Rubber (2010): A Lesson in Absurdity

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Rubber (2010): A Lesson in Absurdity

Simon “4” Li and Jonah Ruddock

Photo credit: Rotten Tomatoes

With Halloween season upon us, we are all gearing up with our favorite horror movies. If you’re looking for something strange, fun, and unpredictable, the award-winning 2010 film Rubber, dir. Quentin Dupieux, is perfect for you. It follows the tale of a tire with the opportune combination of anger management issues, homicidal urges, and psychokinesis. Referenced in such great works as the “It’s 4” article (East Side News, issue 3), this satirical horror film has captured the hearts of (mostly) everyone who has dared to venture through.

Rubber operates on the principles of coincidence and illogic, much the way reality does. What Albert Camus calls “the absurd” (the tension created by the absence of reason within our universe and man’s innate curiosity and desire for reason) is thus fully at work here. As Lieutenant Chad (Stepen Spinella) puts it in his opening speech, “Life itself is full of no reason.” Strikingly bizarre from the offset, the movie’s first scene is of a clerk laden with dozens of pairs of binoculars, which he carries by the strings like bags of groceries. He watches an approaching car slowly knock over a cluster of randomly arranged chairs, and when the car stops, the lieutenant emerges from the trunk and begins his monologue.

The camera then turns to reveal a throng of spectators, whom Lt. Chad is addressing. In a meta twist, the clerk gives them the binoculars to watch the “movie.” Essentially, we are watching the spectators watch the movie. It is then that the real movie begins. 

Our flawless protagonist, the heartthrob Robert the tire, is introduced. Slowly waking up from the desert sands, Robert gains consciousness in a process still unknown to us viewers. It quickly learns how to walk (rather, roll–crushing all obstacles along its path) until it meets its match: a glass bottle. Does Robert solve this in a calm, resolved, peaceful manner? Absolutely not. It destroys the bottle, blowing it up with its newly discovered telekinesis. (Aww, they grow up so fast.) The rest of the movie is focused on Robert’s murderous odyssey, with its twists and turns including the unreciprocated yearning of a tire for a human woman, mass poisoning, and one death-defying guy in a wheelchair.

Much of the story takes place in the deadened landscape of the California desert, which may be a reference to the setting of Camus’s The Stranger, where the protagonist murders a man for no reason other than the glare of the sun. The stillness there, and the sparseness of the film’s score, adds to the tension between fiction and reality. For long stretches of Rubber, it does not feel like a movie at all. Everything, even the explosions of blood after Robert makes a kill, starts to feel mundane. 

What makes this film so enjoyable is its unabashed originality. While other movies seem to be concerned with making their stories at least somewhat plausible, Rubber does not bother with this, making it appealing only to audiences willing to commit to a suspension of disbelief. For those that comply, it has more to offer than the story of a tire’s bloodthirsty rampage. It asks its viewers a deeper question: does a movie have to make sense to be considered great? 

Final Verdict

We give this movie 4 out of 4 tires. “It almost feels like an out-of-body experience; a higher plane of reality was achieved,” says Jonah Li (not to be confused with either of the co-authors Jonah Ruddock or Simon Li). We highly recommend this film to anyone and everyone above the age of four. 

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