Mr. Nobody is a challenging film about interior life that plays with time, dimension, space, memory, even different latitudes; it is the final chapter in the time of humanity, in the year 2092. Mars is a vacation spot, there is no death and Nemo Nobody is a 120-year-old man who is the last mortal among humans. With his dseath, humans will be extinct, replaced by hard wearing immortals that live better lives through science and order. Nemo is on his deathbed as he reviews the three possible existences and marriages he might have experienced.
Monsters and Critics - This is the most expensive Belgian film ever made, and was funded based on your script. Were you able to tell investors what you had in mind?
Jaco Van Dormael - I really don’t know. I was really lucky to have the chance to make this film in this period of time. It looked less risky than it was, perhaps, and innvestors didn’t know what my filom would be like, they invested in what my filoms were before. It’s always a surprise how a film comes out, even to the filmmaker. It was long to write, long to prepare, finance, shoot and edit. I don’t think it took long at all. It was the financing.
M&C - Mr Nobody to be incredibly intellectually stimulating but I couldn’t tell you the plot. Does it matter?
JVD - I can imagine that! It’s difficult to absorb, there is lots of heart and sensuality and poetry and a different layout at the same time. I’m fifty and I tried as many things as possible, that was one of my biggest pleasures, how to make storytelling speak about the experience of being alive in a way that is not a story. We are making this story, constantly trying to find meaning to life and direction and in the end everything will be clear. I wanted to use the medium I love to speak about what a strange experience life is that people share. Even if we don’t know why we make that choice, why is being in love, what it is and why not something else. It’s easier to think about it this way.
M&C - There are some very tough emotional moments, as the old Nemo reminisces about his life. What did you say to Jared Leto about the scenes?
JVD - He’s an old man and we look at him sympathetically. In his mind he is 37, or a teenager. He mixes everything and the people who are around him. He mixes it because he’s an old man, but he also mixes everything, his life, because it is not rational, it’s not possible. It’s like we wake up in the morning and we realise we were 30 and we are now 120. It is a shock every day. And also, not remembering what happened just now, but remembering very well what happened 100 years ago.
M&C - Jared Leto has picked interesting, unconventional roles – why did he want to work on Mr. Nobody?
JVD - I think it’s because such a challenge unique for an actor to have the opp to play nine different times same man different Nemos in the same film and make them as different as possible. The only time we are the same child that liked trees grow in different directions and they all become different depending their choices and chance. And so that’s what he worked on, to make them as different as possible, they way he looked and thought and worked from the inside.
M&C - Leto’s eyes are a piercing kind of a blue, it’s hard to see them but they are fascinating. Did that figure into his being cast as Nemo?
JVD - Since the characters are not anchored in reality, it is between reality and dream; I wanted it to be beautiful and juicy, just like in Hitchcock’s films. He always chose beautiful women and men and it was always a little unreal and not so anchored in reality, with not beautiful actors, and real feeling. Here everything looks like Canada or England and it’s nowhere. It looks into the future and imagination the way a dream does. You build a labyrinth and you know the way in and the way out but for the audience, the pleasure of the film is the labyrinth and finding pleasure in coming in and out.
M&C - Your films are so far beyond the usual Hollywood fare artistically and intellectually – are you hopeful that it will find sympathetic audiences here?
JVD - I really don’t know. I don’t know even in Belgium who is the audience is, so when I make a film, I think about the people around me, myself, what is the type of film I would like to see and I try to make that, dropping a bottle into the sea and if I’m lucky, someone picks it up.
M&C - Why is it so long since you made a film?
JVD - I didn’t work on anything else; it takes a lot of time to write. I like writing, too much and also the ordinary life of a scriptwriter is having a bad script for five years and then it becomes a little better. I didn’t want it to be long; I wanted the script to be right and trying not to make it focus to the end like normal storytelling. So I made it wider and wider, like a tree, not like classic storytelling where everything is focused on the end, a reason for everything. How to speak about the experience of being alive? What has reason and consequences and what doesn’t give more meaning. I tried to see how far we could go in that direction.
Anne Brodie on Monsters and Critics