I'm Not There

Starring Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale. Directed by Todd Haynes
Running Time: 135 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate coarse language and sex scene).

I'm Not There is a very ambitious project. It states that it is based on the life and times of Bob Dylan.

Todd Haines has directed only a few films, but all of them somewhat offbeat, independent features including Safe, Savage Grace, Far From Heaven.

In constructing this film about the life and times of Dylan, he chooses six actors to portray the core of the singer's career and life. These include Marcus Carl-Franklin, a young African-American boy, as the youngest of the actors. He calls himself Woody Guthrie to give the link between Guthrie's songs and Bob Dylan's folk songs in the late 50s early 60s. It is a very strong performance. After that comes Ben Whishaw - who is seen throughout the film, in a black and white interview style. The criticism is of the young Dylan and of his whole life, especially his protest activities.

Christian Bale follows as the protest singer of the 1960s, the friend of Joan Byers (fictionalised and performed by Julianne Moore), who upsets people by his drinking, his un-thought-through answers at press conferences and awards. These are followed by apologies. However, there is a lot of criticism of Dylan and his protest songs and his songs of the earlier 60s. Later, Bale portrays a religious experience by Dylan and his conversion to a Pentecostal church. The next actor is Heath Ledger who portrays the singer in his acting career as well as his marriage. Charlotte Gainsbourg is the French wife, artist, mother of their children. It is in this period that the Vietnam War is strikingly presented, frequently as the characters watch television reportage.

The next character is Richard Gere portraying Billy the Kid, the character that Bob Dylan portrayed in Sam Peckinpah's 1973, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Pat Garrett was played in that film by Kris Kristofferson who does the overall narrative for this film.

The film is interesting in its presentation of Dylan by Cate Blanchett who won the actress award at Venice 2007. The androgynous Dylan is well portrayed by this actress, who does a strong impersonation as well carry the later part of the film. She portrays the Dylan who is under attack by audiences and fans, especially in his changing to electronic music which is seen as a betrayal.

Throughout the whole film there is a wide selection of Dylan's songs so that the film becomes an anthology of his music, sung in particular social settings, in the context of American politics and protest of the 20th century.

Out December 26

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.