Todd Haynes film, “I’m Not There” is obviously meant to depict the life and different aspects of Bob Dylan as an artist, musician, poet, activist and human being. After viewing the film it is apparent that there is a constant theme of freedom throughout it. Haynes shows the film through the eyes of various characters, all of which whom represent a different part of Dylan’s life. Each of these characters struggles for freedom in one way or another, whether it be from their physical surroundings and environment or mentally.
Woody, the young man who is travelling with his passion and love of music, is struggling to find his identity in an almost unidentifiable world. He is looking for a chance at freedom through his music (his guitar case reads: This machine kills fascists.) He is misunderstood by the black family who takes him in and certainly misunderstood and lost amongst the bums that he finds himself travelling across the country with. He is simply look for an outlet for his emotions and finds one through music. His story centers on his search for freedom racially, and socially. The young Woody longs to be free to live and play his music freely.
Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of a 1960s version of Dylan is a unique view on his struggle as an artist and a political activist. It was during this time that Dylan was criticized for being a traitor, a sell-out and a betrayer by his fans and critics alike. “Jude” is searching for an artist and a human’s given rights and freedom to express or not express as he wishes. Audiences were truly disappointed and felt betrayed by Jude’s change in style, all the while Dylan is just trying to be free enough to be all that he knows how: himself. Shot in black and white, each scene with Jude clearly depicts an artist desperately trying to be free enough to be true to who he actually is, all the while he tries to uncover just who that is.
Richard Gere as Billy the Kid is the most obvious character that depicts the movie’s theme of longing for freedom. An outlaw, looking to save his town from dictators and railroad tycoons, Billy lives a life of isolation. Despite spending most of his time with his symbolic and only companion, Henry the dog, Billy is not any freer than the average person. Once he becomes aware of the growing problem in town and the risk of losing all true freedom, Billy flees via train. Each scene in which Billy appears there is an obvious theme of freedom: the longing for it as well as the fight for it. This character more than any other clearly exhibits the painful and difficult fight for freedom at any cost.
Haynes used an unconventional style of story telling but the similarities and symbolism is apparent in each scene. While it is essentially the life and story of Bob Dylan, it is told through various characters that represent a different aspect of the artists’ life.