Mr. Nobody (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mr. Nobody is a 2009 science fiction drama film. It was written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael, produced by Philippe Godeau, and starred Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little, Toby Regbo and Juno Temple. The film tells the life story of Nemo Nobody, a 118-year-old man who is the last mortal on Earth after the human race has achieved quasi-immortality. Nemo, memory fading, refers to his three main loves and to his parents' divorce and subsequent hardships endured at three critical junctions in his life: at age nine, fifteen, and thirty-four. Alternate life paths branching out from each of those critical junctions are examined. The speculative narrative often changes course with the flick of a different possible decision at each of those ages. The film uses nonlinear narrative and the many-worlds interpretation style.

Mr. Nobody had its world premiere at the 66th Venice International Film Festival where it received the Golden Osella and the Biografilm Lancia Award. Critical response was generally strong and the film was nominated for seven Magritte Awards, winning six, including Best Film and Best Director for Van Dormael. The film was mostly funded through European financiers and was released in Belgium on 13 January 2010. Since its original release, Mr. Nobody has become a cult film, noted for its philosophy and cinematography, personal characters and Pierre Van Dormael's soundtrack.


Contents

Plot

In the year 2092, Nemo Nobody is a 117-year-old man, the last mortal on Earth. Humanity has conquered mortality through the endless renewal of cells, living in a shining future accompanied by their stem cell compatible pigs. The world watches in fascination as Mr. Nobody edges towards death, curious to know of life before quasi-immortality. Nemo says that he remembers nothing about his past and a psychiatrist, Dr. Feldheim, tries to make him recall memories through hypnosis while other memories are told to a journalist. Nemo spits out contradictory pieces as he is prodded, and no one is sure what happened and what did not. He is an enigma, often thinking that he is only 34 years old with no traceable record of his life. He recounts his life at three primary points: at age nine when his parents divorce, at age fifteen when he fell in love, and at age thirty-four as an adult. All three unfold into their many possible outcomes.

It is explained that before birth, children remember everything that will happen in their lives, but at the moment of conception, the Angels of Oblivion make them forget everything. The Angels, however, by either deliberate or accidental oversight, pass over Nemo and thereby allow him to "remember" different possible futures for himself. But first he must choose his parents from a variety of candidate couples. Then at age 9, his second choice occurs after their divorce when he has to decide with whom he will live. At a railway station, he is forced to choose as his mother leaves on a train while his father stands on the platform. In one case, he runs to reach the train and his mother manages to pull him in while in another he stays with his father.

Life with mother

Nemo lives with his mother and her new partner, Harry, with whom he does not get along. He is rebellious, claiming he can predict the future. He sees a new girl, Anna, in his school and is immediately smitten. One day as he sits on the beach, Anna runs up to him and asks if he would like to swim with her and her friends. In one case, Nemo answers "They're idiots. I don't go swimming with idiots." He forever regrets these words, and 19 years later he runs into Anna at a train station with her two children. They engage in an awkward conversation before going on their way.

In an alternate story line, he tells her he cannot swim, and she stays with him on the beach. It is revealed that Anna is Harry's daughter and the two step siblings begin an illicit affair under the noses of their parents. Anna becomes Nemo's first love and they pledge their lives to one another. They are happy but when Harry and Nemo's mother break up, Anna has to go to New York with her father, and they lose touch. Years later, Nemo works as a pool cleaner, hoping to run into Anna by chance. They finally see one another at the train station and immediately recognize each other in a crowd of passers-by. After a passionate reunion, Anna announces she is not ready to immediately resume the relationship. She gives him her number, asks him to call her in two days and meet at the lighthouse. However, her number is lost when a sudden downpour makes the slip of paper illegible. Nemo chooses to wait at the lighthouse every day and becomes homeless in the process. Anna does not come. In a different story line, Anna and Nemo are married with children. Nemo works at a television studio narrating educational videos, and while returning home one evening, he loses control of the car after hitting a bird and plummets into a lake.

Life with father

Nemo stays with his father, who later becomes disabled. Nemo takes care of him, becoming uncommunicative. He works in a shop and spends his free time at home at the typewriter, writing a fantasy story about a journey to Mars. At a school dance, he meets Elise and falls in love. A few days later, Nemo goes to Elise's house but sees her with her 22-year-old boyfriend and leaves. Frustrated, he speeds with his motorcycle on a forest road until he skids on a wet leaf, hits a tree and is hospitalized in a vegetative state. Though he can feel, smell, hear, and see light through his eyelids, he is trapped in his paralyzed body. He notes the different nurses that take care of him and even detects his parents' reunion at his bedside. Nemo tries to remember the movement of his fingers on the typewriter keyboard and eventually manages to lift a finger as this story line comes to a close.

In yet another alternate timeline, Nemo speaks with Elise at her house, but she rejects him saying she loves her boyfriend, Stefano, despite his disregard for her. But, in this instance, Nemo does not back down. He keeps assuring her of his feelings. Finally, Elise gives in and, a few years later, they finally get married. In one version of the story line, Elise dies in an accident on the return from the wedding. Nemo keeps her ashes, having promised her to spread them on Mars. After doing so, aboard the giant hibernation spacecraft about to begin its long journey back to Earth, he meets Anna, but before they can even say much to each other, the ship is destroyed by meteoroids. Alternatively, after the accident that kills Elise, Nemo works at the same television studio but his assistant drowns instead. The assistant's widow is Anna, whom he recognizes. Another storyline has Nemo and Elise married with three children. However, their marriage is unhappy as Elise suffers from borderline personality disorder and chronic depression. She has attacks of hysteria and, despite Nemo's attempts to save their marriage, ultimately leaves him to pursue her first love, Stefano.

Alternatively, after the younger Elise rejects the teenage Nemo, he goes home and tells his father that he will marry the first girl who will dance with him at the school prom. That night, he meets Jeanne. They dance, and while taking her home on his motorcycle, Nemo pledges to marry her and be successful. Despite having succeeded in following his plans, Nemo is unhappy, and his life is boring and unpleasant. Jeanne suspects that she means nothing to him and wonders why he has written over all his possessions to her and their two children. Nemo begins relying on the flipping of a coin to make decisions and leaves his family. At the airport, he pretends to a waiting chauffeur to be a passenger named Daniel Jones. When he arrives at his hotel room, he receives a mysterious phone call warning him to leave. Nemo is murdered by mistake while taking a bath, and his body is dumped in the woods.

Running throughout all the many paths his life could take or has taken, the adult Nemo recurringly awakens in a surrealistic world dominated by argyle patterns. This setting seems artificial, like a movie set, and often appears to bleed over into his other lives. Following clues that he finds scattered throughout this city, he ultimately arrives at a crumbling, abandoned old wooden-framed house. There he stumbles upon a dusty and incongruently modern, functioning DVD player that is hooked up to a pristine plasma television screen. By means of the strangely interactive video, 118-year-old Nemo actually converses with the adult Nemo and explains to him that he, the much younger man, does not exist. The older Nemo explains that he is experiencing the story from the end and that Nemo must stay alive until 5:50 AM on 12 February 2092.

Epilogue

Before his death, Mr. Nobody tells the journalist that neither of them exist; they are simply figments of the boy Nemo's mind in the moment he is being forced to make an impossible choice. The journalist is then seen looking out of a train window at 9-year-old Nemo as he just misses catching hold of his mother's hand. The young Nemo has been trying to find the correct decision, following each choice to its ultimate conclusion. Back at the railway station one final time, Nemo decides upon an unexpected third option: to not make the choice at all. He abandons both parents and runs away from the tracks towards an unknown future. He arrives at a forest and picks up a leaf and blows it into the wind. He ends up as the adult Nemo sleeping on a bench by the lighthouse and waiting for Anna's return. There she appears and an ecstatically joyful reunion between the two follows. The calculated time arrives and Mr. Nobody's last words are watched by the world. The expansion of the universe comes to a halt and time reverses. The 117-year-old man then cackles triumphantly (in reverse of course) as he springs back into awareness with the realization that his younger self has finally found his one true love and life.




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