Director and Screenplay: Jaco Van Dormael
Ok, so today I’m gonna talk about an awesome mind blowing film.
First of all, it immediately catched my attention because it involves science and mind-twist ever since the beginning. It talks about parallel universes, the butterfly effect, string theory, and has analepsis and prolepsis throughout the whole movie. The characterization is also very good and one of the first things I notice were the shots. For starters, the movie begins in a fast sequence of scenes, every one with the main character – Nemo Nobody – dying. We have to take his name in consideration too:
On the last of those scenes we see old Nemo in a hospital, with a doctor. The doctor is trying to help Nemo recover his memory, for he doesn’t remember much and think he’s 34 years old, despite being 117 and the oldest mortal on Earth (eventually Humankind invented the regeneration of cells, which gave us quasi-immortality). So Nemo begins to recall…
As I was saying, the shots got my attention because we can see how they have very little depth of field, which I interpreted as his memory – he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on (but he understands it all in the end!). One minute he’s with a woman, the next he’s with another woman, all of them his wives. Wtf! He’s focused, but everything else is blurred. And he’s disorientated most of the time.
As the film progresses we can begin to understand the parallel universes thing, not only because Nemo explains it in one of his lives, but because we start to connect the dots. He has 3 wives (so at least 3 lives) and they all meet when they’re children and even as adults. Eventually everyone follows their own path, but one can think: “what if I did that instead?…” But no matter what, every choice we make is correct, every path we take is right. There are no coincidences, but we still can make choices. But Nemo doesn’t know what to choose! He knows the future! He knows what’s gonna happen if he chooses one thing or another. So this is clearly very confusing. Why does he have 3 lives then?
Through the whole movie we observe his different lives: the one with Anna, the one with Elise and the one with Jeanne.
Anna is apparently the perfect girl for Nemo, but they get separated. Elise is emotionally unstable since childhood, but he loves her anyway. And Jeanne is a wrong choice, an empty choice. But he lived all these lives, he can remember it all in the end, and ultimately, he questions his existence. Does Mr. Nemo Nobody really exists?
Everything is very confusing, and Nemo himself has to figure it out as well as we do! We could think of ourselves as the journalist who visits him at the hospital. We can’t understand how in the hell is it possible for him to be at different places at the same time!
Everything happens fast although the movie is very long. I won’t spoil the stories, but I can also say that Nemo’s not the only one who feels there is more to life than his own reality. We can see how other characters also feel that they have different paths they could have taken. But to him is different, because he knows both past and future. This is still a bit confusing to me, because if he knows, how is it so hard to choose? At one point, Anna tells him it must be boring always knowing what’s going to happen. But does he really chooses? Or does he simply let it flow? Is he conscious of his choices? Well, I think he’s conscious about his choices with Jeanne, he knows he doesn’t love her. As for Anna and Elise, well, they are just different paths, different possibilities of what would happen based on a choice he has to make as a child. That’s the crucial point of the whole movie: that decision, the one that will make his life what it is today.
Besides the analysis of the story itself, I noticed somethings I want to share.
I could relate to at least 2 of the characters (well, I think one must always relate to someone, or else we won’t watch the movie). I’ve questioned myself why am I me? Why am I here in this place and time? What if I chose other paths? I had those paths in front of me, but chose this one. Is there another me elsewhere? More successful, or poorer?… More confidant, happier?… Did I already die elsewhere? And more: can this be a right choice? I don’t know any other reality, so how would I know? All we can do is continue because, as the film (and science) tells us: time only goes in one direction. We can’t go back. We can’t choose our life again. So we might as well live. Live everything we can. If we stop to think “what if…”, we just don’t live.
We tend to be very selfish about our choices. We think we’re making the best for ourselves and tend to forget others around us. But that doesn’t mean we are a bad person. We just make choices… We can accept them (as Anna did) or we can regret them (as Elise). How often do we ask ourselves what went wrong? But there’s no point in worrying for we can only move forward.
Another thing I noticed is that the movie shows us a lot of water. Apparently we are born on the water (nothing new here, we all start in the amniotic sac), but throughout the movie we see this element many times. (One of the things I can never understand in movies where someone is drowning inside of a car is why don’t they just open the god damned door and swim to the surface, although in this movie there’s a scene where he leaves through the window. Do cars instantly lock when underwater??…). From what I read, water in dreams often means emotional issues. One can understand the emotional turmoil Nemo’s suffering besides his confusion… It kind of makes me thing about The Butterfly Effect (of course), and also The Truman show and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
So that’s all I can think of for now. As I was writing this post I was able to gradually understand the film, so I guess writing about what I see helps me in this way. I didn’t realize many things just after watching the movie, so it’s good to meditate about what we see in order to grow culturally and spiritually I guess. What did you think of it?