Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Not There - Andrew Joffe

Todd Haynes' I'm Not There is a unique portrayal, or more a portrait, of Bob Dylan, using six different characters to represent an aspect of his life. This film's main focus is on Bob Dylan's struggle with identity, by showing the different conflicts that affect each of the characters. Using this storytelling strategy is a way of mystifying Bob Dylan's actual life by making a film that captures his spirit, rather than his chronology.

Robbie, played by Heath Ledger, is a successful actor with a dissolved marriage, children who never see him, and a skewed perspective on women after his fame alienated him. Jack Rollins, son of Ramblin' Jack Elliot, is a folk singer who's message becomes obscured and eventually USED by political parties. He finally denounces them in a drunken monologue at political function, stating that he doesn't write "finger-pointing" songs. Jack Rollins goes on to find God and becomes a singing preacher. Woody, the young, black embodiment of the Dust Bowl Troubadour Woody Guthrie carries with him a guitar that's case reads "This Machine Kills Fascists." Too young and too road-weary, this boy doesn't understand the time he's actually living in, singing songs from a time long passed. Finally the mother of a family that takes him in, convinces him that he should sing about his own time. The character Jude, played by Cate Blanchett represents the Bob Dylan after he went electric. The dramatization shows Jude and his band opening their guitar cases on stage in Newport and instead of instruments, pulling out machine guns and firing on the crowd. He "sells out" and estranges his old fans, becomes jaded and harassed by critics. He's nearly assassinated and is called "Judas" by his audience. Billy the Kid's story seems to come out of nowhere until the relevance of him hiding is brought up by Rimbaud's character, who gives six rules to live by when going into hiding, one of which states "Never create anything. It will be misinterpreted." The idea of hiding is arguably a major theme of this film as it goes hand-in-hand with misconstrued identities.

All six characters in this film contribute, in spirit, different aspects that were significant in defining Bob Dylan's journey through global scope. This variety of lives allows us to gain a grander perspective and more ambiguous understanding of one man, and thusly we are left with the notion that Bob Dylan was a man who had to struggle with his identity.

1 comment:

J. Schneider said...

Really good nugget here. I think you've correctly identified the film's strategy and, though general, the beginnings of its effect on what is nonetheless a portrait film. I do think you can take your argument to the next level, though. What more could you have said about this structure, how it works or what the implications of this mode of storytelling are?

Keep at it.