In Praise of Nothing Review
When you try to think about nothing you are only able to conjure up something. Told to do nothing and as long as you are breathing (sometimes it’s worth checking) you are still doing something. Science tells us the universe came from nothing and yet particles, gravity and the laws of physics appear to be present everywhere mankind has searched so far. So does nothing even exist?
According to director Boris Mitic, it does. Although we never would’ve guessed it sounds like Iggy Pop. The elastic skinned rocker gives voice to the character of Nothing in a satirical documentary about the subject. Which means it is about something, but that something is nothing. If that makes sense. You’ll be hard pressed to find a stranger documentary released in this or any other year, although it's an idea better suited to a short film and one barely worth stretching across 80 minutes.
Over the course of eight years, Mitic gathered together a series of images from 62 cinematographers spread across 70 countries (although it appears only eight made the final cut), each one capturing what they believe crystallises the idea of nothing. As pictures of random locations pass by one by one title cards occasionally appear to shape the narrative of Nothing introducing itself, speaking its mind and then exiting stage left.
All the while Iggy reels off light-hearted four line stanzas ruminating on human existence which appear to be as random as the images appearing onscreen. From gaudy neon signs to immaculately curved golden sand dunes the photography is eye-catching but not enough to block out the inane poetry. The rhyming couplets are spoken in a child-like manner by Iggy’s unmistakable drawl and are neither amusing or insightful. It’s reminiscent of the moment a comedian announces they are closing out a set with a funny song. You're best served heading back to the car and driving home.
Even though Mitic isn’t taking his own idea too seriously there is something a little smug about the entire conceit of the film. The constant stream of poetry asks us to laugh at our own seriousness and ego as Nothing scoffs at the importance we place on our Earth-bound existence. Except the writing isn’t quite as sharp and cutting as it insists despite Iggy’s playful attempts to keep us involved with his cadence.
Mitic has something of a reputation in his home country of Serbia for his mischievousness and this film builds on the work started in his last documentary, Goodbye, How Are You? Then it was aphorisms pegging together his easy-going philosophies on life and now he depends on Nothing to provide context to his musings. We learn from young that something is better than nothing but Mitic over delivers on the latter with disappointing results.