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A few additional thoughts on Inception and The Prisoner

My treadmill viewing this summer has included a string of movies that I felt like had given me a very warped view of history by the end of it — The Queen, Nixon/Frost, W., and Kingdom of Heaven — but also The Prisoner. The Blu-Ray set was on sale on Amazon very briefly for something like $40 (marked waaaaaaay down from something like $120), and I snapped it up. I had seen all of the key episodes a number of times — “Arrival”, “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Free for All”, “Fall Out”, and “Once Upon a Time” — but had never caught the whole thing, so I started working my way through all seventeen.

At the end of “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”, in which Number Six curiously looks like an older, fatter actor in close-ups but like Patrick McGoohan in long shots, as opposed to the rest of the series where he looks like Patrick McGoohan in closeups and a younger, trimmer actor in long shots, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye during the credits — an actor named John Nolan credited as “Young Guest”.

Wait, what? Christopher Nolan’s uncle is an actor named John Nolan. He’s cast him in a couple of small roles — The Policeman in Following and in Batman Begins as Wayne Enterprises board member Goerge Fredericks (who memorably tells Bruce Wayne that “the apple has fallen very far from the tree”). He actually looks a good bit like John Hurt (and in fact I assumed it was John Hurt the first time I saw Batman Begins, and I remember wondering, “Why does John Hurt have such a small role?), although the irony here is that apparently

there are people who think that John Hurt looks a lot like Ian McKellen, and I don’t think that John Nolan looks anything like Ian McKellen. Maybe John Nolan looks more like John Hurt than John Hurt does.

Anyway, I skipped back to the party scene that presumably included the Young Guest, and sure enough, it was pretty unmistakably the same guy, just a few decades younger (and still looking a LOT like John Hurt and with maybe a teensy bit more of a resemblance to Ian McKellen).

My point with all of this is to establish that there’s actually a personal connection between Christopher Nolan and The Prisoner at a familial level, not just a professional level. He said back in 2006 that The Prisoner had been an interest of his for a long time, and perhaps that actually had more weight than was apparent at the time.

I mused earlier that perhaps Nolan’s re-use of the name Cobb was a reference to The Prisoner. This obviously is not proof of that, but it does suggest that that’s maybe not a terribly crazy or random idea, and it provides some interesting food for thought about other matters as well. The Prestige and “The Girl Who Was Death” both have near-identical gags involving pint glasses. “A, B, and C” is very Inception-esque, involving Number 2 trying to extract information from Number 6 by means of a constructed and controlled dream environment. The Joker’s gleeful escalation of weapons while attacking the armored van from the semi trailer in The Dark Knight is very reminiscent of a scene in “The Girl Who Was Death.”

Maybe someday we’ll get Christopher Nolan’s take on The Prisoner, but at the very least I think it’s interesting to consider the possibility that, with or without it, many of the series’ ideas have taken root in his head and have a visible influence — and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a great thing.

“My face is craggier than yours, Mr. Hurt.”

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1 Response to “A few additional thoughts on <i>Inception</i> and <i>The Prisoner</i>”



  1. 1 Orthodox Collective Trackback on 9 March 2013 at 11:55 pm

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