The best novels have deeper themes lurking beneath the surface of their plots. In addition, as a local desert sheriff tells us in the opening beats of Rubber, “[a]ll great films, without exception, contain an important element of ‘no reason.'” Rubber astoundingly digs deeps for incredibly poignant themes while managing to also boil over with “no reason.”
On one level, Rubber is a film about a tire in the desert that gains sentience, psychokinetic powers and a taste for killing. On a second level, Rubber is itself a sentient film-within-a-film, where the unseen director gathers observers (“spectators”) to hang out in the desert and watch Tire’s journey of homicidal self-exploration. On a deeper level still, Rubber is a metaphor for the story of a man who, himself, gained sentience beyond the time he lived in, automobile titan Henry Ford. But on its deepest level, Rubber is a film that that absolutely and unapologetically lacks reason.
Henry Ford was born to a farmer and was expected to take over the family farm when he got older. But Ford discovered the joy of taking apart and putting back together a pocket watch and, with that, he realized that he was and could be more than a farmer. He could be the defining grandfather of cars. So, too, does Tire awake to realize that he is and can be more than a simple, discarded tire on the side of a desert road. Just as Ford led a life of progress culminating in the Model T and A, so do does Tire roll to a life full of bloodlust and lustlust, a life that culminates in his creation, perhaps, of the next major evolutionary advancement for creature-kind.
Tire’s journey is a complicated one that cannot be explained easily to one who does not sit through it, just as the Spectators in the film are forced to do. By creating this film within a film, writer/director Quentin Dupleux is clearly showing us his understanding that we can only learn from Ford’s example, from Tire’s example, by carefully watching. But it must be remembered, as the good Sheriff teaches, that good films not only have these heavy and important themes, but a good dose of “no reason.” This, Dupleux has taken to heart, for Rubber is a film practically devoid of reason. Dupleux’s genius, however, is in creating layors of his “no reason.” Things happen in Tire’s adventure for no reason. Things happen to the Spectators for no reason. And even the film itself, fundamentally, exists for no reason.
In conclusion, Ford himself once famously said: “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” Surely, this quote was in the forefront of Dupleux’s mind during his creation of Rubber, where we see Tire develop character and face seeming insurmountable setbacks, only to endure and roll onward.
This book report was brought to you thanks to the fucking New Orleans Saints. A friend and I were two of the last seven remaining participants in an NFL survivor pool, and we made a bet on who would last longer. He did, because the fucking New Orleans Saints lost at home to the Detroit Lions. Because the fucking New Orleans Saints are a bunch of fucking assholes.