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Film / I'm Not There

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"People are always talking about freedom. Freedom to live a certain way, without being kicked around. Course the more you live a certain way, the less it feels like freedom. Me, uhm, I can change during the course of a day. I wake and I'm one person, when I go to sleep I know for certain I'm somebody else. I don't know who I am most of the time. It's like you got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room. There's no telling what can happen."
Billy the Kid (closing narration)

I'm Not There is a 2007 biopic—sort of—based on the life and different personae of Bob Dylan. Directed by Todd Haynes, the film uses six different actors (one of whom is a woman) to portray him, all playing Dylan at different roles in his life.

  • Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a black 11-year old boy traveling across America trying to find his place. He represents Dylan's Mysterious Past and lies. His name comes from Dylan's idol of the same name.
  • Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) represents Dylan's folk era. Done in the style of a documentary looking back, this section chronicles Rollins' rise to fame and his ultimate disillusion with it. Jack later becomes Pastor John, showing Dylan's exploration into Christianity.
  • Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) is Dylan in his rock stage: abrasive, fragile, and drug-addicted. Haynes wanted the role to be played by a woman to capture Dylan's felineness in this period of his life.
  • Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger) is a film star that plays Jack Rollins in the film Grain of Sand. However, this section focuses mainly on his relationship with Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). He displays Dylan's attitude in relationships and his misogyny.
  • Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) is an outlaw in the bush - the little town of Riddle. He represents Dylan in our times.
  • Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) seems to be in a court scene. Not really having a storyline of his own, he pops in and out throughout the film with small sections of script, mostly actual Dylan quotes. Named for the poet.

This film provides examples of:

  • Titled After the Song: A previously-unreleased Dylan tune that—until this movie—existed only in bootleg form.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Woody in particular, but practically the whole movie counts as one.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The movie understandably is loaded with Bob Dylan references, some more subtle than others. It takes an absolute expert to get them all.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: The movie portrays all interpretations of Dylan's music as this.