Nothing (film)

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An empty void with two men in the left hand corner
Theatrical poster
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Produced by Steve Hoban
Screenplay by
Story by
  • David Hewlett
  • Andrew Miller
Narrated by Maurice Dean Wint
Music by Michael Andrews
Cinematography Derek Rogers
Edited by Michele Conroy
49th Parallel Productions
Distributed by Alliance Atlantis
Release date
  • September 9, 2003 (2003-09-09) (TIFF)
  • December 7, 2004 (2004-12-07) (Canada)
  • April 29, 2010 (2010-04-29) (London Film Festival)
Running time
90 minutes
Country Canada
Language English

Nothing is a 2003 Canadian philosophical comedy-drama film directed by Vincenzo Natali. It stars David Hewlett and Andrew Miller.


The film tells the story of two good friends and housemates, Andrew, an agoraphobic travel agent, and Dave, a loser who works in an office. Dave is fired from his job after his girlfriend frames him for embezzlement, Andrew is falsely accused of attempted child molestation, and their house is to be demolished by day's end. Both of them hide inside the house as police, city officials, and outraged neighbors surround it. Dave and Andrew open their front door and discover that the entire world beyond their house is gone, replaced with a featureless white void.

Eventually, after a simple test reveals that the nothingness surrounding them holds a flat, featureless, and somewhat springy surface "like tofu", they set out across the empty plane in order to explore their new surroundings, leaving items behind as a means of getting back. After running out of items to leave as a trail, they lose track of their path. Wandering leads them to what appears to be another house, but they have simply wandered back home.

Panic begins to set in again when Andrew realizes that the house is completely out of food. Andrew glances around the room, eventually stopping and glaring at a noisy clock on the wall; within a few seconds it disappears. Andrew drops a stack of overdue bills in front of Dave, and within seconds the bills abruptly disappear. Dave puts one last theory to test, managing to hate away his need for food.

Dave still expresses some concern over Andrew's remaining phobias, questioning why the phobias still exist when there is nothing left to fear. Reluctantly, Andrew reveals that he was abused and tormented by his parents as a child. With some urging from Dave he hates away the memory of each traumatic childhood event as he recounts it; when he is finally done he is no longer phobic and much more confident in himself. Unfortunately this change alters Andrew's personality and leads to friction between the two friends, finally building into an outright confrontation. They decide they can no longer share the same house, and opt to determine who keeps it by playing a match of their favorite fighting game. Dave loses, and is exiled with his possessions to reside out in the nothingness.

Things become very tense with Dave's departure. Dave attempts to engage Andrew in conversation repeatedly, even performing the national anthem for his self-created nation (its borders marked by a line of his possessions), all to no avail. After several days Dave comes into Andrew's house much happier and explains his sudden change of mood: he has hated away his anger at Andrew; all Andrew needs to do is hate away his anger at Dave and things will be back to normal. Andrew refuses, quite content to be angry at Dave. Dave hates away his anger several times as Andrew rebuffs and outright insults him, but his patience finally wears thin, leading Dave to hate away one of Andrew's possessions. Andrew retaliates by hating away one of Dave's possessions, and the situation escalates until everything including the house is hated away.

Dave walks away, assuming the argument is finished, but falls over suddenly as his feet begin to disappear; Andrew is hating them away. He turns and retaliates, hating away Andrew's legs, and the situation escalates again until all that is left of the two are their disembodied heads. Refusing to give up the fight, Andrew and Dave manage to turn themselves and (by bouncing) charge at each other, headbutting each other repeatedly until they finally stop, exhausted. Their anger abated, Dave and Andrew make up, agree to be best friends again, and set off to explore the nothingness. As they bounce away into the white void they remark how they both had always thought that their bodies were somehow holding them back.

In a post-credits scene, an obviously older Dave and Andrew – still disembodied heads – are sleeping when they are awakened by a popping sound, followed by a loud clamoring of voices and noise. As the unseen source of the clamoring gets louder and closer the two scream.


Production notes[edit]

In an interview with Troy Riser of The Trades, director Vincenzo Natali described Nothing as "an experimental film" and called it "the comic flipside" of his earlier Cube. According to Natali, Cube and Nothing are the first two installments of "an informal trilogy of minimalist films," the third of which will be Echo Beach.[1]

Natali, who considers Nothing "a story about friendship" at its core, originally envisioned Stan the turtle as the film's narrator. Due to budget constraints, however, the idea of a talking turtle could not be realized. Natali also associated Stan with a metaphorical significance: "He's a turtle because that's what David and Andrew are -- creatures who carry their home on their back and hide from the world."[1]

In an email interview with Patrick Douglas of The Culture Shock, Natali attributed his desire to make Nothing to a fascination with the "notion of editing reality." He explained the decision to keep the leading actors' real names in the script as "Creative bankruptcy."[3]

David Hewlett, Andrew Miller and Natali grew up and went to high school together. In an interview with Ian Caddell of The Georgia Straight, Natali recalled how Hewlett and Miller had to enact many of the scenes in Nothing hanging from the ceiling on wires. But, he said, they enjoyed the abuse because they knew it could be the last opportunity the three would have to work together.[4] In an interview with Jason Anderson of Eye Weekly, Hewlett, describing the suspension apparatus as a 30-foot atomic wedgie, commented, "[Natali]'d hang us from the ceiling like puppets and literally place us where he wanted us." Miller spoke of similar hardships: "It was really ridiculous."[5]

Natali credited colleague Terry Gilliam as an influence to whom Nothing owes "a real debt."[6]

The film features Squigglevision-like scenes produced by Head Gear Animation.[7]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 50% of six surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6/10.[8]

Film critic Dan Schneider called Nothing "not a bad film", but "not good either", remarking that "its essential silliness and triviality are what keep this from reaching the existential level of a good The Twilight Zone episode, or something more akin to George Lucas's THX 1138." Schneider also criticized the soundtrack, arguing that "the film would have been much more effective if the music had suggested darker undertones." He concluded his review saying, "Nothing is one of those films that will stick with a viewer for a while, if only because it will leave scenarios open to be reworked in each viewer's mind."[9]


  1. ^ a b c Riser, Troy (21 October 2005). "ARTICLE Interview: Vincenzo Natali: Turtles All The Way Down". The Trades. Retrieved 10 April 2011. Actually, Stan's part was going to be much larger -- he was going to narrate the movie! But we didn't have enough money to build a talking turtle. Now, I think Stan really exists as a silent commentator, who observes these fools with amused detachment -- or at least that's what you project onto him when watching the movie. He's a turtle because that's what David and Andrew are -- creatures who carry their home on their back and hide from the world. 
  2. ^ "Vincenzo Natali Interview: Splice". Sky Movies HD. 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2011. A lot of people said 'you can never make a movie set solely in one room' and they may have been right, but I did Cube. I made a movie called Nothing with only two characters set in a void, but that's what makes it exciting. The possibililty of catastrophe is what makes making those movies so thrilling. 
  3. ^ Douglas, Patrick (1 May 2005). "'Nothing,' 'Cube' - Vincenzo Natali". The Culture Shock. Retrieved 10 April 2011. I became fascinated with this notion of editing reality. I think everyone does in their daily lives. We have to censor the vast amount of crap that's thrown at us, especially in this day and age. And we also edit ourselves and our memories to help define who we are. It's a very basic human process but I don't think there have been many films that have explored it. 
  4. ^ Caddell, Ian (22 July 2004). "Work With Old Friends Results in Nothing'". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 10 April 2011. Because the characters have to live inside a world that has no ground or sky, the actors had to spend much of the shooting schedule suspended from the ceiling on wires, with their environment, such as it was, added in postproduction. Natali said that Hewlett and Miller put up with the abuse because all three men, who have known each other since they were teenagers, realized that it could be their last opportunity to work together. 
  5. ^ Anderson, Jason (22 July 2004). "Nothing". Eye Weekly. Retrieved 10 April 2011. It can feel a little hellish to watch, too. Some critics at TIFF complained about having to spend time in the company of two crazed losers who bicker as if they were Waiting for Godot's Vladimir and Estragon with X-Box addictions. But Nothing is so playful and bizarre -- thanks in large part to the terrific effects by CORE Digital Pictures -- it needs that abrasive edge in order to stay grounded in more familiar human realities. What could've been an overextended comedy sketch turns out to be an incisive satire about cohabitation, deprivation and what people think they need in order to be happy. 
  6. ^ Stubbs, Phil (2005). "Vincenzo Natali on the making of Tideland". Dreams – The Terry Gilliam Fanzine. Retrieved 10 April 2011. Yes I have a new film called Nothing - which is a title that causes endless confusion. It was just released in Canada a few months ago. If there is a single film that I've done that owes a real debt to Terry, that's it actually. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Nothing Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 16, 2010. 
  9. ^ Schneider, Dan (29 November 2010). "Movie Review: Nothing (2003)". The Critical Critics. Retrieved 10 April 2011. But, whereas Cube seems rooted in a logic of its own, Nothing abandons all logic, and without at least an internal consistency (as example, they should rather easily be able to wish things back into existence by hating away the last several days that found them in the void. And with the knowledge of their situation, they should be able to hate away the females that did them in in the real world). 

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