Saturday, March 7, 2015

I'm Not There's Approach to Biography

At the beginning of I’m Not There, we are introduced to Bob Dylan a southern black child blues singer.  If you think that’s unique, given that Dylan is a Jewish kid from Minnesota,  we might conclude that this biographical film isn’t necessarily concerned with accuracy.  And we would be right.  Later in the film we are introduced to Dylan, the poet under inquisition, the folk singer, the born again preacher, the western hero and the rock star (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett).  To think of all these characters as one person, in one life is dizzying, in that it is both confusing and exhilarating.

I think that I'm Not There is one of the best biography films ever made, if not the best. It recognizes that his subject is not a single person, able to simplify into a recognizable pattern or plot. Rather, he is multiple people, a community, that should be represented by many characters. I think that there are many, many people like that-- on this forum, even-- who cannot be shoehorned into a stereotype, and to reduce them to a single storyline is to do injustice to their whole selves.

I love how this film incorporates fantasy of a self into the whole picture of who the man is or was. He is a hero of the West, a genius child performer, and these fantasies informed who he was in real life. They created a context for how he acted that "real life" couldn't explain.

The fact that the film is about Dylan isn't the point. Dylan is just a starting point. The real point is the complexity of every individual, the community of people that we all live with, the multiple personality disorder that we all control, or fail to control, in unique ways.

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