I’m Not There as a Revisionist Biopic

Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is a revisionist biopic documenting the life of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan. Dylan is played by six different characters, each representing a different aspect of his life and social development. The film details important developments in Dylan’s life, from his protest politics in the 1960’s to his conversion to and proselytism of evangelical Christianity.

By creating multiple personas for the main characters, both Citizen Kane and I’m Not There examine the idea that personality and identity are subjective and socially constructed. Each film focuses on the concept of the “unknowability” of the character being examined. The life of Kane is conveyed by word-of-mouth from several people, presenting several different perspectives of Charles Kane, whereas Dylan’s life is portrayed by different characters, each having different personas. Each film makes it difficult for the viewer to determine a single set of characteristics that define the subject being examined, therefore leaving his persona to be constantly reconstructed and redefined.

Inception and Psychology

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a movie that deals with the implantation of and idea in one’s head through a series of dreams. The intention is that the idea will manifest, and the subject will believe it is his own. Inception is said to have many elements of Film Noir, but because of its production value and incorporation of modern themes, it is labeled a Revisionist, or Postmodern Film Noir. The plot deals with a man named Cobb that uses the tool of inception to access others’ dreams in an attempt to steal secrets. Cobb is a wanted man for cooperate espionage; he was also framed for the murder of his wife. Much of the film also deals with how the blur of fantasy and reality caused his wife to commit suicide.

Inception can be interpreted as dealing with the psychology of dreams, particularly Freudian psychology. It is mentioned several times that a subject of inception can not control his unconscious, characterized by the hostile “projections” in each dream. The concept of an unconscious mind that is unorganized and filled with fantasy is a central tenet to psychoanalysis. Another principle of Freudian psychology is that dreams are the manifestations of one’s deepest desires, comparable to the way Cobb keeps the idea of his wife inside his dreams as a way of coping with her death. The power of fantasy over the human mind is also examined, as Cobb is tempted to stay inside his dreams forever with his wife.

Marriage and Divorce in Intolerable Cruelty

The Coen Brothers’ film Intolerable Cruelty is a revisionist “screwball” comedy that, similarly to The Awful Truth, deals with the institution of marriage. The film details how a woman, Marilyn, marries men that are known philanderers and eventually divorces them in an attempt to seize their assets. She claims she is looking for independence, and money is only a means to her end. She and Miles Massey, a divorce lawyer that represented one of her ex-husbands, eventually get married, and she tricks him into signing a prenuptial agreement that would allow her to seize his assets. The film ends, after a great deal of turbulence, with Marilyn and Miles falling back in love while getting a divorce.

Much like traditional screwball comedies, Intolerable Cruelty is a critique of marriage and divorce, but from a different, cynical and ironic perspective. The film portrays several women that get married and divorce in an attempt to derive money and possessions from the marriage. This is perhaps a critique of the shallowness and materialism of American marriage and divorce. The main character of the film, Miles Massey, is a divorce lawyer that views love, marriage, and divorce as nothing more than events to make a profit from. He seemingly has a revelation that opens his eyes to “love” when he gives a speech at a conference, but it soon fades as he learns that Marilyn was only luring him into her trap.