I’m Not There – FELIX, Victor

I usually take notes as I watch our films in class, but since the screening of I’m Not There was our last I thought it might be decent to try something new and to just sit and enjoy the film. It is all together different when you immerse yourself in the film as opposed to analyzing it. True enough, keeping my mind blank was a good way to approach the film.

If the opening credits didn’t mention that this was a film about Bob Dylan, I might have mistaken the film to be just about the era of the 50’s and the 60’s, specifically about the emergence of folk. I might have found a bit of connections between the six stories, but nothing completely tangible or significant. Since, however, it was mentioned, I had to do a bit of thinking. I know Bob Dylan from a few of his songs, like “The Times are a-Changing”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and “Like a Rolling Stone” (my personal favorite), and that he had a radical stance when it came to politics of the 60’s, but that was about it.

Approaching the film as a biographical piece of work might be too ambitious, since I know nothing about the man. But if I see the six stories as a fictionalized portion of his life, then it meshes together quite nicely. My favorite of the six would have to be that of Jude Quinn and Billy the Kid. Much like Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, Cate Blanchett stole the show and made the movie for me. Her acting was spot on and extremely believable. If I didn’t know that she starred in the film I might have never recognized her. True enough, she received a cabinet-full of awards for her role as supporting actress. Billy’s story, on the other hand, afforded satisfaction because it excellently portrayed the beauty of America’s countryside, not to mention that his particular segment makes the story go full circle (I’ve always enjoyed books or films which do this). When Billy picks up the guitar of Woody Guthrie and dusts it off, and then his monologue about freedom starts, the ending just unfolds itself.

What I enjoyed most about the film was its soundtrack. I really find the sound of folk to be the most mellow, more so than lounge, ambient electronic, or even classical. For the most part of the film, the characters are seen to be in some form of hardship or infringement, but the presence of folk music in the background just diffuses warmth and optimism. It resonates well into the soul, much like how jazz would. The soundtrack also aided in the story of Jack Rollins, in that you could really sense the budding of folk while you hear and see it.

More than just folk music, the film talks about the pursuit of freedom. As mentioned, the characters act is if they are continuously avoiding something, or are dreading something. This is shown literally when we see that Woody and Billy are on the run from authorities. The fact that the characters implicitly depicting the life of Bob Dylan are continuously changing reflect the very process in which Bob Dylan tried to achieve his own freedom: continuously evolving and never stagnant. With no ties to a typical form of identity, one can attain a sense of weightlessness and space. Folk is directly related to this, since it is anti-establishment and more of a grassroots movement.

The film doesn’t get into the specifics of Bob Dylan’s life, but it does offer a relatively good idea of how his life was lived at the time of his efflorescence. The man was revolutionary and he sparked a generation of youngsters into realizing the evils of industrialism and consumerist culture. Ultimately, folk is an expression of the life of people living in a community. They simply coexist seamlessly, not a care in the world about profit, or commodity, or war efforts, or pop culture. Dylan believed that going back to one’s roots is the key to self-actualization, and by going full circle the film shows this perfectly. All in all, the film was a refreshing dose of conventional cinema after all of the avant-garde works we’ve been seeing. It referenced a lot of the earlier films we’ve seen and so I think it was a good way to tie up the whole class. The song played in the credits was just the cherry on top.

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