‘Mr. Nobody’ something special

BRUCE KIRKLAND, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:10 PM ET

Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael has described his own perplexing opus, Mr. Nobody, as a big-budget experimental film. Expect the unexpected. Try to answer the unanswerable question that writer-director Van Dormael poses. It is a worthwhile exercise.

Mr. Nobody, shot in English in Germany and Canada, is a co-production of France, Germany, Belgium and Canada. It is as anti-Hollywood in production as it is in concept. This is not a formulaic science-fiction drama.

In a marvelously full-blooded, brain-spinning, tour-de-force performance, Jared Leto stars as 12 different versions of one character, Nemo Nobody. In 2092, Mr. Nobody is the last mortal human on Earth. He is 117 and soon will die. The immortals are intrigued at watching the spectacle as reality TV. And a sneaky journalist sneaks into his hospital room to record his last thoughts and ask details of his life.

That life is not linear. There are flashbacks and forwards, multiple dimensions, time fractures and parallel existences. Mr. Nobody embraces a jumble of conflicting memories, possibilities and fabrications. We don't know and Van Dormael does not care to enlighten us on what to believe. Instead, he tries to answer that unanswerable query I mentioned: What happens in this man's life when he makes choices, even as a child deciding between two parents?

As the story unfolds in dizzying detail, we learn that young Nemo was asked by his soon-to-be-divorced parents whether he wanted to go with his mother to live in Canada or stay with his father to live in England. Either way, the choice will profoundly effect all the permutations and combinations of his possible existences. And we see them all, or as many as Van Dormael chooses to dramatize.

Along the journey of tantalizing and confounding us -- while Mr. Nobody is plunged into his own confusions -- Van Dormael invokes any number of impossibly complicated scientific theories, from the world of quantum physics to the notion of the butterfly effect (which is delightfully and deliberately given a visual expression).

The film has been trashed as self-indulgent. It has been embraced for his visual dynamic. It has been applauded for its intellectual daring. The truth is, in my world, it is elegantly simple. A man's life is coming to an end. Facing death, he looks back with interest, intrigue and often regret, spinning his Nobody tale of possibilities.

The character has no stake in telling a literal, linear truth. Why bother? That is not just banal, but somewhat useless in a tale this broad in scope and this magnificent in terms of its visual canvas. Mr. Nobody is not a mystery to be solved but a hint at how life remains an unsolved mystery, right to the bitter end, whenever and however that end may come.

The fact that Nemo Nobody is the last human to face that end is just another way to make his existence the focal point for this adventure. I find that mesmerizing.

(This movie is rated 14A)

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca


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