Dead Man (1995)

by Afra Nariman

Dead Man (1995)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Stars: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Iggy Pop, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum


“That weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it. And your poetry will now be written with blood.”

An absolute all-time favorite of mine that will always hold a special place for me, Dead Man is one of those films that, once you’ve seen it enough times and are comfortable enough to align yourself on its wavelength, you can drift in and out of the main story and lose yourself in it. In short, this movie is really cool. Dead Man incorporates a lot of important moral and human themes and concepts under the umbrella of its psychedelic aesthetic and atmosphere that portends death.

“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.”

Like the majority of Jarmusch’s oeuvre, Dead Man deals with the theme of travel, or the premise of a journey. Having the journey depicted here be the final days of its protagonist’s life, Dead Man reframes the question of how one must live, with how one should die. Life, if nothing else, is just a part of the path towards death — we are all dead men and women. Living is how we die. Typically in film or literature, the path to enlightenment is narrativized through a character’s journey in life — the act of living, and figuring out how to. In Herman Hesse’s famous novel, Siddhartha, it is said that we must all find our own way in life — there is no singular way to live on the path to enlightenment. Something most of us are never truly prepared for, because we never treat the topic with enough genuine, personal vulnerability — we often do so abstractly, or if grounded, pertaining to others — is how to die. We never know when that final day is coming, so each day could potentially be a paramount moment in defining the way we go. In Dead Man, the protagonist William Blake faces this particular music — and the music of Neil Young’s legendary soundtrack.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

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