Tenet: ‘Time Inversion’?
Henry Jordan discusses three theories about Nolan’s mysterious Tenet, from crazy to even crazier.
Sometime next month, Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet will allegedly be released into cinemas, but whether or not it does isn’t in the hands of Nolan. Alongside the uncertainty of its release is the uncertainty of what the hell this film is actually about. That’s kind of exciting, isn’t it? When was the last time you remember a film of this size having this little information surrounding it? Even more exciting, the absence of certainty gives writers like me plenty of time to make our own theories about the film. Maybe you have your own (we’d love to hear from you), but I’ve got three theories about Tenet, ordered from most rational to totally bonkers-town.
I’ve got three theories about Tenet, ordered from most rational to totally bonkers-town.
Theory 1: Time is moving backwards while the characters move forwards.
This theory is the commonly accepted one and therefore the most boring. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a world moving backwards as characters move forwards sounds absolutely wild, but you’ll understand what I mean when I get to the later theories. Think of this theory as one of those sticks you had as a kid that mooed when you flipped it. Once the stick is inversed, the ‘thingy’ in the middle goes down, and the moo sound comes up. There is plenty of evidence in the trailers that point towards this theory, both in the first trailer and, in what we Tenet-heads call, “The Epic Fortnite Trailer”. Boats break the waves backwards, cars crash and then un-crash, and we have the very telling line: “reversing the flow of time”. There’s lots of evidence that this is the correct theory, even just the simplicity of the palindromic title, which is why we should move on right away to something much stupider.
Theory 2: Tenet is Memento meets Inception meets Interstellar meets Dunkirk.
Bear with me on this, here is where we start to head into the deep end of crazy. Nolan has been playing around with time for most of his career, and what if Tenet is intended as a culmination of all of those temporal experiments? I’ll break it down a little more simply. Memento is a film in which time moves both forwards and backwards, the two narrative strands eventually meeting in the middle of the story. Inception features little worlds within worlds through the logic of dreams, and within these worlds, time moves at different paces. On a similar note, Interstellar goes hard on the logic of time being relative, having a daughter out-age her own father. Finally, Dunkirk presents three stories, all playing out chronologically but starting at different times (a week ago, a day ago, an hour ago) and then all aligning for the finale. What if Tenet mixes all four? The narrative moves both backwards and forwards, showing the audience stories within stories in which time moves differently, making Robert Pattinson older than Kenneth Branagh, all while the stories eventually align for the big finale. Does that really sound so crazy? The answer is yes, it does, but there’s one layer deeper we can still go.
Having stared at the trailer for five days straight and consumed eleventy hundred coffees in the process, I can state rationally that really, this is the only option for what Tenet is about and anyone who disagrees just isn’t looking hard enough.
Theory 3: Tenet is about the making of Christopher Nolan’s next film.
This is the theory that ties everything together. Why is Robert Pattinson dressed like Christopher Nolan? Why the insistence on needlessly blowing up a plane, something Nolan did in The Dark Knight Rises? Why does no one involved in the film have any idea about the plot? The answer is simple: Charlie Kaufman has ghost-written the script and has turned it into a meta-nightmare spiral. Coming to cinemas this July: a film about the making of Christopher Nolan’s next film. Having stared at the trailer for five days straight and consumed eleventy hundred coffees in the process, I can state rationally that really, this is the only option for what Tenet is about and anyone who disagrees just isn’t looking hard enough.