The Reason Why The Bob Dylan Biopic Is Called ‘A Complete Unknown’

The Reason Why The Bob Dylan Biopic Is Called ‘A Complete Unknown’ | Society Of Rock Videos

via Bob Dylan/YouTube

Capturing the essence of Bob Dylan in a biopic is no small feat. Todd Haynes’ 2007 film, “I’m Not There,” attempted this daunting task by employing a groundbreaking approach that featured six different actors, including the acclaimed Cate Blanchett, portraying various facets of Dylan’s persona. While the film was hailed for its innovation and even garnered Dylan’s approval, it fell short of being the definitive biopic many fans desired. Instead, it embraced the enigmatic and elusive nature of Dylan’s identity, fittingly described as “Dylanesque.”

Dylan’s suggestions for actors to portray him in a biopic, such as Billy Dee Williams and a former child star, further underscore the challenge of capturing his essence on screen. Whether Dylan was serious or simply playing with the idea remains unclear, adding to the mystique surrounding him.

Director James Mangold is now venturing into the realm of Dylan biopics with A Complete Unknown, starring Timothée Chalamet as the young Robert Zimmerman. The film chronicles Dylan’s journey from his arrival in New York to meet folk icon Woody Guthrie in 1961 to his groundbreaking performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where he famously “went electric.”

What Does the Film’s Title Signify?

The title of the film, A Complete Unknown, carries multiple layers of meaning. It reflects the elusive nature of Dylan’s true identity, which seems to constantly evade definition as he evolves through various musical personas. As the title suggests, no single Dylan persona can be pinned down as the definitive version, leaving his true self shrouded in mystery.

Moreover, the title is drawn directly from the lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone,” a song often regarded as Dylan’s masterpiece. The phrase “a complete unknown” evokes the sense of displacement and disillusionment experienced by the song’s protagonist, reflecting Dylan’s feelings of alienation and uncertainty. It’s a poignant reminder of the transient nature of fame and the existential themes that permeate Dylan’s work.

A Complete Unknown joins a lineage of films inspired by Dylan’s iconic lyrics, including Martin Scorsese’s documentary “No Direction Home,” which shares its title with a line from “Like a Rolling Stone.” These films serve as a testament to the enduring impact of Dylan’s music and the endless fascination with unraveling the enigma that is Bob Dylan.

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