Table of Contents
Photo: ‘Mr. Nobody’
The Pinnacle of Nonlinear Storytelling
In a futuristic society that has achieved quasi-immortality, Nemo Nobody is the last living mortal on Earth. At 118 years old, Nemo wearily recounts his life to a reporter, who realizes Nemo is contradicting himself with each memory he shares. We are taken through several completely different lives that Nemo could have lived if he had decided to stay with his father or leave with his mother after their divorce.
Although many movies have used nonlinear storytelling, ‘Mr. Nobody’ takes it a step further to combine this technique with a multiverse. In each universe, we see a different Nemo whose decisions drastically alter his life. With each scene that mismatches the next, we can slowly put together fragments of each timeline. It takes an astute mind to keep track and catch the subtle nuances of these random sequences and their relation to one another. The fact that it requires your full attention makes it that much more interesting and satisfying when you get to the end.
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The cinematography and editing ensure that the story maintains sufficient traction as the audience makes sense of the scattered plot points. Dormael frequently uses highly contrasting cuts that change the subject and mood and throw you into a whole new narrative or back into another previously introduced one. Some cuts have a dramatic and eye-catching introduction to a timeline, leaving you bewildered and anxious to learn more about that timeline. Other cuts use a more subtle approach to pique your interest by giving you strange and surreal scenes that will satisfyingly make sense later in the film. This film will be revolutionary for a person tired of the typical movie formula. It will suffice to say it is the wrong choice for casual movie watchers—cinephiles only.
Leto Has To Share The Spot Light
Director Jaco Van Dormael said he chose Jared Leto for the lead because he was an “actor of transformation.” Indeed he is, and no film has better utilized Leto’s abilities than this one. Leto played nine different versions of the same character. Each of them is in a different world, with different motivations and a different sadness, but in the end, we realize what they all have in common.
Although Jared Leto was the biggest star in this movie and gave an excellent performance, his fellow cast members also delivered incredible performances that were crucial to the film. Toby Regbo, who played a young Nemo, paired wonderfully with Juno Temple as Anna to depict a captivating story of young love. Scenes with them perfectly portray the seemingly divine connection a person feels when they fall in love deeply with someone at a young age. Very few actors can truly convey the feeling of love, but Jaco Van Dormael found two young actors that absolutely nailed it.
Jared Leto and Diane Kruger do a fantastic job of maintaining the momentum that these incredible young actors created. Leto and Kruger maintain the passion and connection between Nemo and Anna as adults. In several scenes, we can feel just how much they love each other. A love that makes you jealous, perhaps one that only exists in a movie, but beautiful nonetheless. Van Dormael has said he wanted to capture what it feels like to be alive, the unbridled joy and crushing pain you feel from life’s twists and turns. This ensemble brought his vision to life.
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‘Mr. Nobody’ – The Soundtrack
The soundtrack for this movie was made by Dormael’s older brother, Pierre. Jaco Van Dormael chose a minimalist orchestration to avoid making the film’s music overtly emotional. Guitar and piano were the primary instruments used and complemented the scenes very well. The film also featured songs by Otis Redding, The Pixies, and Buddy Holly.
The soundtrack was one of the most pleasantly surprising aspects of the movie. It did not lean on any specific genre but instead drew from multiple to fit particular scenes perfectly. Most movies pick an overall musical theme for the entire movie, but ‘Mr. Nobody’ laid out themed pieces for specific scenes and timelines. Additionally, all of Pierre Van Dormael’s original music was crafted to overlap and create new themes that were mixed together throughout the movie. This led to seamless musical transitions throughout the film. Pierre Van Dormael’s music was used as filler within similar scenes, while music by other artists was used for more significant scenes. The choice of music and its placement enhanced an already fantastic film. This was one of the most diverse soundtracks used, and it did a great job of accompanying the unorthodox nature of this film. Perhaps other filmmakers may consider not limiting their films to one musical genre but rather an array of genres that follow the scene-by-scene dynamics of the movie.
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Dormael’s Creative Process
Jaco Van Dormael spent ten years working on ‘Mr. Nobody,’ six of those years on the writing alone. He has said he does not concern himself with how the audience will react to his work. This can be a difficult attitude for filmmakers to have today as many professional projects have stringent budgets paired with unnerving profit expectations. To make a movie without allowing financiers to leave their fingerprints on your work is a rarity.
In my opinion, it is clear that Dormael stuck to his vision of how unorthodox and experimental the film was. It is unapologetic for its complexity or its layers. This is what gave the film its magic; the use of its uncommon storytelling devices, irregular soundtrack, and risque content. It exuded the confidence of a hit film right out of the gate. Jaco Van Dormael wasn’t afraid to try his ideas, as he has released several films before and since that have accentuated the freedom and bravery in his work. Any film made honestly, whether a failure or a success, is something to be proud of. ‘Mr. Nobody’ certainly fits this category.
Cast: Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Juno Temple, Toby Regbo
Director: Jaco Van Dormael
Producer: Phillipe Godeau
Cinematography: Christophe Beaucarne | Editor(s): Susan Shipton, Matyas Veress | Music: Pierre Van Dormael
By Alvaro Devora
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Alvaro Devora is an aspiring writer/director whose life revolves around the creation and appreciation of literary and cinematic content. Though still new to the industry, Alvaro is also passionate about discussing important and substantial topics in Film and TV, and has found the perfect place to do so at The Hollywood Insider. Being an anti-gossip media network and taking pride in meaningful content, The Hollywood Insider is a company that Alvaro can take pride in writing for and continue nurturing his passion.