DVD Mr. Nobody
A cult favourite from 2009, Mr. Nobody is finally available on DVD and Blu-ray. Passing by the box office, both director Jaco Van Dormael and star Jared Leto took home accolades from the various European film festivals. The spectacular cinematography also did not pass by unnoticed. With all the hallmarks of a cult classic: relatively unknown actors, philosophical views on life, love and the universe, stunning visuals and believably flawed characters, Mr. Nobody made several of the hidden gems of 2010 lists published across the internet. Yet, the $47million film grossed a mere $2million at the box office worldwide. Hopefully, its offbeat appeal will be recognised in its DVD sales.
Mr. Nobody is the 118-year-old last remaining mortal man, literally waiting to die in the year 2092. The subject of a hideous reality show, he is encouraged to relate his life story for viewers who are now blissfully unaware of death, disease and sex. Reluctant, irritable and seemingly confused, he recalls his life as Nemo Nobody. His memories are erratic and incoherent. At first, he gives the impression of an elderly man suffering from dementia – retreating further and further back into his past, almost as though it is flashing before his very eyes before he succumbs to his death from old age.
However, there is something odd about his memories. Several strands run alongside each other, simultaneously. According to Mr. Nobody, before he was born, the Angel of Oblivion failed to mark him. Thus, he entered this life with the ability to foresee the future, and all possible outcomes of any decision. As a child, he reasons that if no choice is made, then no path can be unwittingly begun.
With his ability to play with time, he seems to have lived several lifetimes – falling in love at least twice, marrying three times and not marrying at all. His whole life was determined by a heart-wrenching choice he was forced to make at the age of 9: which parent should he live with? His soul mate seems to have been Anna, perhaps his stepsister. Or, was it Elise, with whom he became trapped in an unrequited love triangle with tragic consequences? Then there’s Jean, his second-best, when true love was never found.
The film spans from 1975 to 2092 and leaves the viewer wondering exactly which life was the life of Mr. Nobody…
The narrative is confusing, disjointed and very self-aware. Big questions are asked, but none are answered. With an underlying theme of true love defining a person, it is very similar to Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, with thematic aspects of the Wachowskis’ Matrix thrown in for good measure. Yet, despite its potentially irritating all-knowingness, complete lack of solid conclusions and fairly lengthy running time, it is strangely poignant and rewarding. Several factors manage to save it from becoming yet another convoluted exploration of the complexities of the human mind.
The sets are fantastic. His memories from the 1970s and 1980s are placed within brightly coloured, sitcom-style, almost Brady Bunch-like, houses, an ironic twist upon the ideal of domestic bliss. The futuristic vision of 2092 is reminiscent of a combination of Luc Besson’s Fifth Element and the glorious city of Caprica, portrayed in 2004’s Battlestar Galactica. The vision is completed by a garish Graham Norton clone hosting the futuristic reality show where viewers are invited to vote whether Mr. Nobody should live or die. In a gruesome Truman Show parody, even his final breaths are to be immortalised by the floating-eye camera. Even the soundtrack, ranging from Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’ to the 1980s sounds of The Eurythmics, provides a seamless thread of both continuity and jarring mockery of Mr. Nobody’s tainted, rose-coloured reflection upon his life.
The themes are mind-exploding. Should the viewer dwell too long upon any one of them, a migraine will be inevitable.
The themes are mind-exploding. Should the viewer dwell too long upon any one of them, a migraine will be inevitable. Random chance occurrences lead to life-altering moments, a la The Butterfly Effect. The very nature of time itself as we perceive it is unravelled, leading to alternate universes spiralling off for each and every choice a person could conceivably make within their life-time. The idea that once an action is done, it cannot be undone – highlighted by the ironic notion that cigarette smoke can never be returned within a cigarette. It’s particularly ironic because in a world where people no longer perish, the wish to never have started smoking becomes obsolete. The very notion of existing is questioned – most symbolically through the eyes of a child. He can see those around him, but he cannot see himself. Therefore, how does he know he is there? Is it a person’s choices that define the person? Is not making a choice a choice in itself? If I think, am I? Or, are these merely the vague and confused memories of an old man in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s?
The cast give stellar performances. Jared Leto’s wide-eyed, floppy-haired combination of innocence and desire to control all that happens to him is endearing and delightfully understated. His dry cynicism only emerges as an embittered 118-year-old man, the involuntary last mortal specimen doomed to suffer a natural demise. Again, Leto ably handles the confusion, weariness and irritation of old age, again making his cantankerous character oddly engaging. He doesn’t play for sympathy, simply represents a person whose only remaining enjoyment is bewildering all those around him. Sarah Polley also stands out; bringing to life the hell that is manic depression. Yet, again, it is Leto’s almost serene non-reaction to her plight that is most memorable, particularly when he calmly sets fire to his beloved car, in an act of quiet frustration against yet another of his wife’s irrational fears and objections. Toby Regno and Juno Temple also impress as the angst-driven, hormone raging Romeo and Juliet of the film. As does Natasha Little as Nemo’s despairing mother, suffering from both her own choices and her utter alienation and incomprehension towards her own offspring. No character is particularly sympathetic, but each is believable and realistic.
Glossy, slick and polished, Mr. Nobody is a visually rewarding film. With realistically flawed characters, it explores and questions time and what affect both minor and major decisions have upon our futures. Sometimes, its greatest irony is that no matter what Nemo chooses, he is still destined to be doomed. With no clear conclusion, and knowingly bewildering, it does, perhaps, last a little too long. However, the fine performances and impressive set pieces do seal it a definite place in cult classic history.
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