Nobody, Nobody, but Who?
by Jansen Musico
Mr. Nobody (2009)
D: Jaco Van Dormael
S: Jared Leto, Toby Regbo, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Rhys Ifans
Have you ever considered that life is not predestined and that everything happening in this world is a direct effect of a collision of all the choices we make? I believe it was Kierkegaard who spurred this, a body of philosophies revolving around a single idea called existentialism. Who we are is what we make ourselves; hence the term “existential crisis” every time an individual snaps out of his created reality and questions it. This and other cerebral meanderings explode within the core of Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody.
Jared Leto plays Nemo Nobody, a 118-year old man living in 2092. He is the last surviving mortal on the face of the Earth. Everybody else is immortal, doomed to live normal, healthy, and sexless lives forever. All their eyes are fixed on Nemo as they wait for his looming demise. But nobody knows his past, including himself. Even his memory fails him from time to time. It’s only through forced recollections that he, a young journalist, and we, the audience, get to piece together his life and the many lives of his that could have been.
Mr. Nobody is quite complex. Its structure and substance are not easy to swallow especially for those who see films for the sake of pleasure, but to treat it as a work of genius would also be folly. It’s smart, but not revolutionary. It has a thesis which aims to explore the concept of our existence, one that strikes through theory after nerdy theory until they’re all strung together as one unified entity. There have been many attempts at a film like this, most of which have either alienated or bored its audience—failures, if I were to be crass about it. Film, after all, is a medium for the masses. People should at least understand what the storyteller is trying to share. Van Dormael’s careful use of style and technique is able to bridge that wide gap without coming off as too highfalutin.
The film bursts with colors, cuts, and crisscrossing tales that are contained in a well thought out narrative. The melding of Christophe Beaucarne’s cinematography with Sylvie Olivé’s designs, in gastronomic terms, is delicious (much like the film’s soundtrack). Though common for contemporary science fiction flicks, the visuals and camera movements are definitive. They do not merely aim to stylize the film to make it look good, they also serve to create a division between realities, drawing a line for the audience to follow. The editing is spot on. Though the film jumps from one reality into another, the transitions are not jagged, perhaps even comparable to Michel Gondry’s fluid hyperreality.
Despite the film’s headiness, it still has a beating heart. Nemo recalls his past loves, both true and fabricated. There’s Anna (Diane Kruger), Elise (Sarah Polley), and Jeanne (Linh Dan Pham)—three women co-existing in the intertwining recollections in Nemo’s head. They meet him as different persons, whose authenticity we are unsure of until the very end. To see all three perform is a delight. In fact, to see the entire cast in action is a pleasure to watch: Rhys Ifans and Natasha Little as the Nobodies, and even Thomas Byrne and Toby Regbo who play the kid and teenage iterations of Nemo.
Who is Mr. Nobody? What did he do? What is his story? These are questions we’re bombarded with at the film’s genesis. We are given so many possibilities, but in the end, when the film finally expires, we get the answers the only way we really do get them in life, by going through it. We might not be able to exhaust all the possibilities our lives have to offer. We’re only limited by the choices we make, thus we have to make them carefully. Mr. Nobody’s lucky, I guess. But then again, he’s fictional.