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What a movie!... didn't want to see it at first.. But, then, when it
you take the trip with Blake to the big sea.
So beatiful pictures, such poetry in every single one of them. Hypnotic black and white scenes, still and vast nature, music that takes you down the other side.
It's the unconsious trip of one man to death, slowly descending to another level, deeper into nature. Or is he already dead and is not aware of it? Rivers, trees, animals and spirits to guide him along the way. This is a trip to self-knowledge, a hallucinational, sweet and slow resignation from needs and senses.
Amazing directing, incredible photography and an also amazing Johnny Depp, sunk in his own visions and thoughts, excellent in his portrayal of a man's abdication to parrallel levels of consiousness.
Thank god there is the indie american film making, that we see such beatiful movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Only the best films create mood, and this is one of the best of those.
There are some superb moments, stunning music, and of course, loads of
Here is a quick key: The train journey is a metaphor for the passage of Blake's life as well as the passage of man into the dubious morality of the machine age.
The coal-stoker on the train seems aware of Blake's destiny and shows that this is not just any train.
We might take Blake as an incarnation of the real poet William Blake. The coal-stoker's obscure reference to the ship might indicate a passage across the sea he assumed Blake made (from England).
The shooting of the buffalo from the train (huh?) shows man's senseless destruction of nature.
The hellish machinery of the train is shown taking Blake towards Machine, the crossroads of man's conscience and a place already turned into a kind of hell.
The girl's paper flowers show how even pretty things have degenerated into a soulless artificial state, but is also a sign of hope. She hopes to have real flowers one day - a sign that she has a good soul.
After Blake collapses in the street there is a rather large shooting star, presumably to indicate that his soul had left him (Jarmusch is being coy if denies this blatant indication that Blake has "passed on"). In fact, the best interpretation is that he is not quite dead, but dying, comatose: that enables the film to work equally well on two levels.
Here's the key thing: the real poet William Blake had visions and wrote a book called "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (geddit?). This book is written in a weird style that sounds quite like Indian-speak. In fact, several of Nobody's lines are taken straight from the this book such as "The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow". Ironically, in the film, Blake does not understand any of what Nobody is saying and calls it "Indian malarkey".
We can take Nobody for a bit foolish in a real-world sense, but in the spiritual world we must assume he knows what he is talking about. When he asks Blake "did you kill the man who killed you?" and Blake answers "I'm not dead", we can assume that Nobody's knows something Blake doesn't.
In a scene cut from the final film, Nobody says that he saw a bluebird drinking the blood from Blake's wound. This obviously showed Nobody that Blake's soul was worth saving - otherwise it would have been a vulture, not a bluebird, on his chest.
Nobody = "no body". A further indication that he is of the spiritual world.
Nobody and Cole (black as coal) are good and evil angels fighting it out for Blake's soul. They are each more or less indestructible, except that like good and evil themselves they can cancel each other out, as they do at the end.
Everyone met along the way shows various types of human fallibility or degeneracy and each comes to a bad end, weeded out in the purgatorial process.
The dead deer represents the woman he met in Machine, and bears the same wound. The embracing of the deer is Christian-type imagery, providing some indication of the good, redeeming side of Blake's character.
During his "trials" (Nobody gives him the odd test) Blake shows both good and bad aspects to his character, and so at the end we can assume he drifts off into neither heaven nor hell, but in limbo.
There's surely more. For example, the sheriff's head (that Cole crushes under his boot) is an exact replica of Lenin - implying that communism is more evil than Evil. And I was interested to see one reviewer mention that the name of the bar in Machine has some relation to the death of Stalin's wife.
No doubt the film is worth more than one viewing. However you look at it, it's a terrific creation.
Jim Jarmusch is one of my favorite directors, and Dead Man is probably the greatest work he has ever done. Very rarely does a film come alive with a sense of poetry. The only other film I can compare it to would be Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire. The film moves like a dream, floating and spinning around you. Neil Young's electric score churns like a ghost train and pushes the film farther. There isn't one performance that is wrong, nor is there ever a false moment. From start to finish this film pulls you into it's dream land, and carries you along on clouds until the finish.
This film is half the reason I stopped being an investment banker and
I have seen it at least ten times, and each time I discover more depth and beauty.
I have show this film to many people, and most unfortunately do not see in it what I see.
I feel sorry for them that I cannot give them my eyes, because I know that what I see in this film is really there.
For me this is one of the best films I have ever seen. Subtle in its beauty and magnificence.
If you see it and don't love it, I say see it again.
I decided to check this movie out as I am now studying William Blake poems in my English class. This movie is flat out brilliant. To see Jarmusch make something as pretentious as Broken Flowers is kind of shocking. The amount of symbolism and metaphor in this movie is awesome. A real tribute to the actual William Blake. If ever Blake took a quest, this was it. I knew this movie was going to be good as soon as I saw the vast list of slightly eccentric actors lined up in it. This script must have touched something deeply spiritual in all of them and I, if I were them, would have felt as if I wasn't even in the film. So many times was I moved to tears. It is its own entity. Amazing movie. I'm definitely adding it to my collection.
Heading towards a metalworks factory at the edge of the known universe, a
pristine, young accountant named William Blake steps into the ungodly,
mechanical hell that is the town of Machine. And so begins this man's
descent into purgatory...in the wrong place, at a point where time itself is
Blake arrives in Machine after a demented, tireless train ride through what may be his own self. Spanning the beauty of epic horizons and dense forests, yet ending in the bleak misery of the barren desert, we meet this out-of-place traveler in a tiring, strange situation. His frailty is evident: alone, without a living heir, struggling to make his way amidst the freaks and grim destination that awaits. As expected, the town itself begs no welcome, as the malevolent rumors prove true, and leave Blake face to face with the dusty spines of inexorable destiny. In more ways than one, the Wild West awaits...
From this point on, Blake embarks on his surrealistic journey into nothingness, as he becomes a marked man running from nearly everyone and everything. Trusting in a Native friend (appropriately named `Nobody'), the descent into Blake's rejection is juxtaposed with the realities of a truly inescapable destiny. As such, the notions of ill fate and bad luck are separately defined alongside each other. Soon enough, however, Blake learns to cope with the road to ruin, and from his relationship with Nobody, he begins to transform into the gunslinging poet he never was.
In these aspects - the premise, the cinematic device, and the endless attention to narrative and metaphoric detail - the film is simply brilliant. Watching Johnny Depp's character transformation amidst Jim Jarmusch's artistic direction of both beauty and brutality is simply exceptional, despite any problems the film may contain. A feeling of purgatorial confinement is truly achieved as humor is mixed with suspense, and uneasiness blends with inevitability. This is definitely one of the few movies that strangely seizes the disposition, toying with it until sufficiently queasy.
Nevertheless, while the story, acting, and cinematic composition of the film are excellent, certain directorial choices do prevent it from achieving perfection. The primary problem concerns the dreamlike quality interspersed through several drawn-out fades: while effective, they are overused, and only serve to impair the flow of the film and it's intended message. Another problem is the tempo of the action: the characters, while quick to quip and raise their weapons, engage in gunfights at the speed of snails. When a shot is fired, the attacker simply stands in place, only to be killed by the target he missed. This particular criticism can lend itself to the film as a whole, as well. In other words, had the entire pace of the film been quickened, perhaps Jarmusch's voyage into the depths of doom and despair may have been more effective. Lastly, as in many independent films, superfluous `art film' shots and indie flavor over-season the picture simply to separate it from big-studio Hollywood...though as the film progresses, these moments become less apparent.
Overall, this film is one to be seen by anyone who enjoys a creative story with TONS of review value. Several notable faces make their way through the screen (Gabriel Bryne, Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, and more), and the dirty, electric twang of Neil Young's guitar fills the gaps with a dark, mechanical, Southwestern gloom.
Enter the town of Machine, and you'll be processed as well. Just watch out for snags along the trail - they make the journey a bit annoying, and certainly longer than what is warranted by the reaches of the attention span...or simply the principles of artistic efficiency.
This is Jim Jarmusch at his best. I re-watched this movie a week ago
and I'm still amazed by how Jarmusch gets under my skin and makes me
think. Jarmusch plays with one of his favorite themes here: death. But
of course, he's not limiting himself to that. He's questioning the
western as a genre, he puts music in this movie in a way that makes it
necessary for the viewer. Without Neil Young's guitar, this movie just
isn't the same.
Johnny Depp plays William Blake an accountant from Cleveland lost in the west after some strange quiproquo. Blake is shot and dying throughout the movie. Helped with an Indian named nobody, he finds himself on his way to the other world. Lots of resilience shown by Blake, getting stronger and stronger as the difficult times are approaching. As much as the accountant never seemed to have evolved, he's taking bigger and bigger leaps as death is overshadowing him. Touching tale of friendship, resilience, death and guns! This movie is an all time great
The Western genre has always been misunderstood as a simplistic, racist
(and misogynistic) traditional genre due to the many mediocre Westerns
of the 40s and 50s. However, real good Westerns have delighted us with
complex stories that take advantage of the setting themes: the conflict
between honor & law, wilderness & civilization, and life & death.
Director Jim Jarmusch, who has achieved fame and recognition in the
independent film community, uses the elements of the Western genre to
create his very own poetical meditation on these themes, giving the
genre his personal touch crafting a powerful and original gem.
Young accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) seems to have lost everything as his parents have died and his fianceé left him without a reason; so he decides to take a job in Machine, a town located at the end of "civilization" in the Wild Wild West. To his misfortune, the job he applied to has already been taken and now he finds himself really without nothing. However, his life will change forever after by a series of circumstances he ends up murdering a man, becoming an outlaw, although getting badly wounded in the process. Now, traveling along an outcast native who calls himself "Nobody" (Gary Farmer), he'll begin a strange and surreal trip that'll prepare him for the next stage.
Written by Jarmusch himself, the film's story details Blake's trip guided by Nobody in a similar way to Dante's journey in "The Divine Comedy", where a series of "episodes" are used to explore different ideas and themes across the trip. Jarmusch subtlety mixes drama and comedy to deliver his philosophical meditation making the film an entertaining experience, never becoming boring or tiresome. The Western setting is used effectively to tell this story and "Dead Man" toys with the Western elements in a subtle, respectful and quite entertaining way that neither parodies it nor makes fun of it in any way.
Shot entirely in black and white, the cinematography (by Jarmusch regular, Robby Müller) captures that feeling of loneliness and emptiness that William Blake's life has, as well as his collision with the wilderness of the wild west. Jarmusch camera-work together with Neil Young's excellent soundtrack give the film a beautiful surreal look that echoes Blake's equally surreal journey across the darkness searching for light. Finally, another interesting point is Jarmusch extensive care for detail in his portrayal of the American west, as well as his respect for the Native American cultures that play an important role in his film; making "Dead Man" one of the most realist Westerns ever made.
Johnny Depp's performance is remarkable, and probably one of the best in his career. Blake's complete transformation across the film is a real challenge and Depp makes the most of it. Gary Farmer is equally excellent and he is as effective in the comedy scenes as he is in the drama scenes, showing his flexibility and talent. The supporting roles present an assortment of cameos where actors such as Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt and Robert Mitchum (in his last role) appear giving outstanding performances despite the limited screen time they receive. Henriksen certainly delivers his best performance in years.
Jarmusch's film is a brilliant poetical meditation of life and death, but its episodic nature make it feel even more slow than it is, as every vignette is separated by fade outs that break the mood created. This really damages the film's atmosphere, as it feels as a forced wake up after a pleasant dream. Another problem, is that fans expecting an action-filled Western may end up disappointed, so bear in mind that this film is more about feelings rather than actions. Despite his minor problems, the film is still a very enjoyable experience and a whole new way to experience Westerns, so even non-fans of the genre will appreciate it.
To summarize, "Dead Man" is an atypical look at Westerns that presents Jarmusch's interesting views on life and death in an entertaining, attractive way. Among the revisionist westerns, "Dead Man" is a valuable gem that is worth a watch. Even non-fans of the genre will find something interesting in it. 9/10
Please...if you think there is no plot and no meaning....visit a few Indian Pueblos, study some American history, read more William Blake. This journey into the fire of hell has the most beautiful and moving ending ever filmed. A train to hell...Have you ever had a dead end job? What is the connection to Nobody? Why is his name Nobody? What happened at the General Store? Why wouldn't the guy sell the Indian (Native American) tobacco? Please reconsider. This movie is not the best ever made, but it doe's have a powerful meaning as it looks into the hell that Native American's were put through. Depp is a messenger. I saw the film six months ago and felt that Depp's performance was superb. I felt that there was a powerful symbolism in the film related to our concepts of life, death, and dying. The ending is the journey into the other world. The questions the film brings up relate to our concepts on premonitions, rebirth, death, life, and dying. Isn't it amazing that a fellow was named William Blake only to be discovered by a man named Nobody? And, after all we put Native American people through, isn't it amazing that someone with the name of Nobody would venture to help a Dead Man, that is one who is sure to become dead. And what of the prophecy, when bullets become words....oh, the meanings may not be clear, but the provocation to thought is at a very extreme level. Joy to all. Live this life and remember, this is a sacred journey. Every step counts!
First of all, you have to be a Jarmusch fan. If you walk comfortably
through that door, you'll find he does a bang-up job with this
existential Western. So does Johnny Depp, who plays the lead--a lost
unemployed accountant in the old west who happens to be named William
Blake. Gary Farmer, the Indian from Ghost Dog and The Score, calls
himself Nobody because he doesn't like his given name that means "one
who talks much and says nothing." Nobody serves as William Blake's
savior, doctor, guide and boatman "across the river." Neil Young wrote
and performed the score. Blake's nemesis is played by Lance Henriksen
as a terse cannibalistic bounty hunter. Delightful cameos include
Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover, Gabriel Byrne, John Heard and others.
Symbolism abounds--there are shooting stars, down-shots of a hellish factory where Blake wanders looking for a way out, mines and factories of "white-man's metal," plenty of dead animals, including a small doe that Depp lies down with after decorating his face with its blood.
But the movie doesn't fall into the trap of making white men the fall guys for everything wrong with the world in which Blake and Nobody try to make a living. Nobody mistreats Blake's bullet wound and is arguably responsible for his ultimate predicament. Nobody isn't worldly, despite having seen Europe in his youth. He believes the same white people were in every town he visited. The northwest tribe visited at the end were petty people who obviously thought Blake and Nobody were not worth their attention, evidenced by Nobody's imprecations to "walk proud" to the mortally-wounded Blake, and his nervousness at what might happen if he didn't. And of course, there is Nobody's innocent belief that the hapless accountant is the historical poet and artist.
Held together with Young's musical score--mixed a tad loud for my taste--and the deterioration of the finances and health of William Blake, Dead Man is more than a picaresque, but the overall theme is elusive. Motifs are another story, and are liberally sprinkled throughout. Perhaps that's the point, ultimately--in the face of death, nothing else matters, and all the symbols and themes add up to nothing, driving the story from existential to nihilistic. Personal friendship, religion, wealth, work, technology, tribe, humanity, God, love--all mean nothing or are actively detrimental. For a movie named "Dead Man," that's not an unreasonable interpretation.
Depp is an ideal actor to portray the reluctant gunslinger, and his personality does more to hold the film together than any other single factor. The camera loves him, and his ability to portray a variety of responses to his predicaments, from confusion, surprise and anger to amusement, disappointment and ultimately resignation is the heart of this thoroughly enjoyable film.
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