What mysteries are hidden in this cult film, starring Jared Leto?
Today we will talk thoroughly about a film with a tremendously complicated content. Although, it’s not that difficult to understand. Perhaps it would be better to say that the content is quite simple, but the execution and the forms make that message a labyrinth. And that’s how cult films end up being what they are: due to the storytelling.
We will talk about all the themes that surround the film, the axes of rotation on which the plot moves, and every premise that Jaco Van Dormael’s film raises.
A journey between the past, the present and the future with a spectacular editing and an overwhelming human depth. The explanation of Mr. Nobody will revolve around the space-time from quantum prisms, the symbolism used by the Belgian filmmaker, as well as the rest of the themes that the film touches. Without further ado, here you have the explanation of Mr. Nobody. We warn you about SPOILERS.
The quantum perspective of space-time
Possible comprehension problems and other unknowns of the film
I will try not to overwhelm or bore the readers with grandiloquent remarks about quantum physics and space-time perceptions. However, one of the main problems the viewer may encounter in Mr. Nobody is uncertainty about the movie.
Not because of the images, but because of the context in which they are framed. The great doubt that appears around the plot is exposed by one of the characters during the film, interviewing our Nemo Nobody in the year 2092:
“You cannot have had children and not have had them. You can’t have been in two places at once. Of all those lives, which one is the real one? He can’t be dead and still be here. He can’t not exist.
To answer this question, we will briefly explain string theory. According to this postulate, there are nine spatial dimensions versus a single temporal dimension. Before the Big Bang, everything was folded into a single whole (the void, infinity, nothingness).
After the explosion that originated everything, three spatial dimensions (height, width, and depth) and the only temporal dimension that we know as “time” were detached from that void, from that infinity, and from that nothingness.
The other six? Minuscule and stuck together. Like in the pre-Big Bang era. Literally, in the film the protagonist wonders:
“Time, as we know it, is a dimension that we experience only in one direction. But what if one of the dimensions we do not experience is not spatial but temporal?
Time is the Leitmotif in the explanation of Mr. Nobody. One of the director’s obsessions is none other than trying to demonstrate, through images, that the “Big Crunch” can be possible. But, what exactly is the Big Crunch?
According to what we know so far, the universe is expanding as a result of that initial explosion that was called the Big Bang. However, what will happen when those existing gravitational forces that make the universe keep expanding indefinitely stop exercising their will? When the quantum vacuum runs out of energy?
One of the postulates of modern physics is the Big Crunch: if the universe has expanded to its limit it will enter a phase of contraction.
For example: imagine the universe as an unbreakable gum that stretches, stretches and stretches until it reaches its maximum limit. When it gets there, it will contract until it reaches its original shape.
Well, according to the Big Crunch theory, the universe will expand to its limit and return to its original shape. To the pre-Big Bang era where the nine spatial dimensions and the single temporal dimension will come together again waiting for the original explosion to happen again. In Mr. Nobody you can hear the following statement:
“Why does cigarette smoke never return to the cigarette? And why do the molecules separate from each other? Why do ink drops never get back together? Because the universe moves towards a state of dissipation. This is the principle of entropy: the tendency of the universe to evolve towards a state of increasing disorder. The principle of entropy is related to the arrow of time. A result of the expansion of the universe. But what will happen when the gravitational forces counteract the expansion forces, or if the energy of the quantum vacuum is too weak? At that point, the universe could enter a phase of contraction. The “Big Crunch”. What will happen to time then? Will it be reversed? No one knows the answer.
At the end of the film, Mr. Nobody shows the existence of the Big Crunch. The universe reaches its limit of expansion and contracts. That’s why we see the protagonist moving backward, resurrecting after having died, time-wasting minutes instead of gaining them.
However, you may be wondering why the protagonist remembers all the possible lives that give the film its title. Are there rules for the Big Crunch? If it really happened, would you live the same life infinitely? What are the possibilities of events unfolding without being able to change them?
Let’s try to answer this question in the best possible way.
Nemo Nobody remembers each and every one of the lives he has lived
Key scene? The “moment of the angels” and his birth
“Why do we remember the past but not the future?”
A young Nemo Nobody questions this existentialist dilemma, so that the others answer. Because he can remember the future. He sees it in every moment. We are going to separate this block in parts because it is the most intense explanation of Mr. Nobody.
The key scene to understand that the protagonist remembers each and every one of the lives is the scene of his birth. The “moment of the angels”.
As proposed by the film, the children remain in a kind of divine location waiting to be chosen and marked by the angels with a notch above the lips and under the nose. What does this mark mean? Oblivion. Never remembering anything that has been lived before that moment.
The angel that has to mark Nemo forgets about him and, therefore, Mr. Nobody knows what his destiny will be. He knows the future. He is aware of all that he has lived infinite times as a consequence of the Big Bang (birth) and the consequent Big Crunch (decrease).
That is why Nemo, remembering his actions, is able to choose again. He is capable of losing Anna in one life because he does not want to swim at the beach with his friends. But he is also capable of winning over Anna in the next life by recognizing that he cannot swim.
The end of the film is completely open, showing the viewer’s that in the next life he will make other kinds of decisions and live new experiences, knowing at all times what is going to happen.
Because Nemo, not having received the mark, does not see space-time as we do. Those who have read (or seen) “Watchmen” will get this reference: the same thing happens to Nemo as to Doctor Manhattan.
He does not see space-time as something linear like the rest of the mortals. He can see past-present-future because time is not something linear for him, and all the lives he has lived are intermingled in one. Hence, sometimes, the uneasiness of the viewer with a montage with several layers and many realities in a single plot and with the same character.
It is the superb interpretation of Jared Leto that makes us believe that he is the same character in each and every reality. Giving a greater dimension to this space-time shock. Although leaving the explanation of Mr. Nobody open, just like the film, I will leave the following question for those who want to (or can) answer it:
“If we live in a universe of overlapping dimensions, how do we distinguish between fantasy and reality? How can you be so sure you even exist?
Possibilities, destiny, identity, love, and fear
Humanity within the chaos as a weapon of uncertainty
In spite of all this physical content which is difficult to digest, Mr. Nobody is an extraordinarily film on a personal level. In this labyrinth of space and time, themes as deeply human as destiny, the search for identity, love and innate fears are intermingled.
And of course, the possibilities. All of these themes are closely related to each other and to what was previously discussed: space-time and physical theories.
Fate and possibility live in an eternal confrontation in this film. How much do we own our actions? Many centuries ago, William Shakespeare defined perfectly the tragedy of what destiny was.
Yes, sometimes we feel like the toys of something or someone that does not exist but is putting things in our way so that we will collide with them. However, Mr. Nobody, without denying the concept of destiny (far from it), teaches us that life gives us a series of cards but that we are the ones who have to play the game.
The famous “butterfly effect” appears very briefly in the film. But Jaco Van Dormael’s proposal about the possibilities is much more interesting. The choices. The human capacity to make a decision and to bear it. “The superstition of the dove“. What is that?
Besides the introduction of the film, which already places us before a cult film from the very first second, “the superstition of the dove” is still the experimental demonstration of cause and effect. In its adaptation to the daily life of the human being, this phrase would summarize perfectly what is cause and effect:
“We can’t go back, so it’s hard to choose. As long as you don’t choose, everything is still possible”.
This fact is related to the aspect of identity. What makes us human? It’s not the mirror in which we look at ourselves. Our actions make us what we are. Our decisions and the consequences that come from those choices.
Building identity is probably one of the biggest challenges that each and every human being we see and know has to face. In Mr. Nobody this is perfectly exposed: depending on the decisions Nemo makes in all the lives he lives, he ends up being a different person. The essence of his being is the same, of course. But his identity is transformed according to the decisions he makes. Cause and effect.
Even love is seen from a strange and winding perspective in this film. As if it were a differential approach, Mr. Nobody presents love in a clear and expressive way, without any obstacles.
Just like any commercial romantic comedy or drama. “I live giving up all possible lives for a life with you”, you hear. But the film analyzes love as a biological warfare to maintain the supremacy of the human race.
And finally, and to finish our explanation of Mr. Nobody, I wanted to extract from the film something related to fear. But not fear as an answer, but as something inherent to animals. A biological defense mechanism imprinted in them. And for us? Here’s the extract and the question:
“How inherent are our fears? If we hatch goose eggs in an incubator and then pass over the chicks a silhouette that simulates a goose in flight, the birds lengthen their necks and scream. But if we reverse the direction of the silhouette, it takes the form of a hawk. The response of the chicks is immediate: they crouch in terror even though they have never seen a falcon. Without any instruction, an inherent fear helps them survive. But in humans, to what ancestral dangers could our fears correspond?
F.A.Q: Mr. Nobody Explained
The story focuses on the life of Nemo Nobody, who, in the year 2092, and at the advanced age of 118, is the last mortal on Earth, once the human race has already reached quasi-mortality.
Not only is the film worth seeing, but it’s worth being seen every year so that you can learn and understand new concepts that are tangled in between the scenes.
Jaco Van Dormael himself wrote the story. The screenplay was published in a book, entitled Mr. Nobody, first released in 2006.
The movie is Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, brief strong language, and violent images.
As you can see, Mr. Nobody is creatively at the astral height of its content. It does not deserve to be seen once, but rather one after another so that one can immerse oneself in its multiple dimensions. What Jaco Van Dormael introduced to the world is his passionate piece of art that has had such a voice that it had to be taken to the big screen.
All knowledge lovers and those who are dying to discover new aspects of life are obliged to immerse themselves in the film.
We encourage you not only to watch the film for the first time or revisit it but also to watch it and link it to our article in order to create an even more complete vision of Mr. Nobody.