Writings / Reviews

Film Reviews: Mr. Nobody’s Business!

Lequanne Collins-Bacchus

Mr. Nobody
Director: Jaco Van Dormael
Cast: Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, Linh-Dan Pham
(Pan Européenne, 2009) Rated: PG

It is the year 2092. Weekend trips to Mars, human immortality—thanks to pet pigs providing the essential telomeres for continuous rejuvenation—and sex is considered antediluvian. But in this brave new world, 117 year-old Nemo Nobody is on his deathbed, paying ironic homage to his namesake and with constant media coverage on public, ginormous screens, as the last man to die of natural causes.

In Mr. Nobody, a science fiction drama, Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael uses broken linear time lines, cheeky humour, and deep philosophy to explore this dying man’s memories. As we begin to traverse his mind, we discover that it is a house of mirrors. As a young boy, his parents divorce, but which one does he ultimately live with? At the train station, does he run with exasperation after his unfaithful mother or does he stay on the platform, hand in hand with his father, with watering eyes as she leaves? It is uncertain because he remembers both versions of his childhood life. His married life is not any less confusing as he recalls three versions of his love life, each woman he ironically    considered    ‘The    One.’

While sometimes confusing, Van Dormael guides us through the smooth editing in this one-of-a-kind, cinematic experience. References to string theory, entropy, the Big Crunch, and butterfly effect are treats for us to snack on as we make sense of Mr. Nobody’s labyrinthine, interchangeable life story. Perambulating between flashbacks, fragmented timelines and alternate realities, this walk through the rooms of Mr. Nobody’s mind raises questions about the certainties we hold fast in our psyche: personal identity, the nature of memory, and the meaning of life.

In forcing us to analyze our own choices and what could have, should have, or would have happened had one choice been made rather than another, Mr. Nobody becomes somebody because he epitomizes what life is about—choices. Life is a path that forms as we walk it by choosing to bypass certain roads, turn on others or even create new dusty ones. As his overlapping experiences align with our own and, no matter how sometimes skillfully vexatious the editing or nonsensical the script, it becomes apparent that life can be equally as confusing and complex as this film. The appeal of Mr. Nobody lies in the fact that every possible life path is explored and over two hours it is reassuring once one realizes that each path was the right one; each path was, indeed, his life.

An inimitable, unprecedented experience of a film and reclusive as it hides in select, independent theatres, Mr. Nobody is definitely one film to seek out.

Capitalism: A Love Story
Director: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, Marcy Kaptur, Warren Evans, Elizabeth Warren
(Overture Films, 2009) Rated: PG

A classic Moore oeuvre, Capitalism: A Love Story demystifies corporate America’s Wall Street romanticism while paying dividends in audacious humour and political commentary. Originally intended as the sequel to his Fahrenheit 9/11, this documentary succeeds in unveiling capitalism’s love affair with money, their hard break up of 2007-2010—more commonly known as the financial crisis — and its impact on working class Americans. Like a couples’ counsellor, he aptly scrutinizes capitalists’ parasitic relationship with the working class as he notes, “…this is capitalism. A system of taking and giving... mostly taking.”

Immediately as the opening credits roll, we are presented with a smörgåsbord of archive footage for us to feast our eyes upon as we sip on his signature, smart aleck polemic. Moore analogizes the fall of America with that of Rome by ticking checkmarks on the list of symptoms for financial lovesickness. Needless to say, one happens to be disparity between the rich and poor; this is a warning sign deeply invested in throughout the whole documentary. Marked by interviews Marcy Kaptur, U.S. congresswoman who encouraged homeowners to be “squatters” in their own homes, and Sheriff Warren Evans, who placed a moratorium on home evictions in Wayne County, the “runaway greed,” poverty-line wages, and the profuse amount of home foreclosures were blatant signs of the impending financial crisis and its eventual “financial coup d’etat.” Always sympathetic to the working class, Moore juxtaposes these critiques with personal portraits of ordinary citizens struggling to get through the everyday.

Attempting to explain away the status quo, Moore likens the influence of Goldman Sachs on Congress during the economic crisis to that of a secret lover. He reveals their dollar-sign-eyed promises that were made behind the closed doors in the language of a 10-year-old. Cheating on the people of America and blinded by their destructive love, U.S. Congress took an “us-against-the-world” approach when bailing out corporate America. The devotion of $700 billion to stimulating this failing relationship is a statistic that prompts Moore to question Elizabeth Warren of the U.S. Congressional Oversight Committee, “Where is our money?” Of which, after an overplayed dramatic pause with his camera searching her face, she has no answer. Undaunted and in search of the response to his own question, Moore takes his cause to the streets as he hectors Wall Street security guards and doormen outside their citadels of capitalists. While crying like a little kid, with a knack for repartee, to an uncaring mother, he still mounts that something is terribly wrong with capitalism. But, as he sometimes is, Moore is unclear as to whether he’s fighting for citizens’ access to the American Dream or for them to wake up from it.

Not surprisingly, given this behaviour, Moore does not feel compelled to exercise prudence when he brings religion into this fiscal affair. Presenting a mocking montage of Jesus as a capitalist, when asked by a fellow capitalist, “Master! What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus replies, “Go forth and maximize profits!” Cheekily pointing out the contradiction of being a capitalist and a Christian country simultaneously. It is incongruous. Moore has the sneaky suspicion that the founding fathers’ dreams of “a useful job, a decent home, adequate health care, and a good education” were for more than a small fraction of America’s population.

Yet, careful not to bankrupt us of hope, Moore concludes Capitalism: A Love Story with the romanticization of Obama as a symbol of justice and a promise of a better economic future — hopefully one lacking in parasitic, pecuniary love affairs.

About The Author


Lequanne Collins-Bacchus studies philosophy and film at Carleton University.

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