Re:View – ‘Mr Nobody’

The Arts


I’m afraid that this column is fast turning into a collection of favourite quirky films.

If ever there was a movie that showed the divide between Europe and Hollywood, ‘Mr Nobody’ is it. This mindbending, award-winning epic by Jaco Van Dormeil, the Belgian director of ‘Toto The Hero’ and ‘The Eighth Day’, gets just a handful of US reviews online, all of them filled with hatred. One describes it as ‘the most horrifically boring film of all time’. Van Dormeil only makes one film a decade, so it seems appropriate that this film spans two centuries.

Clearly, though, there are Hollywood precedents for such a feat, in ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’ and ‘Synecdoche New York’ (neither successful), in the British ‘Sliding Doors’ and even the director’s own ‘Toto The Hero’. Breathtaking, brave and complex, this is nothing less than an explanation of life itself. It’s the story of Nemo, who at the age of nine must decide which of his parents to stay with. His decision not to decide precipitates him into four separate possible lives and an infinity of possibilities, which he traverses back and forth, finding and losing loved ones, his happiness or failure hinging on the tiniest chance, so that he eventually survives into the future to become the oldest living man, and eventually visits Mars.

One of the most visually arresting films ever made, ‘Mr Nobody’ has touches of Kubrick and Vonnegut, but is wholly Van Dormeil’s film. At two and a half hours it’s a tad long and occasionally confusing, but all is eventually explained in its own way, and every visual tic has a special meaning. Any tale that features youth, romance, infatuation, death, string theory, eternal life, the reversal of the universe and a thousand bicycles floating in space deserves to be seen, and not given snitty reviews by a handful of reviewers who clearly have no way of processing what they’ve just seen.

The film is available on DVD. It’s in English, and has mostly British and Belgian actors. I can see why it might annoy some, and enter the Top Ten lists of others – try it for yourself.

2 comments on “Re:View – ‘Mr Nobody’”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    That makes three stories with “Nobody” as a character: The Odyssey, this one and (Blast!) that one with the submarine and Capt. Nemo. We all wonder how our lives would differ if we had made different choices. Why shouldn’t all the choices make a good film?

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – or how ever many leagues it was. Why couldn’t I remember it yesterday.

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