Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Scene 46: Review, Nothing

I've been managed to watch quite a few films this last weekend, and out of all of them, I decided to review this one, Nothing (2003), because it is the weirdest film I have ever seen. Directed by Vincenzo Natali, who also directed the cult film Cube (1997) and Splice (2009), and starring two of his friends from school, Andrew Miller and David Hewlett. 

Nothing is a film about two guys who are having the worst day of their lives. Both are in trouble with the police, their home is about to be knocked down and a huge crowd are baying for their blood. However, just when it looks like they're doomed to be dragged away by the cops or killed in the demolition of their house - having hidden inside -  suddenly  all the noise and commotion outside stops. They go out and look to see what's happened and find...nothing. Just a big empty, white void. 

I thought the film felt slightly familiar as I watched it, to a certain type of film that seems to have developed in the recent decade, which involves slack-eqsue, nerdy, socially awkward protagonists who encounter something extraordinary. It particularly felt akin to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movies. In those films too, you have two geeky friends who have to cope with a load of weirdest – in particular the scenes of Dave and Andrew playing computer games reminded me of Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Spaced, and the samurai sword that Dave welds also reminded me of Paul. 

However, the relationship dynamic between Andrew and Dave is quite different, and is allowed to be more deeply explored. The film has room to do this, because unlike in the Pegg/Frost films, once we reach nothing in Nothing, we only have Andrew and Dave. There are no extra characters that require having attention and development - no girlfriends to win over, no family to impress, no outside antagonists.

The other big different is that both Paul and Shaun of the Dead played on genres and cliches. Whilst the concept behind Nothing is just really, really original. I've noticed that Vincenzo Natali has a good knack of keeping his audiences intrigued - Cube is a brilliant idea and Splice, though less original, still pulled me and kept me watching and wanting to know - and Nothing is the same, you just want to know what's going on and how its going to end. 

The film isn't perfect of course, some of the jokes are hit and miss and there's a running sequence in the void that goes on for far too long. 

The production values on though are good. The interior of the house is a particular triumph. Covered in great swathes of paper and clutter, to the point of being almost surreally messy, it absolutely filled with details and I personally think the team who had to stick all those posters and pieces of paper onto the set should be given a worthy mention – it must have taken ages.

The white nothingness outside does feel a little enclosed rather than vast, but that's probably due to the fact that's been obviously shot in a studio, and that the actors voices echo. However I did like the idea that floor was bouncy, and though it looks white, is shown to be actually transparent. The CGI is acceptable, though not incredibly realistic compared to the type of CGI we can achieve now. Whether that is due to the fact the film was shot in 2003, or because of the film's budget, I don't know. Nonetheless, the 'pooling' or 'stripping' away affect of bits and pieces throughout the film, is rather good.

The film also uses some fancy editing, in a sequence where Andrew and Dave go exploring and in a scene where they dual on a boxing computer game. Both sequences work well, especially the fast pacing, whirling affect of the editing during the computer game boxing match, which made the scene funnier and more exciting than a more conventional, slower cut would have. 

In summary, like a good sci-fi story Nothing gives you a fascinating concept, plays with it for a while, and then ends in a strange way, that is satisfactory but still open enough to leave you wondering. 

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