Category Archives: Movies

Traitor and Hero, Borges and Nolan

The Dark Knight - Hero and Traitor

"He understands that he forms part of Nolan’s plot... this too, perhaps, was foreseen."

The Dark Knight was on this weekend; for some reason, the overtly moral nature of the film struck me in way that seemed incredibly familiar. Somehow, it reminded me of a Borges story that I read a long time ago. A quick search later and I recollected the principal narrative of “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”. Batman’s eventual decision (spoiler alert) to take the fall for Harvey Dent/Two Face’s spree of murderous retribution is described in a little more pointed detail in Borges’ story. Borges makes a point to highlight the cyclical nature of rebellion and the transference of societal power: one group of conspirators or agents create a narrative of moral, political and social triumph–not only at any cost of life but also at cost of fact and distortion of reality.

The weird thing about the piece that I linked is that the narrator who notices the cyclical nature of the conspiratorial story and the inherent duality at the heart of the revolutionary cause is named James Nolan. Is it a coincidence that the same themes are expressed in Christopher Nolan’s film? Is it nothing more than a fun literary exercise to imagine that Christopher Nolan playing on the theme of the hero turned traitor (living “long enough to become the villain”) was ordered in the same unknowable, cyclical nature that Borges described? Was he, like the other historian in the story, preordained to hit upon the truth of the story in the future, and laud its cinematic variation?

It’s probably just a coincidence; then again, it’s that sort of assumption that keeps the prefigured cycle going.