Cube (1997) is one of the few films that as soon as it was over I just had to see it again. It wasn't due to the "ambiguous" ending or the various twists of the film's plot, but instead was the feeling that I had seen something special. I know that the film has a couple of sequels, or prequels, or whatever, but those have little to do with the draw of Cube itself. Namely the unique vision of first-time director Vincenzo Natali. In Cube, which Natali also wrote, he created a formula that drew us in, revealing just enough background information to whet our appetites, threw us a couple of curveballs and then let us make up our own minds about the ending. While some felt cheated by Cube's ending they can all agree that it certainly wasn't your typical Hollywood blockbuster.
That's because Natali isn't your typical Hollywood director, instead hailing from Canada where a thriving film community looks out for each other along with prodigious government support insuring that films like Cube will continue to be made without considerations of box-office revenue or marquee names. Sadly, I missed Natali's sophomore effort Cypher which was a smart, sci-fi story reminiscent of Phillip K. Dick's work and seems to have generated several favorable reviews, including one here on this very site (Click here to read the review). However, I am happy to say that I've just finished watching his third film Nothing (2003) and, like Cube, my reaction once it ended was to just watch it all over again.
Nothing begins with a hilarious credit sequence which does a great job of setting up our protagonists, Dave (Cube's David Hewlitt) and Andrew (Cube's Andrew Miller), two characters so eccentric and unlikable that they actually become endearing to us in their own special way. Dave is the consummate narcissist, the guy who thinks he's being given a promotion when he's really being fired, the one who thinks he has the world on a string, but doesn't realize someone's cut the cord. The only one who can even stand him, much less be friends with him is his roommate Andrew, an agoraphobic and emotional wreck who relies on Dave as his sole lifeline to the outside world.
So, of course when things really start to go south for these two "lovable losers," through a series of unfortunate events and creative misunderstandings, the world as they know it is about to end. Dave is fired from his job, Andrew's house is scheduled to be demolished and they're each facing serious jail time for crimes that they did not commit. With so many things working against them on top of the already dark feelings they harbor towards the world in general, their combined hatred causes something amazing to happen… everything goes away and they are left with nothing. Ok, not "nothing" exactly, they're house and belongings are still with them, but they now exist within a squishy white world of pure nothing.
Are they insane? Are they dead? As Dave points out, how can they be dead when they still have cable? I'm not sure what two other characters would have been like under similar circumstances, but watching these two explore their new surroundings is a blast. Like intrepid explorers setting out on an expedition, they try to prepare for every conceivable obstacle, only to be met by more nothing. Apparently, nothingness looks, feels and bounces like tofu... which, ironically, tastes like nothing. Once they discover that they no longer need food (they can simply "hate" their hunger away), the duo proceed to actually enjoy their new found state of bliss… while it lasts.
Like all good things, everything must come to an end or as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Eventually the two, with nothing but each other begin to ask questions about their lives and the way they've lived them and what they could have done to be better people. Gradually Andrew develops a newfound sense of confidence, while Dave begins to wallow even more in the shallow pit of his own self-worth. Soon the two are at odds with one another, hating away everything the other person holds dear until there is literally nothing left. While this probably all sounds rather grim, Natali handles things with a light touch and the actor's chemistry keeps this firmly on comic ground.
Whereas Cube was unrelentingly dark and horrific in just so many ways, Nothing is like the comic version of Cube's initial conceit. Two men find themselves in a situation that they must first assess and then deal with, but in Nothing's case, there's no threat to the characters other than themselves. It's certainly an interesting idea and I love Natali's take on it, where as another director could have amped up the philosophical ramifications of the situation or the horrific aspects of it, Natali is happy to make an exceedingly weird, entertaining comedy.
Picture: Nothing is presented in a 16:9 widescreen presentation that looks great so long as you keep in mind that a majority of the film is simply two characters situated on a blank white background.
Audio: There are a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track and a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track present, along with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The 5.1 surround track sounds great, which is important since the movie is dialogue heavy along with some catchy original tunes by star Miller.
Extras: The Extra Features on this DVD include a commentary track by director Vincenzo Natali, producer Steve Hoban, visual effects producer Bob Munroe, cinematographer Derek Rogers and editor Michele Conroy, as well as a "Making of" featurette and trailer gallery.
Conclusion: After seeing Nothing for the third (Yes, I said third) time, I really wish I had a copy of Cypher handy so that I could see firsthand if Natali pulled off the amazing hat-trick that I'm giving him credit for. I can only hope for the same level of quality from his two upcoming projects, but feel that they're a mixed bag with Necropolis scripted by the hack Paul W.S. Anderson and High Rise which Natali adapted from notorious cult author J.G. Ballard. Before I forget, I also need to mention that both Hewitt and Miller put in excellent performances and I'm glad to see their continued collaboration with Natali. For something decidedly different, Nothing comes Highly Recommended.