Rubber, directed by Quentin Dupieux, is a weird and absurd twist on what could be called “horror.” The utterly ridiculous premise of a tire randomly coming to life to engage in a telepathically-fueled killing spree is goofy on its own, not to mention the addition of the on-screen audience creating a “movie-within-a-movie” sequence. In many ways, Rubber shares similar characteristics with sneaky horror films such as The cabin in the woods or Sharknado. In short, there was no real need for these films nor necessarily a want to for them. Yet why do not writing a story about crazed, power-hungry monsters controlling producers with unquenchable bloodlust? Why do not create an image of an impossible weather event full of ravenous grunts? Rubber takes this premise one step further by literally basing its entire existence on “no reason”. What makes this movie memorable – whether in a good or bad way, it’s all up to you – is this very ridiculous.
The ode to nihilism created by Dupieux is a call to forget reason; forget the fabric of what makes a movie “good” or “bad”. Forget your idea of what a movie is should be. Dupieux emphasizes this from the start of his opening scene. A police vehicle is seen driving towards the camera, navigating through an obstacle of chairs, only for an officer to emerge from the trunk to perform a bizarre monologue. He asks the audience a series of questions for which “no reason” is the answer. Continuing, he concludes by explaining that the upcoming film is a “tribute” to that same response. In short, reason has no place in cinema, just like life itself. On the contrary, each movie or show is just the imagination and muse of a particular person. Thus, the cinema should not need a reason to exist; just filming is. We need more work for no reason, devoid of rationality. This way, viewers can simply experience and enjoy the ridiculousness of nothingness.
If you haven’t seen Rubber, all you really need to understand about the film is its underlying thesis: the doctrine of “no reason”. Essentially, the film focuses on creating absurdity after absurdity. To begin with, a group of spectators are informed that they are going to watch a film. What movie? They have no idea. But, they will watch it with binoculars in the middle of a dessert. What unfolds next is a savage stock full of stupidity in the form of human carnage and poisoned turkey. The audience – including you – sees this seemingly random turn of events that leads to the ground producing a living tire with sentience and psychic powers. How? Never mind. Whether or not you understand these references, all you need to understand is that Dupieux makes little effort to create a smooth, continuous plot in this film. And that that’s what makes it a beautiful, albeit stupid, piece of work.
Now you’re probably wondering what Dupieux’s film means in the context of nihilism. If you are unfamiliar with the term, nihilism relates to the belief that life is meaningless, without any fundamental morals or standards. What can this concept do for cinema? Well, in short: everything. When you deconstruct a film and remove the pretentious elements – a director trying too hard to create a “masterpiece”, too many hidden “artistic” meanings, etc. – you end up with a blank slate to create with. With the concept of “no reason”, a writer is given free rein to experiment, to create something entirely new and groundbreaking. When you’re attached to the standard premise that cinematography should serve a purpose, you put yourself in a box – a very boring little box. Movies can be simple, they can be insane. Sometimes that’s exactly what a viewer is looking for. There doesn’t have to be an underlying question for everything.
If you want to watch Rubber artistically, take surrealism. Salvador Dali, one of the most renowned artists in the world, created paintings that made no sense. They lacked any logical perception, yet Dali was and is known as a revolutionary; a defining artist of his time. Surrealism and nihilism, in this respect, go hand in hand. These are the cousins we don’t talk about at the family party. They bring the drama and they’re damn good at it. What made surrealism such a massive movement? People needed to escape from the grand predecessors of art. The era of Impressionism and the Renaissance was over; the time of blissful ignorance was near and the viewers were thirsty this. Artistic expression is meant to be just that, an expression. Not a sentence, not a paragraph, not a detailed list with ten bulleted “why I did this” explanations.
Link this now to cinema and nihilism: the purpose of art and cinematography is that there is none. Of course there can be. But, if it all doesn’t make sense in the end, what’s the point? Why not just create something that you think represents you, whatever that something is? Dupieux does it masterfully in Rubber. This tire’s excursion into humanity and effortlessly breaking the fourth wall portrays this idea of uselessness. It’s a nice thing to be able to watch a movie and not have to formulate answers. Now how does he Rubber set a precedent for new and future films? What directors, producers and screenwriters should take away from Dupieux is simple: don’t overthink it. If there is a vision and the means to achieve it, then do it. In David Basseythe film, A ghost story, an earthbound spirit wanders through an empty house for an hour and a half. Similar to Rubber, this plot makes no sense in the grand scheme of things. But, is it entertaining? Is it a film in which the spectator can lose himself for the time of a spell? To move away from the banal to bask in this meaningless? Yes. And that is why the ideology of nihilism and cinema must coexist in harmony. Cinema is cinema. It’s all and nothing.
In his wonderfully insane film, Dupieux makes the biggest statement without saying anything. In conclusion, what today’s world of filmmaking desperately needs is a call to lose the frills. Lose the unnecessary elements that turn a film into a work that tries too hard to prove something. There doesn’t have to be a solution for every question or an ending for every event. Actually, that’s not really life, is it? There isn’t always a reason and sometimes there isn’t for anything. There are no pre-established guidelines for cinema, so why pretend there are? Again, what Dupieux’s wandering tire accentuates is the lure of nothingness. It is the choice to make art without borders; get lost in the absence of intelligence; create meaningless images “just because”. In the end, what you create serves no purpose other than to entertain or pass the time in this endless loop of dimensions and space. Separating reason from cinematography unveils a basis for undeveloped potential. Embracing a nihilistic mindset can lead to the birth of something entirely fresh and innovative. In this way, Dupieux sets the precedent of what the film could being and thus creates an open invitation to others to follow in his footsteps towards the “without reason”.
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