Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Jim Jarmusch: 'Dead Man' (1995)

Jim Jarmusch, Dead Man (1995). Stars Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer with appearances by Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton and Jared Harris, among several other notables. 

A frontier rite of passage in which the West is Truly Wild. Close attention is paid to period detail, and the setting is more Northwest than West, defamiliarizing the familiar. Jarmusch's use of fade to black fade-ins and fade-outs gives the film an episodic feel, like coming in and out of consciousness. 
William Blake, Depp's character, is a fish out of water everywhere he goes. When he goes West, young man, from Cleveland to Machine, a terrible place to which he's conveyed by coal-burning rail, the end seems nigh. Along the way, brutish fellows shoot at bison and anything else that moves outside the cars. In Machine, avaricious frontier capitalists forge deals with the Devil in a Hellish World. To quote William Blake the poet from "And did those feet in ancient time"  (circa 1804):

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
The hero of Dead Man is "Nobody," played by Gary Farmer. Cast out of his own homeland and left to wander, he is Blake's spirit guide and moral compass. Blake, with a bullet lodged near his heart, is pursued by psychopathic bounty hunters to the Ends of the Earth. 

From Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" (circa 1803); 

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
Nobody and William Blake arrive at the Makah village, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, at the Edge of the World.   

Today's Rune: Initiation. 


Charles Gramlich said...

A strange and eclectic cast

Erik Donald France said...

Yes indeed, Charles, from a strange and eclectic director . . .