Michael Mann’s aesthetic had on Christopher Nolan’s vision for The Dark Knight.
Michael Mann started his career in television with the hugely influential Miami Vice, one of the first network TV shows to be as stylized as a film. Mann’s aesthetic in films like 1995’s under-appreciated epic Heat, which made bank robbery into a fashion statement and Los Angeles into a character, was an influence on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and this video examines the ways Nolan drew inspiration from the only film to ever feature Robert De Niro and Al Pacino on screen together, as well as other films in the Mann canon.
According to the essay’s creators, “Nolan actually screened Michael Mann’s Heat for all his department heads before going into production.”
The director is quoted as saying, “I always felt Heat to be a remarkable demonstration of how you can create a vast universe within one city and balance a very large number of characters and their emotional journeys in an effective manner.”
Also worth noting is that the robbers’ masks in Knight are almost identical to those first used by Stanley Kubrick in his second feature, The Killing (1956), a heist film centered around the robbery of a racetrack.
All this goes to show that film is a vast symphony of influence; no film is an island. And, more importantly, that crazy masks are a prerequisite for momentarily successful (if ultimately futile) attempts to grab the brass ring (with the barrel of a submachine gun).