Rubber Johnny doesn’t cease to amaze and that is down to Chris Cunningham. When it comes to film-directing, few beat him. His works live on as attested by Rubber Johnny, a six-minute film by Cunningham shot back in 2005.
Synopsis and History
Rubber Johnny is a boy with bizarre skills that terrify his caregivers. As a result, he is kept locked in a basement due to his unusual ability to contort himself into unnatural positions. With nothing but a pitiful pet dog and his vivid imagination, he does his best to find happiness within his limited world. The amazing video is collaboration between Cunningham and Aphex Twin. The films name, Rubber Johnny, is a British slang for condom.
The Rubber Johnny idea is derived from Cunningham’s imagination of a dancing raver morphing. Building on the idea, he arrived at the present film. Johnny is an isolated mutant teenager. He is locked in a dark basement and is confined to a wheelchair. The film was intended to be a 30-second commercial on TV but being impressive, Cunningham decided to expand it. It was partially shot in infrared night vision using digital video. Johnny is played by Cunningham. It is accompanied by a 42-page compilation of photographs and drawings.
Rubber Johnny Plot Overview
As it starts, Johnny is seen being interviewed by a man who is presumably a doctor. Johnny is disoriented and and babbles in an incomprehensible manner. At one point, he is heard twice calling “mama”. He is asked by the interviewer if he would like to see his mother. Johnny is clearly anxious as evidenced by his erratic breathing. He is told by the man that he will be given an injection to calm him down.
A fluorescent light that is blinking is then seen. A mouse is also seen crawling. “Rubber Johnny”, the film title, is shown written on a condom that is being pulled off a penis in a backward-playing scene.
The first time Johnny is seen; he is seated in his wheelchair and is leaning backwards. His otherwise oversized head hangs over the back of the wheelchair. He mutters the word “Aphex” in a distorted manner. At this point in time, the Aphex Twin track begins. Immediately, Johnny begins following it rhythmically while his pet dog is watching. He is seen performing awesome balancing tricks using his wheelchair. At the same time, he is also reflecting beautiful light beams using his hands.
This continues for a while; say a minute, after which the door opens. A man who would pass for his father appears and interrupts him. It appears that Johnny is no longer in his delusion as he is seen sitting upright in his wheelchair. The man opens the room’s door and yells clumsily at Johnny before slamming the door.
After this, a long line of whitish powder appears and Johnny is seen inhaling it. The music gets out of rhythm compared to the previous tune. It is spasmodic and difficult to follow or dance to. In an attempt to avoid the white light beams, Johnny hides behind the door.
Later, Johnny’s face gets smashed into a piece of glass at high speed as he thrusts himself on the see-through glass. The camera has been shifted to the other side of the previous view. Some innards and the elastic skin are seen flattening onto the glass. This visual effect was done using prosthetic-based visual effects rather than digital morphing as one would naturally assume.
Johnny is a gain interrupted for the second time by his dad who is yelling madly at him. The video then comes to an end and Johnny is seen reclining back in his usual wheelchair. He resumes his normal life in seclusion and with only his Chihuahua for company.
This short hallucinatory and nightmarish experimental film has been in the limelight for long. It is done for a music video but its underlying themes have deeper meaning than is easily deducible by just watching it once. Watching it is quite horrifying. The piece of work is a masterpiece in its own right. It has taken a genius to achieve such a piece out of animation. It puts Cunningham where he belongs; at the top. The film itself is bizarre and simply unimaginable. The level of creativity shows it is possible to create the “unthinkable”, but it takes great directors to achieve such a feat.