The Death & Life of Otto Bloom (2016)

201 Otto Bloom

One sign that a film is worth watching is if it makes you think about things you have not thought of before. They do not need to be happy, sad, clever, or silly thoughts; just ideas triggered by cinematic art. If you go along with its highly unusual central premise, The Death and Life of Otto Bloom (2017) can mess with your mind long after viewing.

The narrator of this Australian mockumentary is Ada (Rachel Ward), a neuropsychologist who speaks-to-camera about how she came to know the strange young man Otto Bloom (Xavier Samuel). He appeared out of nowhere without memory of who he was, where he was from, or how he found himself in a homeless shelter. After many hours of recorded interviews, she stumbles onto the realisation that Otto’s memory is of the future: he cannot remember what happened seconds earlier, but he can tell her what is about to happen. Unnervingly, he seems to know or sense things about Ada as if his future memories included her. When he can no longer stay at the shelter, the divorcee Ada offers a room in her big house and they soon become lovers. She publishes an article on his unique condition and he becomes an international celebrity. With time unfolding in different directions for each of them, their temporal overlap soon runs out. She remains the narrator-from-afar, confiding of her love for Otto the artist, poet, and motivational speaker, who moved between relationships as his celebrity stardom rose and fell.

The doco-drama format makes it possible to present a variety of multi-media segments that give credibility and linear simplicity. These include numerous interviews, newspaper clippings, archival footage, home movies, and re-enactments that convincingly appear to study a real person in history. Scientific and medical specialists attest to the theoretical plausibility of time inversion and explore its implications for humankind. Einstein is cited for the idea that time is an artificial human construct that obscures a deeper understanding of its innate multi-dimensionality. In pseudo-philosophical terms, if time is not sequential and forward-moving, then death is not necessarily the end of time.

The tantalising inscrutability of time continues to fascinate filmmakers and audiences alike. If cinematic conceits like time travel and time inversion are nonsense for you, do not bother with this film. But if you enjoy being teased with possible new ways of looking at time, this film will certainly do it. For a low-budget effort, this cleverly made film has many surprising twists and turns that are thought provoking and entertaining.

3-half

Director:  Chris Jones

Stars:  Rachel Ward, Xavier Samuel, Matilda Brown

An Australian production

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