My recent post about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty got me started thinking about another movie that made me want to visit Iceland. The older movie No Such Thing showcased that country’s stark beauty, juxtaposed with the strangely compelling nature of the the monster at its heart. Mostly sea, sky, and bleak landscapes, the scenery nonetheless beckoned to this wanderlust struck viewer. As did the story of lovely young journalist Beatrice and the monster she set off to find.
Her boyfriend had travelled to Iceland to seek out a monster of vicious repute for a story, and never returned. So brave Beatrice wins the permission of The Boss, played with reptilian cunning by the always fabulous Helen Mirren, to go on her own personal monster quest and bring back a sensational story. Was the monster real? What did it do to her boyfriend? What might it do to her?
No Such Thing takes us on Beatrice’s journey. Or does it? I’ve never been sure. I watched her go to Iceland, with considerable difficulty, and track down The Monster. He’s…shall we say…cranky. With good reason. Turns out he’s pretty ugly with a dash of dashing potential, sports horns in the expected places, and hair that could use some work. He’s also illtempered, downright evil, murderous, and very, very jaded. Immortality sucks, after enough time is more than enough.
After much posturing and threats to kill a strangely unafraid Beatrice, The Monster strikes a deal. He’ll tell her what she wants to know, if she kills him. They don’t meet cute. They certainly don’t act cute. Yet, somehow they’re mesmerizing together. A little bit Buffy and Angel, a lot Beauty and the Beast, they’re a surreally charming train wreck waiting to happen.
And happen it does.
This is where I lose my confidence that I’m sure what the movie is really about. It takes a road and a road not taken… I think…almost simultaneously… I think.
It’s revealed that Beatrice is in a terrible plane crash on her way to see The Monster. In hindsight, she would have been safer taking Air Yellow Brick Road. She’s paralyzed and only an excruciatingly painful procedure offers any chance of recovery. She chooses to torture herself with the procedure, in hope of a normal life.
In more monsterness we learn she’s brought him back to civilization with her. The Boss has him dressed up in a well cut suit and plans a big shocking reveal that he’s real. He’s miserable, but charming about it, in a curmudgeonly monstery kind of way. Beatrice is the go between and, hating his misery, eventually helps him find the one scientist who can end his wretchedly immortal existence.
After much intrigue and rigmarole, The Monster lies hooked up to the equally monstrous machine that will end him at last. Beatrice gazes mournfully into his tortured yet grateful features, as colored lights flash, and are reflected onto her own tight features. Or are they?
Here’s where I either go completely off the comprehension rails, or figure the thing out. I think the way the scene cuts back and forth between The Monster’s demise and her pain indicates that she never got to the oddly industrial building The Monster called home. Instead, her miraculous survival of the plane crash circumvented the rest of her quest and all we knew of The Monster was created by her mind to enable her to survive the procedure.
I’ve never come across anything to confirm or contradict my conclusion. That’s okay with me, because in spite of all the confusion and convoluted maze of a plot, I loved No Such Thing. Adored it, even though I have no idea if I actually understood it. I don’t know if that says more about the cinematic telling of a monster story or my reaction as a movie-goer. What it does for certain is highlight the collaborative nature of movie watching. I got from it what I got from it, regardless of what the people who made it intended. It was an awesome movie watching experience, and that’s the goal from both sides of the screen.
No Such Thing Trailer