Tenet storyform discussion

Yes indeed. My bad. That’s his name, apparently.

Certainly not. Especially the RS. But it’s there.

Hi Greg. After a re-think, here’s what I came up with.

The Protagonist in the OS is more of the Antagonist actually. He tries to get people to re-consider what they’re thinking; what they’ve come to understand about the rules of the The Past and The Future; about their choices.

For example, trying to get Sator to re-consider his line of action about the world’s destruction. He even goes as far as to challenge Sator by asking him to re-consider because of his son as he’s about to blow up the world.
Or even, getting Kat to re-consider her stance in an otherwise hopeless situation by getting her to nurse the thought of espionage so she can have custody of her son.
Or even Priya, who knows so much and yet, by his actions he forces her to re-think other more improbable possibilities.

Also to answer your question about how Obtaining is problematic for him, it’s not so clearly explored. However, opening scene, him trying to obtain the person of interest and swapping him out got him pseudo-executed(by the pill after torture/being obtained himself).
He’s the one who does the obtaining of the Plutonium cores.

On the RS side of things, I think there’s shifting points of the same concern. What we fear (THE SUBCONSCIOUS) is still gonna happen even if we try. As they say in the movie “WHAT’s happened has happened”. The fear of losing a friend. Of losing Kat also. But the true RS is between him and Niel.

Just some updated thoughts.

Don’t those things cause problems for everyone, though?

How does this affect the relationship?

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Niel knows how things will go eventually: Destiny. The Protagonist also knows but he’s not gotten there yet.
That knowing and trying to change outcomes, serves to only deepen the friendship.

I didn’t get the idea they moved towards a friendship, so much. Maybe a tad toward the end, but it was mostly Neil coming to tell Protagonist that they were already friends in the future and that the friendship was ending for Neil while Protagonist could still looking forward to all the adventures.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! Indeed Greg. Time isn’t linear. That’s why they kept saying “what’s happened has happened”. It’s the fear of it ending that binds them ultimately. I feel the portion expolored just showed us stuff from the future of the friendship. That’s why Protagonist was crying etc.

Mmmm. I don’t know.

It was a really fun and interesting film and I wanted it to have a Storyform, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a well told tale. There may be more hidden under the barrage of explanations, the audio mixing, the quick jumps from explosions to chases to shootouts, etc, but ultimately my sense is that the tale mostly just serves to get us from one inverse fight to another.

What I would have done is put the OS in Physics for all the fighting and inversing and shooting and chasing. Protagonist had a hint of “you’re officially dead” that was brought up but never made problematic for him. Maybe before getting the unlimited budget we should have seen him try to buy something only for his credit card to be denied. When they call the bank to ok the charge the bank says he’s dead, card must be stolen and he gets chased out. Then thered need to be some other things he can’t do or has to do that create trouble because he is officially dead.

I’d have trouble deciding who to make the IC. My first thought was either Kat or Andrei and I drifted toward Andrei because Kats stuff with the kid and Andrei feels ripe for an RS exploration. But Andrei’s “if I can’t have it, nobody can” seems more like a way of thinking than a specific belief. It’s a fixed attitude, but is it a Fixed Attitude? Anyway, I’d probably end up creating some new issue for Neil. Since there’s so much going on already, rather than give Neil a Mind problem that triggers change in others, I’d have him trigger change through others’ minds. Maybe have him play with inversion in a way that scares Protagonist when they first meet. Or let Protagonist see two Neils for a moment and be triggered when he doesn’t know how to filter this info. Things that can be added in fairly short scenes.

And then the meat of the RS would be either Kat and Andrei-she starts out actually in love with him but the more he abuses and manipulates her, the more she grows to hate him until she kills him-or between Kat and her son. With the movie as is, the intent would be to show Kat and son growing closer, but I can see interesting ways to play with having them grow apart. Maybe the son prefers Andrei? Or the RS could be with that whole family.

Then I’d put everything in lower left. OS obtaining victory in the time war, MC having a future as an officially dead guy, Kat, Andrei, and son Becoming a 2 person family, or whatever. I’m not saying that’s necessarily what’s suggested by the film as is, just that that’s where I would take it in order to add to it and not feel like I was changing any more than necessary. I don’t know where I’d go below that to change as little as possible, but I have all sorts of ideas for where I’d go if I was able to change things a significant amount.

The MC is Kat.
The IC is (also) The Protagonist.
The OS is the overwhelming focus.

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I had considered this, but there’s so much that we don’t see about her story, at least not first hand. So much of it is relayed to us after-the-fact. How would you describe her throughline? How does Protagonist trigger change?

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I too considered the option, but I ruled it out after some time.
We clearly don’t have the same situation as Witness or Civil War here.

We’re not placed in the shoes of Kat. We’re not even shown her POV until the end, really.

It was rather confusing, y’know, with the whole obtaining the drawing part, but that too was a ruse. To throw us off the scent of what was truly going on.
Plus, it resonated with the OS Concern of a spoiled future for her and her son.

The movie is mainly the OS. The story is barely a complete story or may not be one at all. Kat has a minimal personal throughline while Protag has even less and the RS is just fumes. I can’t emphasize this enough.

I think the OS/MC problem is Knowledge.
MC: Knowledge of my crime; my husband’s memory of my crime hangs over me. OS: Knowledge of how the tech works is now in the wrong hands.

The OS/MC solution is Thought.
MC: When Kat changes and acts in a way that is Cunning (gist), she is able to change to a do-er, kill her abusive husband, and get over her angst. OS: When Protag is able to think about time / this tech in a new way (when he goes in the reverse direction and figures out how to operate in that direction), then the OS is able to end in success (understanding how this technology works, understanding the caper).

I interpreted it as MC be-er Kat sees IC do-er Protag getting out there and doing something to fix problems and being dedicated to his cause physically in action. IC is known for his past (Brooks Brothers won’t cut it) as an outsider in this secret world.

The RS/IC TL’s are barely there to absent. Whole pieces / signposts appear to be missing. I doubt that it is a complete story.

Edit: This is even less of a complete story than Dunkirk, which was far from a complete story. The focus of Tenet is spectacle and the “going backwards” conceit. It pains me to say it as a fan of Nolan’s previous movies, but it’s his least complete story. Also, rewatch it and notice how it changes from 100% plot/OS to a tiny amount of heart when Kat is first introduced (and every time she has a scene). Kat is the MC, but the OS is the overwhelming focus that nearly excludes everything else.



I would add the complete lack of a MC Throughline to your list :grin:

Try to imagine a “You and I are both alike” conversation into the script and you’ll see there just isn’t a natural place for it.

Clever for the sake of being clever. Not wanting to give Washington’s character a name makes it impossible to relate to him at all. We’re always watching Kat, not living within her experience.

The movie is 100% objective reality WITHOUT an objective viewpoint. The battle scene at the end is the closest to being able to pull back and witness how the two time paths work against each other.

Besides that we’re getting a constant subjective point-of-view of an objective conflict, which is really a strange disembodying experience.

It’s cool, and I’d watch it again to catch all the cool time loop stuff, but I’d much rather watch the last episode of season 2 of The Mandalorian on endless repeat. :grin:


Isn’t Tenet going to be one of the monthly story analysis films, next year?

EDIT: I changed my mind, post below.

Not quite true. When she first recalls the boat trip to Vietnam, we go into her mind, with a brief memory of her on the boat.
Her obsession with her personal family problem stood out to me “everyone in the world will cease to exist” “including my son!?” In her MC role, as mother who wants to escape her husband for personal reasons, we see through her eyes. The scene where she hides the gun just before he enters and he is going to beat her for instance. And when we see her looking at the smaller boat whilst pretending to be past Kat.
Her influence character is The Protagonist, who shows her her husband doesnt “always get his way” and she can fight back (go from despair to ‘uncontrolled’ anger and therefore capable of killing and needing to let him die knowing he did not “get his way”). Note the scene outside the restaurant where we are definitely in her pov as she looks at The Protagonist emerging unscathed.
The relationship story is Kat and Sator. Their power struggle.
I think the objective story dominated but the character I felt most emotionally involved with was Kat. I cared most what happened to her, which is why we needed to see her at the end with her son, though there we seemed to be in The Protagonist’s shoes. That scene showed his steadfast belief that the innocent should be spared, which he does go on about throughout, with concern for the audience and then the crew of the plane.
But I also think The Protagonist was given a strong sense of seeing through his point of view. That made the handling of the Main Character Throughline feel weak. He had literally no personal issue outside the objective plot, that I could see.
That was my take for what little it is worth!
This is the storyform I came to with those assumptions:
IC RESOLVE: Steadfast

DRIVER: Decision
LIMIT: Optionlock
OUTCOME: Success


CONCERN: The Future
ISSUE: Preconception vs. Openness
PROBLEM: Control
SOLUTION: Uncontrolled
CATALYST: Openness
SIGNPOST 1: The Past
SIGNPOST 2: The Future
SIGNPOST 3: How Things are Changing
SIGNPOST 4: The Present

THROUGHLINE: Manipulation
CONCERN: Changing One’s Nature
ISSUE: Responsibility vs. Commitment
PROBLEM: Control
SOLUTION: Uncontrolled
SYMPTOM: Temptation
RESPONSE: Conscience
UNIQUE ABILITY: Rationalization
BENCHMARK: Developing a Plan
SIGNPOST 1: Conceiving an Idea
SIGNPOST 2: Developing a Plan
SIGNPOST 3: Playing a Role
SIGNPOST 4: Changing One’s Nature

CONCERN: Obtaining
ISSUE: Morality vs. Self Interest
PROBLEM: Support
BENCHMARK: Understanding
SIGNPOST 1: Understanding
SIGNPOST 3: Obtaining
SIGNPOST 4: Gathering Information
THROUGHLINE: Fixed Attitude
CONCERN: Innermost Desires
ISSUE: Denial vs. Closure
PROBLEM: Conscience
SOLUTION: Temptation
INHIBITOR: Preconception
SIGNPOST 1: Contemplation
SIGNPOST 2: Memories
SIGNPOST 3: Innermost Desires
SIGNPOST 4: Impulsive Responses
GOAL: The Future
CONSEQUENCE: Innermost Desires
COST: Obtaining
DIVIDEND: Changing One’s Nature
PRECONDITION: Understanding
FOREWARNINGS: Developing a Plan

I watched five videos breaking down the order of events in the film last night. Super intriguing and makes me want to watch it again.

That said—

We watch her get shot from the other side.

We watch her pull up in Sator’s car. The Protagonist’s surprise is our surprise.

And so on

Whenever we’re experiencing the flow of time we’re always seeing it from the Protagonist’s point of view. The iconic fight in the hallway with himself is played both times from his POV.

We don’t know where Kat is half the time.


OK, Season 2 of The Mandalorian is the truth! :clap:t6::clap:t6::clap:t6:


After writing my last response, I got to thinking…

IF Nolan’s intention was to give us an empty vessel to inhabit so that we could unravel our own personal concepts of time and IF that unknowing was essential towards establishing our identity (the bomb that didn’t go off) then our realization that we are the Protagonist of our life IS the Main Character Throughline.

If you take Inertia to mean the flow of time and our willingness to float along, without identity and with little purpose (or a purpose tied to that flow), then becoming adaptable, and changing that narrative to adjust to the flow of time resolves our sense of not knowing who we are.

We become drivers, instead of passengers—and that, in turn, becomes our identity.

The Storyform for this would then be:


This gives the bulk of the narrative the twin Focus and Direction of Perception and Actuality, respectively, which ties in nicely with his history of storytelling and the majority of conversations in the film (all the exposition).

It also makes the Main Character Issue State of Being—quite literally WHO he is acting as the inequity of the narrative subjectively.

Neil would be the IC (driven by Aware) and their relationship would be their shared memories (the end of a beautiful friendship).

Still unnerving, and still a bit incomplete in the final execution, but perhaps more telling of Nolan’s original intention.


I love this. All day I have been puzzling over this after watching it last night but no storyform seemed adequate to the profundity I sensed amidst all the high concept fireworks.
I love this appreciation of the film.
I hope my brain can put this puzzle down now :smile:

Okay @jhull my brain didnt really put the puzzle down.
The relationship throughline with Neil feels very weak…but IF Neil is Kat’s son, as the conspiracy theorists on reddit suggest, then all the stuff around saving Kat (and her son) is kind of the relationship story…
The son is called Max(imillien) and the last part of that backwards reads ‘Neil’, by the way (thank you reddit for this nugget).
So memories could be the last signpost in the relationship story, perhaps.
So the relationship story players would be Sator, MC, Kat and Neil…
Everytime I tried to do a story form I could see that the RS could be either Kat / Sator or Neil / The Protagonist. So maybe they are all players. Kat sort of stands in for Neil as a young boy (her whole identity centres on being a mother). Ultimately The Protagonist represents a father figure to Neil.
That feels like the heart of the story but it also felt sort of looked at peripherally, because Neil is the key and The Protagonist cannot know this, because of one of the preconditions being he mustn’t know too much about the future. The ‘Mind’ quad is perfect for this as so much of it isnt about conscious stuff.

Edit: this was a great article, I thought https://www.polygon.com/2021/1/17/22233148/tenet-plot-reverse-explanation-nolan-script

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Good gods, different strokes for different folks*, I guess. I detested this movie…not quite as much as Roma, but close. Boring, predictable, all the things you don’t want a movie to be. I couldn’t even arouse enough interest to try and determine if it had a storyform.

I found Outside the Wire a much better and profound offering.

*Diane, usually the odd one out