I’m Not There – The Bob Dylan Biopic

The new movie, “I’m Not There”, directed by Todd Haynes, features six different actors portraying legendary musician Bob Dylan, during different times of his long and interesting career in the music industry. In the movie none of the six actors are actually playing Bob Dylan. They play fictitious characters with each of them acting out a time period of Bob Dylan’s life in a blend of fact and fiction.

The movie is seen as an attempt to portray how a person’s character can develop, and even change completely, due to outside influences and inner conflicts. Using different actors for the different “Dylans” effectively portrays the many changes the musician has undergone in his lifetime. The common thread through the movie is Dylan’s developing notion that his fans expect him to continue trying to change the world through his songs, something which he believes is not possible, resulting in unhappiness for Dylan and his fans.

African-American Markus Carl Franklin plays a youthful Bob Dylan, who was highly influenced by the music of Woody Guthrie. It is generally agreed that Franklin plays the part effectively with one of the memorable scenes being him playing a version of “When the Ship Comes In” in a suburban living room surrounded by an awe-struck white family.

Cate Blanchett has been haled as the most convincing of the characters with her portrayal of Dylan at the height of his fame in the mid-60s – a time of drug-taking and celebrities. One scene in the movie has him/her wrestling around with the Beatles in a scene which may be a reference to the rocky relationship between Dylan and the “fabulous four”. There is also a scene with Dylan meeting Brian Jones at a party and referring to the Rolling Stones as a “covers band”.

Ben Wisham makes a brief appearance representing Dylan the poet. Heath Ledger plays an anxious Dylan at a time in his life when his marriage was collapsing. Christian Bale portrays Dylan as the protester who, for a time in the late 70s, became a born-again evangelizer. Richard Gere takes on the role of Bob Dylan when he made his first appearance as an actor in the movie “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid”, filmed in 1973.

The preview of “I’m Not There” has met with mixed reactions from critics, with the general view being that this portrayal of the many facets of Bob Dylan’s life has some value if viewed as experimental cinema.