Toto the Hero
|Toto the Hero|
|Directed by||Jaco Van Dormael
|Produced by||Dany Geys
|Written by||Didier De Neck
Jaco Van Dormael
Jo De Backer
|Music by||Pierre van Dormael|
|Cinematography||Walther van den Ende|
|Edited by||Susana Rossberg|
|Country||Belgium, France, Germany|
Ostensibly set in the near future, the film tells the life story of an elderly man named Thomas Van Hazebrouck (who has dubbed himself Toto, after a childhood fantasy), looking back on his ordinary, apparently uneventful life in a complex mosaic of flashbacks, interspersed with fantasies about how events might have turned out differently. It is not always possible to tell the difference between embellished or manufactured memories and fantasies, as Thomas is a very unreliable narrator, but some scenes (such as the narrative thread that features Toto as a secret agent) are definitely fantasized.
Thomas firmly believes his life to have been "stolen" from him by Alfred Kant, born at the same time as Thomas, who Thomas believes was inadvertently switched with himself as a baby (characteristically, the film remains ambiguous as to whether this substitution ever actually happened, with Thomas' only substantiation being his apparent vivid memory of the day he was born). Thomas' jealousy of Alfred has overshadowed all his life, often with tragic consequences for his loved ones, and he is plotting revenge. Throughout most of the film, his intended revenge takes the shape of a plot to kill Alfred, but in the end Thomas finds a more creative and surprising way to "take back" his life.
The film's structure is unusual especially in its complex treatment of time, with multithreaded flashbacks and dream sequences arranged according to a complicated, childlike logic in which events at different times are seen to mirror or echo earlier or later events, sometimes obviously and sometimes so subtly that it can only be discerned after repeated viewing.
A characteristic example occurs in the scene where Thomas and Alfred are switched: While the fire breaks out in the maternity ward, the television set coincidentally also shows a fire breaking out (an apparent echo in real time). Later in the film, the fire breaking out on the television turns out to be the same fire in which Thomas' sister Alice is accidentally killed (an echo across time).
The complex temporal structure of the film has been compared with other films that use nonlinear and parallel treatments of time, such as Run Lola Run, but Toto le Héros is exceptional in the degree to which this technique is carried, with scenes at the same time flashing back and flashing forward to other scenes, and sometimes even with the same scene apparently incorporating events from different timelines or different points on the same timeline.
Paramount Pictures has yet to announce any plans to release the film onto DVD in North America. It is available on DVD in the UK and mainland Europe.
- Michel Bouquet as Thomas (old man)
- Jo De Backer as Thomas (adult)
- Thomas Godet as Thomas (child)
- Gisela Uhlen as Evelyne (old woman)
- Mireille Perrier as Evelyne (young woman)
- Sandrine Blancke as Alice
- Michel Robin as Alfred (old's voice)
- Peter Böhlke as Alfred (old man)
- Didier Ferney as Alfred (adult)
- Hugo Harold Harrison as Alfred (child)
- Fabienne Loriaux as Thomas' Mother
- Klaus Schindler as Thomas' Father
- Pascal Duquenne as Celestin (adult)
- Karim Moussati as Celestin (child)
- Didier De Neck as Mr. Kant
- Christine Smeysters as Mrs. Kant