This film is required viewing for anyone who even KINDA likes Bob Dylan, folk music, and/or great cinema. Ironically and hypocritically my dear father had been telling me to watch this film for years, and I’d been blowing him off until the other night my friend Kavi also demanded I watch it. Two was enough, and I caved.
Directed by Todd Haynes, I’m Not There breathlessly and beautifully chronicles bits and pieces of Dylan’s life. Six different exceedingly talented and brilliant actors play Dylan in the film, an approach that highlights the many faces and lives of Dylan, who is, in my mind, the most complicated and also frequently over-simplified artist of our time.
The different Dylans show different parts of our greatest poet: the troubled husband and father, the eager child, the tortured artist, the born again Christian, the lonely mountain man escaping life, and the eerily wise beyond his years storyteller. Cate Blanchett, interestingly, plays the most recognizable Dylan during the time before and after Dylan goes electric. She gracefully inhabits a struggling, awkward, self-conscious and unhappy young Dylan. Each Dylan shows us something different and often things previously unknown.
The film-making is spectacularly gorgeous. Each Dylan shows us different colors of life. Young Dylan lives in a yellow-y dreamworld while the tortured musician lives, of course, in black and white. The camera work is equally intriguing and unique, panning over the audience and pausing frequently to show us the candid expressions of random onlookers and fans.
And the music of course. The Dylan songs chosen are so well chosen that the film risks coming off as a little cheesy in certain moments, but ultimately the songs enhance both the literal messages and the artistry of the film. Example: Simple Twist of Fate is playing and Dylan and his wife, Claire, are at the park which cues, “They sat together in the park / As the evening sky grew dark / She looked at him and he felt a spark / Tingle to his bones / ‘Twas then he felt alone.” The scene changes and Claire is alone at a party and Dylan is paying her very little attention which cues, “People tell me it’s a sin / To know and feel too much within / I still believe she was my twin / But I lost the ring / She was born in spring / But I was born too late / Blame it on a simple twist of fate.” As I said, risks being obvious, but ultimately works well.
Just like Bob Dylan this film is anything but predictable. It takes a windy road through Dylan’s life that surprised me at every turn. Watch this film!