The Death And Life Of Otto Bloom Is An Unusual New Australian Story
Otto Bloom is an enigma.
Found by a policeman with no ID, no memory and no history of his existence, Otto is studied by neuroscientist Ada without much success, until Otto tells her that he comes from the future. But The Death And Life Of Otto Bloom isn’t a time travel story. Otto hasn’t merely travelled back in time and arrived in our present; he’s continually travelling backwards through time. His consciousness moves in the opposite direction to the rest of us.
Presented as faux-documentary, the film allows us to hear from Ada (played in her present version by the excellent Rachel Ward) as well as a philosopher (Jacek Koman), a physicist (John Gaden) and the aforementioned detective (Terry Camilleri), each with their own ideas and theories on Otto’s experience and condition, and follow Ada’s experiences living with and falling in love with him.
But it all gets a little too Forrest Gump in parts – Otto becomes a famous artist, then a more famous inspirational speaker, and dates the world’s biggest pop star. The documentary format has the characters telegraph the story and subtextual themes rather than allowing us to experience their nuances, and the stellar cast is criminally underutilised in this format. Otto is presented as an enigmatic, insightful, mysterious character, but we only know this because we’re told as much. Unfortunately, on screen – even with an effortful performance by Xavier Samuel – he fails to reach these heights.
At its heart, however, this film is a love story, with Ada at the centre. Director Cris Jones presents some new ideas on consciousness and experience in a quirky and often insightful way, but while The Death And Life Of Otto Bloom is an enjoyable watch, it never fully grabs you.