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DEAD MAN, 1995
Movie Review

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DEAD MAN, MOVIE POSTERDEAD MAN, 1995
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Johnny Depp, Crispin Glover, Gary Farmer, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Wincott, Eugene Byrd
Review by Omer Kula


SYNOPSIS:

On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake encounters a strange Indian named "Nobody" who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

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REVIEW:

Dead Man is a project that Jarmusch wanted to do for several years. He never worked with the big production companies and maybe that’s why he couldn’t find the right budget. The budget was one million and when the film released in US it brought in one million dollars. It received mixed reviews in the first years but now everyone agrees that this is a masterpiece by Jim Jarmusch.

It’s a native American story by a nonnative American director. Jim Jarmusch describes his film as ‘Acid Western’. You can easily say that it’s also a road movie. It’s the story of William Blake. He comes to American Old West type of town from Cleveland because he receieves a letter that he’s got a job in Dickinson Metal Works. He learns that the letter is too old. He leaves the place hopeless and suddenly he meets a with a beautiful girl. At the same night he kills Mr. Dickinson’s son who killed the girl who is the daughter of Mr. Dickinson. Then he tries to escape from the hunters that Mr. Dickinson sent after him. While he was escaping he meets an Indian named Nobody. This is the very short plot of this complicated story.

Dead Man is about a lot of things. It’s nonsense to explain these themes This time Jarmusch has a lot of characters in his story and he again successfully creates convincing characters.

William Blake is the main character. He is a meek accountant from Clevelend Ohio. He tries to escape from his hunters with Nobody. Actually he’s the ‘dead man’ in the story. When Nobody finds him he finds a bullet near his heart but couldn’t take it out. That’s why he calls Blake ‘dead man’. Johnny Depp acts well for this role but I still prefer Jarmusch’s earlier main actors or his old gang like John Lurie, Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni etc. The other main character of the film is ‘Nobody’ played by Gary Farmer. He is a really good choice for his character. Jim Jarmusch thought the same and he gave another role to him in Ghost Dog. His name was again Nobody. In ‘Dead Man’, he is a joyful Indian. At first he came to William doubtfully but then he likes him. He’s a big William ‘the poet’ Blake fan and he thinks that this William Blake he met is the reincarnation of the poet. He wants him to kill as much white men as he can so this way he will continue to his poets, by blood. They have a journey together. Sometimes it’s a real journey. In those times they try to hide from the hunters who are behind Blake. When they rest it’s Nobody’s turn. He eats a peyote and has his own completely different journey. He refuses to give a piece to Blake because he thinks that he’s not ready yet. The most beautiful scenes of the film are the ones where William Blake tries to find his way on his own. He has some enlightening experiences and he starts to ‘believe’ and finds his way through murders of the white men. You can say this is an Indian epic but it’s more than that. Jarmusch tried to shoot this film for several years and he just wanted to show his vision of life. This is his most important project and you can feel the ‘auteur’ in every frame.

The supporting characters are also powerful… well most of them. Lance Henriksen as Cole Wilson and Michael Wincott as Conway Twill are the most stunning performances of the film. The hunter trio that included them is almost a clichÈ but their stupidity or cruelty is far advanced than Dalton Brothers. Especially the talkative hunter, Conway Twill is the strongest character in the film.

Music is the really big actor in the film, in contradistinction to Jarmusch’s earlier films. The only music you can hear in his earlier films is the music that plays from a real source like radio, television or gramophone. This time he has a composer, a guitar god, Neil Young. Young only used his electric guitar for his compositions and his music helps to build up the atmosphere for the story. You never feel the music is too much, even tough in a Jarmusch film.

At first sight, ‘Dead Man’ is not a usual Jarmusch film. In some scenes you can feel the static and funny mood of a Jarmusch film but this is kind of an epic and sometimes it’s just the opposite what he did up to that date. Anyway, this is still the last great Jim Jarmusch film, still.

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