Vincenzo Natali likes to make films that each come with conceptual physical limitations. Cube entirely took place on a single set, which was merely lit in different ways to suggest different rooms, while his earlier short film Elevated (1997) was a monster movie that took place in an elevator. Natali goes one even further with Nothing, which takes place in a blank white void and comes without any sets whatsoever (excepting that of a house). It may well be that Natali was inspired by George Lucass THX 1138 (1971) where the middle of the film similarly took place in a prison that consisted of a featureless and shadowless white-on-white void. That perhaps and the amusing Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Remember Me (1990) where Dr Crushers world suddenly starts disappearing.
Of course, a film that takes place in a void of nothing and has only two characters (apart from one or two minor characters that appear in the first few minutes) is limited in being able to tell a dramatic story. To his credit, Vincenzo Natali manages to do so and to create a story that is constantly fascinating and conceptually challenging. Certainly, there are times Natali has had to employ various visual tricks cut-up frames, super wide-angles, shots from underneath the void and even a pie-cut frame just to add some variety to the monotony of the visual scheme. On the other hand, the visual sameness leads to a number of hilarious sequences like the image of David Hewlett trying to sneak up on the presumed intruders in the house while attempting to seek cover in an entirely featureless white void. The film manages to get far more out of the basic concept than one might think and there is a conceptual ingenuity to the scenes of the two exploring the void. The basic concept gets a rigorous workout and Nothing starts to get into some fascinating territory during the last third when it has the two hating away things and then engaged in a war with one another.
Nothing is certainly a good deal lighter than Vincenzo Natalis two previous films. It has been construed as an offbeat slacker comedy of sorts. The opening, for instance, comes with a long preamble of title cards: The events portrayed in this motion picture are true/Once again, and it cannot be stressed enough, it is vitally important to understand that every single thing in this movie is true/Totally and completely true. There is an equal quirkiness to the depictions of the real world the Toronto skyline and the block of apartments where David Hewletts girlfriend lives are both photographic collages rather than real buildings. There are certainly times that you get the impression that Natali does not like his two central characters and the film often feels like a conte cruel arranged against them. There is an undeniably likeable eccentricity to Nothing. The last third features some demented images with the two squabbling and wishing at first objects and then bits of the house and then each others body parts away until the two of them are reduced to two disembodied heads bouncing around in the void. The ending with the two heads hopping off into nowhere followed by the turtle is delightful, although for those who watch all the way past the credits to the very end there is a baffling coda set ten years later where the two heads are still bouncing about, bearded and bedraggled, and then the void is suddenly invaded by a herd of elephant noises.
(Winner for Best Original Screenplay at this sites Best of 2003 Awards).