Directed and written by Jaco Van Dormael, Mr. Nobody is a brilliant film that portrays the timeless theme of life’s choices and possibilities in a refreshing and dazzling manner. Despite the complex and unconventional narrative structure of the plot, Dormael demonstrates his extraordinary skills of storytelling through presenting to the audience a magnificent film with a form more complicated than Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run and a theme broader than Peter Howitt’s primary focus on love in Sliding Doors. This essay will analyze how the the seven key conventions defined by Bordwell (2002) are defied by or applied on the film’s multi-draft narrative.
The film begins with a montage showing four deaths of Nemo at the age of 34---him lying in morgue, him drowning in his car under water, him being shot in the bathtub, and him waking in an explosion of a space shuttle. The quick scenes are then closely followed by 118-year-old Nemo waking up in 2092, looking as if he is confused over his own past. His memory appears to have paused in 2009 as he claims to be 34 years old. With the help of his doctor, Nemo begins to recount his whole life right from the start. These parts of Nemo’s story, his childhood and old age, are in a somewhat linear narration. The voice-over of young Nemo explains that the unborn children know everything about the past and future until the Angels of Oblivion place a finger on their lips and make them forget. Being missed by the angels, Nemo chooses his own parents and comes to the world knowing everything. He knows, from the very beginning, that certain things are meant to be. He also ponders upon existence and the irreversibility of time, which are brought up in the later parts of the film over and over.
At the age of 9, Nemo realizes the difficulty of choosing and faces the first crossroad of his life, from which point the film complicates into a multi-draft narrative. “We cannot go back. That’s why it’s hard to choose. You have to...
References: Bordwell, D. (2002). “Film futures.” SubStance, 31, 1: 88-104.
Wedel, M. (2009). Time, Place and Character Subjectivity in Run Lola Run. In W. Buckland (Ed.), Puzzle films: Complex storytelling in contemporary cinema. (pp. 129-150) Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.
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