While director Christopher Nolan has taken auteur status, even those of towering originality draw from the well. For what could very well be his masterpiece, The Dark Knight, Nolan clearly drew from the works of action cinema maestro Michael Mann. “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,” Nolan told Variety, confirming he screened the film for all of his production heads before shooting his 2008 blockbuster.
A new video essay essay by Glass Distortion titled The Dark Knight: Visual Echoes explores these connections in a lovely dual-image structure. From masked robberies to dark-blue night skies, Nolan has looked to one of the best for inspiration. Still, the sign of a true artist is taking the things that inspire you and turning them on their head, molding them in a new shape until they have your singular voice.
In this way, there are subversions between the two works, even if they are not as significant as one might expect. For instance, the spinning crank that works in Heat backfires on the user in The Dark Knight, and where Batman gets away through a series of massive containers, Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) does not. Still, the striking similarities between the two may be a hint as to who is still the master and who remains the student.
See the essay below, and watch Nolan, Mann, De Niro, and Al Pacino discuss Heat here.