Have you ever seen a self-reflective and existentialistic film about a car tire on killer tour? No? Well here’s your chance, because Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber is exactly that. Robert, the tire, suddenly becomes aware of itself in the middle of the desert. Why? No reason. Looking for companionship but driven by hatred he decides to simply blow up stuff, animals and people.
Dupieux, also known as the music artist Mr Oizo, could have gone for a simplistic horror-like story about the above, but he chose to do more with the concept. He uses the idea of a tire come to life as a reflection on film itself and on the absurdities that audiences take for granted in filmic storytelling. In Rubber everything really happens without reason, but this premise has an extra layer around it. It is portrayed by a group of spectators with binoculars following the tire killing people as if they were watching a movie, commenting on the logics of its every move. The people in the story of the tire want to get rid of their audience though, so they can be done with the ridiculousness of their situation.
These absurdities are supported by the existentialism of Robert trying to figure out what its purpose in life is and what it (he?) is supposed to be. It should be quite a task to animate a tire in such a way that it becomes a believable character in a film, but Dupieux pulled it off just right. Even though Robert is really nothing more than a round, rubber and grooved object, its contentment after blowing up a bunny rabbit with its telekinetic powers shows as if it were human. Dupieux proves that you don’t need a smile to express happiness. In the end, the protagonist, if it can be described as such, seems to create its own road in life to leave skid marks on.
Dupieux also proves that he is more than a music artist. His directing skills show in the shots where the tire is followed on ground level through the desert landscapes. There is a constant flow of movement while the camera follows Robert rolling over rocks and sandbanks. This movement reaches continuity provided by the editing, which makes use of several jump cuts to mark headway through the planes. Dupieux took on the role of writer, director, cinematographer and editor, so he almost made the film his own from start to end. He gained freedom in shooting by using the lightweight Canon 5D, which required little set up for a particular shot.
Rubber could have been a simple cult and pulp film about the tire blowing up stuff and that would probably have been a lot of fun too. It might even have appealed to a bigger audience, but the film ended up being much more artistic than simplistic horror based on an original idea. Dupieux, inspired by Spielberg’s Duel, shows not only that he understands the cinematographic side of filmmaking, he also expresses knowledge in the art of storytelling. Not by telling a great story per se, but by commenting on the frequent absurdities of it. He himself claims that he just started writing and that the self-reflective nature of his film is mainly unintentional. Who knows, he might even be laughing at all the interpretations made in reviews. Even so, his film is very amusing untill the end.