Thursday, November 07, 2013

"Mr. Nobody" shows that entropy will come to an end, and then time can go backwards

Mr. Nobody”, a 2009 experimental sci-fi hit, by Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael  from the European festival circuit, is now in domestic release from Magnolia Pictures. And it joins a list of some big films like “The Tree of Life” and “Inception” that test the idea that you can indeed create your own reality – call it witchcraft. And like “Cloud Atlas”, it plays with the idea of a “Butterfly Effect”, itself a 2004 film with Ashton Kutcher. The mood reminds one of "Donnie Darko" or even "The Box", as the director's style reminds one of Mike Kelley.  The plot concept also recalls comparison to "Sliding Doors" and "Run, Lola Run". 
As the film opens, Nemo Nobody, actually the star Jared Leto all made up, lies in a very public hospice, at age 118, in a high rise above a futuristic city, the last living mortal on Earth, in 2092.  The deal is that if he just lives hours longer, the “time arrow of physics” will terminate and he can become immortal. That’s because entropy will be spent, and the Universe will no longer keep expanding. Nemo really talks a lot about gravity and space-time, and how the Universe arbitrarily gave us one temporal dimension and just three spatial ones, and left the other six (actually seven, according to formal string theory) unused and normally inaccessible.
Everyone else has become immortal through “telemerization” of their bodily cells.  They’ve given up sex (maybe even gender), as well as most food, and really most forms of pleasure.  There’s no responsibility – no more kids, not even “Children of Men”, and no eldercare (except for Nemo).  I would hope that becoming an angel would be a better deal than that.  Reproduction of living things happens in order to counteract entropy.
Nemo is debriefed by an angel with a tattooed face (again, not my taste), although fitting into the artistic theme of argyle patterns, a common image (right out of the Twin Peaks world of David Lynch, I think).  There’s also a “journalist” (a blogger?) who sneaks in with old tech equipment to interview him. Curiously, Nemo, as a young adult, often journals his own galactic adventures (maybe approaching those of Ender) on an old typewriter.  I love that line where Nemo says to the blogger, "I've got nothing to say to you, I'm Mr. Nobody".  
The quantum theory paradoxes allow him access to a number of possible paths in his life. His parents separated when he was nine, and the movie storyboard focuses around a scene where his mother is on a streetcar tram, and he chases down the track.  He gets raised by his mother, that’s one set of circumstances; his dad will provide another.  The movie provides an out-of-sequence narrative of all of the major episodes, like chards that can eventually be put back. Despite entropy, jigsaw puzzles can be solved. We just can;t quite unmix cake batter (which we would lick as kids) into original ingredients.
One of the most interesting episodes is a trip to Mars (inside a huge pod with terrific views of the desert), and life in hibernation on a spaceship – to be pulverized by space debris (as in “Gravity”).  But other tragedies are more earthbound, such as his drowning after an auto accident, and his taking care of his disabled father, with great tenderness, actually washing the elder’s body in a shower in one scene.  And there is romance (with Sarah Polley), scattered throughout, starting at age 15.  Of course, this new world order of immortality will never know heterosexual passion again, a real fear of social conservatives.
The official site is here.  Other companies involved are Pan Europeene and Wild Bunch.
The music score has a lot of music by Satie, Bellini, Faure, and Bach, as well as the ‘40s popular song about the Sandman. There is original music by Pierre Van Dormael.  The film was shot in Belgium, Quebec, Germany, and the UK. 
It has been released to Amazon Instant Play at the same time as the DVD, but in the DC area plays only at the AFI Silver.  If you live near Silver Spring or near a theater showing it on a big screen, do see it in a theater.  This is a great looking film, and it has as much to say as many other sci-fi films from bigger studios in the past few years.

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