It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that would classify itself as absurdist, but Rubber has more than made up for that that dry spell. The premise alone is enough to explain why sessions at this year’s MIFF quickly sold out (and a further session was added): Rubber concerns a homicidal, telekinetic car tyre. That’s right: an ordinary, abandoned car tyre that can make people’s heads explode just by… ah… thinking it.
Somewhat understandably, the film doesn’t determine that such a ridiculous premise should be treated seriously, and thus Rubber is extraordinarily self-referential, telling us more than once quite frankly that the narrative simply makes no sense. This postmodern approach has its pros and cons, and at first I couldn’t really decide if it made the film better or worse. It is cool that Rubber tells its story in an unconventional manner, but it also of course prevents us from getting truly involved with the characters. It encourages us to witness proceedings in a very detached manner.
Rubber is beautifully made, and Quentin Dupieux – who wrote, directed, edited, was the cinematographer and contributed to the music – clearly has an incredibly cinematic eye. The cinematography is stunning, and it’s a pity that it was all in aid of such a… barren film. I’d love to see what he could do as a hired gun, actually working on a genre piece written by somebody else, because it could be fantastic.
Dupieux, who has a musical career under the pseudonym “Mr Oizo”, has also been very clever and giving the antagonistic tyre life. More than once I found myself wondering just how they managed to make the tyre appear to move of its own volition. I’m sure there are some very simple techniques behind it, but rest assured that it’s quite impressive, and shows just how blinkered I’ve become since the rise of computer effects.
Rubber is entertaining, especially for those craving something truly different. As a one-off piece of oddball cinema, it hits the spot. There’s nothing quite like seeing a tyre so offended by the presence of a nearby rabbit that it vibrates until the rabbit explodes. It’s a pity, though, that the absurdity precludes any chance of the audience feeling for the characters, or indeed investing any emotion whatsoever in the film.
If Dupieux hadn’t drawn attention to the ludicrousness of the concept, the film might have been better off for it. As it stands, the film kind of feels like it’s laughing at it’s own joke, which really detracts from the experience.Rating: