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  • Warning: 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 mystical meaning.

    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.
  • irene s11 December 2002
    What a movie!... didn't want to see it at first.. But, then, when it begins, 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.
  • 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
  • sukara18 September 2000
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • jeffreytaos21 November 2007
    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!
  • 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
  • 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 the wrong place, at a point where time itself is nonexistent.

    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.
  • Originally from Cleveland, William Blake gets a job as an accountant in a place called "Machine Town". Already in the train that takes him to the Dickinson wood factory an "unknown guy" warn him against the place he is going to. It is not fortune that awaits him but Death. Indeed the first night in "Machine Town", Blake is shot at and wounded. From this point on start a long journey of wandering in company of Nobody, an Indian and a philosopher.

    This black and white film is mesmerizing. Obviously the black and white marks a rupture between what you are used to…So in essence this rupture is between let say classic Western and Jim Jarmush western as he re-visit the genre. It is also a way to keep the audience to what is essential…Color is a filter that can distract you, the sobriety of black and white will not.

    But what exactly is essential in that movie? Beside the fact that Mr. Jarmush depict a brutal and impulsive America, the movie opposes a new born civilization that is already collapsing and a dying one that is still shining…But more than that the journey of William Blake is a metaphoric and circular voyage from misunderstanding to certitude. The guide Nobody, himself trapped between the two civilizations can not provide a cure to the passing man but may very well provide a path to a curing one. This journey from Machine Town, the "anti chamber" of hell to the sea, first step to Heaven is tremendously poetic and emotional. Also emotional is the evolution from misunderstanding to comprehension between Nobody and William Blake who eventually settles on what is essential reaching a common ground, clarity…

    Help by a haunting and beautiful score from Neil Young and an extraordinary cast the film succeed in transforming the wood wagon of hell in which William Blake embarks to the wooden vessel to heaven in which he will lie.

    One of the best films from Mr. Jarmush, Dead Man manages to take the audience in one of cinema most poetic journey…
  • This film is half the reason I stopped being an investment banker and became a film-maker.

    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.
  • On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) encounters a strange Indian named "Nobody" (Gary Farmer) who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

    Okay, we have an amazing cast here: Lance Henriksen, Billy Bob Thorton, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, and Robert Mitchum's final role. That automatically counts for something. And we have the whole thing shot in glorious black and white, which is all too uncommon since the 1960s. That is another point.

    Now, on the other hand, commercially, the movie lost a boatload of money (making only about 10% of what it cost) and ranks as the most expensive of Jarmusch's films.

    And critically, it has mixed reviews. Roger Ebert was not a fan of the film, giving it less than two stars and saying, "Jim Jarmusch is trying to get at something here, and I don't have a clue what it is." He calls it "a strange, slow, unrewarding movie" and says the score "sounds like nothing so much as a man repeatedly dropping his guitar." Others, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and A. O. Scott, have called it one of the best films of the 1990s.

    I happened to like it, though I did not fully appreciate the William Blake references (as well as Tom Petty references). But that is my loss, not Jarmusch's fault. And I am not sure I got the message, if there is one. And I still like "Broken Flowers" better... but there is still much to love here.
  • Dead Man is a unique piece of film. As this is my first taste of Jim Jarmusch, I had no idea of what to expect, but even if I had; I reckon that this film wouldn't have conformed to them. Dead Man is a surreal and trippy western that peels itself away from the staples of the genre and succeeds in creating something truly one-off and self-styled. Lead by a score written by Neil Young, Dead Man is continually satisfying and powerful; and you get the impression that every scene has been fully thought through, and is perfectly realised as the auteur intended. For this reason, Dead Man captivates it's viewer from the moment it starts until the moment it ends, and as it descends into full blown trippy weirdness, you can do nothing but stare in admiration of this strange gem of cult cinema. The plot is thin on the ground and it largely lacks meaning, but it doesn't matter because Dead Man is a purely aesthetic experience. Still, it follows William Blake (Johnny Depp), an accountant from Cleveland that arrives in a town to take a job offer, only to find that the vacancy has already been filled…

    Dead Man is filmed in very stark black and white, which only adds to the surrealism of the story. Had this film have been done in colour, it would not have captured the same atmosphere that the black and white gives it; and so this decision was an inspired one indeed. One staple of the western genre that Jarmusch is keen to retain is the use of close-ups. The director spends a lot of time caressing Depp's facial features with his camera and, at times, even focuses on his lead actor when the action doesn't concern him. Aside from keeping in with the western tradition, this also allows Jarmusch to keep the focus on the main character, which keeps the viewer focused on his plight. For this film, Jarmusch has put together a cast of B-movie icons that will have B-movie fans foaming at the mouth. Crispin Glover, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton, Lance Henriksen, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Alfred Molina and even Iggy Pop feature and it's great to see so many faces in the same movie. The cast is, of course, lead by a man who is perhaps today's best actor; Johnny Depp. Depp's name on a credit list speaks for itself, and I don't need to tell you that his performance is great; nor do I need to point out the effortless cool that this movie exudes, largely thanks to the great man's presence. My only advice is see it...see it now.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I can understand how this masterpiece of a motion picture would inspire somebody to make films. My Father is an avid Jarmusch fan and lent me the film Dead Man in 2001 when I was 16, I know I only watched it as a sexually obsessed school-girl longing for some Depp action, but what it actually did to me was something entirely different.

    Atmosperically guided by a soulfully dark score by Neil Young often a lone guitar riff, the film is as cool as the fingertips of God. 'Dead Man's loose coolness allows for a freedom within the script and the characters that the director wields with delicacy and expertise. By this I mean that although some of the dialogue may come across as mysterious and cryptic, possibly meaningless to some, the characters are given gifts in the form of perfect style that allows them to be whole.

    The film is perfect. How can Film Noir be Western? and how can Native American wisdom be coupled with British Georgian poetry? Obviously with some ease at the hands of a talented man. These splicings are amongst others veined through the events of the film and make up a large part of that which draws a viewer into an actual relationship with the film and fuels burning interest in it down to each single word uttered in the dialogue. Visually, 'Dead Man' is attractive, with the strangeness or beauty of the actors, and the lighting and landscape, often barren or harsh, that sets a wonderful Gothic playground for Blake and Nobody and the pursuers.

    Almost adverse to sexy choreographed gun toting, 'Dead Man' shows Blake's clumsy murders as quirky and almost innocent, and they become stylised with 'cool' as Blake's poetry begins to write itself in blood. Jarmusch shows beauty in the Death that occurs in the wake of his protagonists Nobody and Blake and nothing vulgar touches them. Ugliness in the film is associated with mis-laid priorities such as the emphasis on the return of the Pinto horse rather than the capture of a criminal, and incessant talking as mentioned by Gary farmer's character 'Nobody' "he who talks loud, say nothing" and embodied by the character John Scholfield who eventually dies at the hand of an unwilling listener to his permanent tide of nonsense.

    Mismatched as they are wonderful or funny, the partnerships of the film are perfect, Nobody (Gary Farmer) the educated tribal outcast and William Blake (Johnny Depp the quiet accidental 'killer of white men' begin to illustrate the closeness of brothers through their misunderstandings and differences as they walk their destiny together. Believed by Nobody to be the true William Blake from the spirit world, Bill Blake from Cleveland, becomes indebted to his new friend who keeps him alive despite the difficulty of there being a fatal bullet wound in his body. The Trio of Philistine-hating vagabonds, the two bald marshals and the three grudging killers are amongst other well-formed partnerships that keep the plot afloat.

    Whilst violent but comic and perhaps at times unnerving, 'Dead Man' is casual while it is gripping, and involving while it is time-less and dream-like. With the gritty beauty of an imperfect lover that is perfect to you, 'Dead Man' is personal and passionately love-able. With 'Dead Man' Jarmusch has achieved an essence of poetic masterdom of all things being possible, to love a murderer, for example, where similarly of William Blake the Georgian Poet, in the words of a critic "proclaimed the supremacy of the imagination over the rationalism and materialism of the 18th-century".

    I watch this film a few times per year just to witness it's genius and allure, the way one might perhaps visit the Mona Lisa every so often if one lived by the Louvre.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    That haunting score. The bravado performances of Johnny Depp, Crispin Glover, Robert Mitchum, and of course, Gary Farmer, who is the absolute star of the film. So many great lines!

    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 through 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.

    Gary Farmer's character, Nobody, understands that poem, but he doesn't understand why Depp's character, William Blake, doesn't know about his own poetry. He does know that the dead poet has come to be his spirit guide, and tells him, "You were a poet and a painter, William Blake. But now, you're a killer of white men."

    GOD this film is f*cking brilliant! I have never seen anything like it! My wife, who loves epic westerns, and native culture, couldn't watch it at all, finding it "weird and pointless."

    Why then, have I sat captivated through it so many times, as if in a dream, buoyed along by the surreal imagery, perfect cinematography, flawless acting, and inspired soundtrack?

    This film goes so far beyond what film is supposed to do, in so many ways. It speaks to us of things many of us dare not learn, and so many of us dismiss it as pretentious pseudo-art. Trust me, this is REAL art, and it's FUNNY! This is the greatest deconstruction of a genre ever attempted, and it works on every level. God bless Jim Jarmusch for this visionary and profound work, and God bless actors like Depp and Farmer, for their bravery in executing it.

    Lance Henrikson? Michael Wincott? John Hurt? IGGY POP????

    Where do you find a cast like that? And don't forget Neil Young's soundtrack, which Roger Ebert described as sounding "like Young kept dropping his guitar," or something like that. That was truly the perfect soundtrack for this film.

    Ah, the taste of REAL art!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The films opening and other parts of the film reminded me of A Hard Day's Night. The inventive, oddly humorous train ride and the constant search for Tobacco as the parallel in Hard Days Night was the constant notice of the clean old man. Then the scene of the tranvestite (which was intelligently cynnical), the guy with the British accent and the more down to earth red neck was of a british style of humor. But I have to say the most hilarious thing was Depp's clown suit or with the hat looked more like a leprachauns suit.

    The film is the first Western to authentically represent the true west. Unlike all other westerns I have seen this film brings out the dirt and truth of the time period. Even though the film is not really a western. I would label it more of a art film.

    The direction was amazing and the cinematography of the woods was particulary enchanting and beautiful. But the art behind the camera did not stretch to the music. I found it noisy and annoying even at times blatantly telling me to hit the mute button. But i endured through it, the worst part of the film.

    Thankfully(minor spoiler in only this sentence), Thel, was killed early. Her acting was lost. She sort of hovered in the camera altering her emotions constantly seeming unsure how to act. Compared to the professionalism of Depp I am grateful she had less than 5 minutes of screen time.

    Jarmusch did a very through(sp?) job of his script. His characters were filled out and overflowing in personality. The Indian(" Stupid ****ing white man.") was easily the best though. His humor balanced out the otherwise slightly bland art film. The bounty hunters had their strange qualities even their ironic ones(one sleeps with a Teddy bear). Or the fire sitters with even their shot amount of screen time. "Big George: What's a philistine? Sally: Well, it's just a real dirty person."

    The film started dragging towards the end. The camera man times would just stand there, too long, in front of Depp's face for no apparent reason. The humor also died down, leaving the film in the hands of its spiritual and poetic counterpart. One not all exciting. It also gave way to Depps transition into hardass that happened too quick. An over the night reformation doesn't happen especially if it involves going from not being able to shoot a gun with glasses to being able to with out them.

    The film moved gracefully and poetically. It was easily watchable apart from those final 20 minutes that became to lost in finalizing it's philospohy to provide entertainment. Dead Man was good but the masterpice some of the reviews claimed is as surreal as the film.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILER First of all, I must say that for the most part I dislike Westerns; hate bloodshed and violence in movies; and, since I don't believe in killing animals or people, I don't like movies that portray either graphically. Having said that...Dead Man is one of the most remarkable and mesmerizing movies I have ever seen. I just came upon this move recently on IFC and I have already watched it multiple times. The cinematography is hypnotic and brilliant, reminiscent of some of the wonderful scenes in The Long Riders (another move that I "shouldn't" have liked, but did!).

    The acting in Dead Man-- incredibly quirky and on target for most of the cast--left me stunned by the talent of Depp, Farmer, Henriksen and Thornton. Neil Young's instrumental work--which is almost another character, providing a harsh, pounding voice--is such a complement to the movie, I cannot imagine any other music in its place.

    I have read most of the comments and it seems that only a few folks came away from this movie with the concept that I have - Blake is already dead. But Nobody sees that Blake should have died when he was shot. That's why he asks "Did you kill the white man that killed you?" Then when Blake says, "I'm not dead," Nobody assumes the role of trailguide taking Blake on the path to acceptance of his death.

    There are so many symbols, allusions and metaphors in the film, both obvious and hidden, it's like panning for gold. The film is so poignant at times it almost hurts, like the pain that Blake feels from the bullet near his heart. I can't believe I missed seeing this film "at the movies" and never heard much about it until recently.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    A polarising film this, with critical opinion at either extreme. I felt that it was a failure, though an interesting one. It simply failed to develop it's initial premise, it wandered and languished and as the film progressed it petered out, rather than rose to a crescendo.

    The cinematography was beautiful. Even on my VHS copy the screen shimmered like the films of old. Although the set-ups were often "stagey" and awkwardly composed, the camera moved delicately and precisely.

    There were some memorable performances, especially Robert Mitchum's bit-part and John Hurt's creepy company secretary. Johnny Depp seemed uncomfortable and, ultimately, wooden. Although the film is meant to be an existential-social journey, by the end he looked bored, reflecting my boredom with the film.

    I wanted to like it. The first part of the film set up what seemed to be a promising story, but this was all-but forgotten about as the film progressed. Occasionally one of Blake's would-be assassins might pop up, but this didn't seem to create any sense of drama.

    What is the significance of Blake's outsider status? He is an accountant who goes to work in Machine, but doesn't get the job (he's too late). Meeting a young woman who makes paper roses, he is shot along with her by her lover, whom he (Blake) kills. Then on the run, he encounters an Indian called Nobody (in Blake's poetry, God is called "Nobodaddy"), but thereafter it descends into a messy and confused saga.

    Films are stories and they need plot and characters, dialogue and development. This film had no real development, it lost momentum very quickly and retreated too often into "arty" face-shots, droning guitar music (the score by Neil Young by the way, along with the cinematography, was a highlight of the film) and fade-outs. I failed to see where the profundity lay.

    I am familiar with the works of William Blake, and took straight way to the themes of industry, capitalism, nature and lawlessness, but these were never developed in any coherent way. There was masses of significance piled onto William Blake's identity, but there was ultimately little that was made of it. What would Blake make of it indeed?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    William Blake is an accountant who travels deep into the west of America to the frontier town of Machine to take up a job with a metal company. He travels on the train for many days but when he arrives he is told that his job has been given to another man. Not sure what to do with himself he gets involved with a girl when her boyfriend, Charles, returns home to find her. He kills her and Blake is forced to kill him in return. He flees the town but collapses only to wake with the Indian Nobody nursing him and telling him he is dead. With a bounty on his head, Nobody leads Blake to the water where he will cross to the next world.

    I first saw this film when it came out in a (now sadly closed) art cinema in Birmingham. I have only seen it twice since then but it has always stayed with me and made such an impact on me. The plot is little more than a journey, a journey that is never really explained or put into any context. However it is the sheer imagination and atmosphere of the film that prevents this being a problem. The precredit sequence of the film will tell you everything you need to know - if you are intrigued by the scene, taken by the atmosphere and gripped by the intense train driver, then you will love the rest of the film. The scenes continue with the dark foreboding atmosphere and the strange but gripping cast of characters. It is here where the film happens and it is all the better for it.

    The support cast of cameos are all great and their characters include a silent hitman, a chatty hitman, a travelling group of homosexual rapists, a prophetic train driver and a gun crazy businessman. If this gives the impression of a `wacky' film, then trust me it is not - it is not funny, it is spellbinding. The characters come and go but they are so imaginatively drawn that they all remain memorable. Jarmusch's direction helps this as he gives everything an unique visual touch. The photography is beautiful and framed really well in black and white - visually the film stayed with me since I first saw it, it was so distinctive. Of course it may not have managed that without the haunting and menacing score from Neil Young. It works so very well and is part of the reason the film stays with me.

    Now that he is `Oscar Nominee Johnny Depp' and not just `Johnny Depp' it is interesting to look back on this film and pleasing to see that his ability to find out worthy pieces has not diminished with the odd bigger film here and there. He is the wide eyed innocence here and is very much just the vessel we use to sail through other characters. As an actor, he impresses with his willingness to play a low key role while the support cast shine in colourful characters. Farmer is good in his Nobody role while the best roles go to the main bounty hunters - violent and sullen Henriksen and the funny chatty Wincott. Glover shows what a real intense performance is and is creepier here than all his efforts in the Charlie's Angels `films'. The support cast features memorable turns from Hurt, Mitchum, Molina, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton. They, along with the visuals and music, are what makes this film so very memorable.

    Overall, this is not for everyone and I'm sure it will frustrate many with it's seeming lack of plot and lack of traditional narrative. However it is hard not to be taken in by the gorgeous black and white images presented here with the haunting score and a journey that takes in one colourful character after another. It may not have much substance if you're after plot but it will stick in your mind.
  • During my late teens and early twenties, I was taken to see many films by a friend of mine who was the son of a Persian film director.

    He was never interested in what I thought of a film until we were outside the cinema but told me how to watch the film, during the film.

    One of the first films I saw was Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law in the Turkish quarter of Paris with French subtitles. We sat in the front row and roared. We were the only ones. It all seemed rather lost on the rest of the audience. All the way through he told me the things to see.

    Here are a few. First, Robbie Muller's cinematography. Beautiful vistas moving to the pace of the film. Paris, Texas springs to mind.

    Second, the recognition of amorality in the world; a world of "nature red in tooth and claw". All of Jarmusch's films that I've seen have a "rough diamond" edge running through them. An edge where the animal response is the correct one - the place that Hitchock always alluded to but never dared go to.

    Third, "incompleteness" if there is such a word. Jarmusch always leaves questions dangling; Why was Carl Perkins better than Elvis (or vice versa)? Did Eva really go back to Hungary? Is Nobody already dead? In this sense, Jarmusch is more a novelist than a film maker - he leaves much for you to fill in with your mind's eye. Quite an achievement, considering how compelling the visuals of film are.

    For me, Jarmusch's daring is that he allows the viewer to fill in a lot of the context for a scene. The context, naturally, defines the scene, yet Jarmusch is bold enough to let the viewer place it later. Perhaps much later, when you've worked it out.

    So when I watched dead man, I was ready. The last Johnny Depp film I'd seen was Chocolat, superb. I understood and appreciated Robbie Muller's approach and I had most of Jarmusch to date under my belt.

    Two things sprang to mind with Dead Man. The first was a Sci-fi novel, written because the author was 20 something and needed the money. The second was the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

    The first occurred to me because of the way I encountered it. I was researching and building eLearning systems at the time and the eLearning crowd hailed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card as the eLearner's sci-fi novel. I read it and the basic lesson is that the training has to be so real that the student doesn't know when it's really real and, even then half thinks it's training.

    The second occurred to me as a consequence of the first. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a manual for dying and being reborn. It has options such as getting out of the wheel of incarnation altogether or doing a damage limitation exercise on how limited your capabilities are going to be in the next life - and everything in between.

    One of the central premises of this yoga is that life as we know it is a simulation of the real life - a kind of Ender's game, if you will. When one sees the finite from the position of the eternal, the question of where one ends and the other begins inevitably arises and it's this that Jarmusch captures so wonderfully in Dead Man.

    William Blake (the real one) had none of this knowledge that we have today but what he did have is opium. Survey the poetry of the opium-heads. They all had a sense of eternal spirit - it comes with the drug. It gives the connectedness and empathy of E with the hallucinations of A but the chilled response to it all of weed.

    Like Jarmusch, Blake, Coleridge and the rest recognise the harsh reality of the nature we live in, yet are still able to celebrate its beauty and the lessons that it has to teach us.

    The pace of Dead Man is that of an opium hit, one only has to take the stuff or read the Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz's Adrift on the Nile to see that. The Neil Young sound track is naturally irritating if one cannot settle down into the pace of the film. For those who understand it, it is the hypnotic metronome that keeps time for days after the film has ended.

  • Pro Jury12 February 2004
    Although DEAD MAN has many of my favorite actors [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    This movie was profoundly boring by any measure [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    Although none of the old cowboys speak using the F-word [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    The fast jive talking East LA Indian (Native American) cusses like a modern day sailor [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    If any IMDB user seeing this thinks my review is a smug read [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    It may be best to avoid this film [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black].
  • William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a meek accountant traveling to the American west frontiers from Cleveland. He is welcomed by the train boilerman. He arrives at Dickinson Metal Works. Manager John Scholfield tells him that he's too late. The owner John Dickinson sends him packing with a shotgun. He befriends former prostitute Thel Russell. John's son Charlie Dickinson is her jealous ex and kills her. Blake kills Charlie in return. He is helped by a native American named Nobody. John Dickinson sends a posse of Cole Wilson, Conway Twill and Johnny 'The Kid' Pickett to go after him.

    I really like some of the odder surreal touches from Jim Jarmusch. The movie starts well with the train trip and the muddy town. The movie loses steam after the killings. Gary Farmer is a little funny but I get a sense that he's meant to be much funnier. Jarmusch's indie camera work lacks style. I can sense where this movie is trying to go. It's trying to subvert the western with a lot of weird takes. It doesn't really succeed as a movie.
  • awilkens-116 November 2005
    I am not a theater major nor am I an educated critic. 8 years ago while living in the small town of Crested Butte Colorado...I had an intimate psychological connection with a young lady who ran the local video rental store next to the 4 star restaurant to which I worked as a sous chef. At the time..when I came in on my nights off looking for a bit of diversion, she came to learn of my unique tastes...tastes to which I could not comprehend. She simply stated: "you need to check this out...I know you'll like it". She very accurately described it as "A western that goes.....this way"...gesturing by hand a very obvious diversion from the norm. I was hooked, rented the movie, came back the next day wanting to know how to own this masterpiece. She was quite taken by my satisfaction to the point that when I offered "any reasonable price" for the movie poster, she happily accommodated.

    I own maybe 5 movies altogether and this one is the centerpiece. Nothing less than a cultural masterpiece. Every once in awhile I pop it in to bring peace to my existence, or to recommend to a friend just to read the reaction that they derive.

    If you have been moved by this movie, you are on a path that you may not comprehend. Embrace and commence with the journey.....we are in a reality that is not commonly defined. To read this movie is to be a consciousness not known by our breed. Enjoy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Quote: "Dead Man" is not a conventional western. Instead of containing cowboys and saloon shootout's it opts to deal with psychological and philosophical concepts. While this may seek to scare western fans away from the film, in a way it manages to draw more casual movie goers towards it. Now the reason why I actually decided to watch the film was because initially it was initially banned for possession, sale and distribution in my country- Australia (for a rather stupid reason). I was pleasantly surprised top find a film so rich in thematic discussion I wished I had the pleasure of experiencing it earlier.

    "Dead Man" stars Johnny Depp as the broke down-on-his-luck accountant William Blake, who travels by train to the industrial town- Machine for a job. Upon arriving at the town, Blake is told he is one month late for work, and that his position has been filled by another accountant. Angered by the decision Blake confronts the owner Mr Dickinson to allow him to work there. Mr Dickinson behaves as his name would suggest and forces Blake out at gunpoint. Depressed Blake meets up with a woman and makes love to her. At the worse possible time the woman's fiancé comes in, shoots her and wounds Blake, before Blake guns him down. Bleeding Blake flees the town on a stolen Pinto.

    Luck continues to be against Blake as it turns out the man who Blake killed was Mr Dickinson's son. Angered by his son's murder (and his stolen horse) he puts three bounty hunters on Blake's trail. Blake is saved from death by a plump Indian who is referred to as- Nobody. Throughout the rest of the film Nobody serves as Blake's spiritual guide through the "Purgatory" that is the American West.

    Now I wish to emphasise the word "Purgatory". The world the film presents to us is disgusting and depressing and boring. From the first scene which feels like half an hour the film manages to make its audience fell bored- normally this would be an obvious flaw, but to create a boring world with meaning is not a flaw; but a skill. Murder, cannibalism and attempted rape also infest every corner of the west. Such decisions manage to enforce this sense of depression on the audience (this is partly exacerbated by the black and white colour of the film) so that we feel as if we are actually in a form of purgatory whilst watching it. Purgatory can also be brought up in a more literal sense in the film. From when nobody refers to Blake as "a dead man" I pondered whether Blake was a "dead man" or if he actually is dead. After contemplation I began to believe more in the latter as it linked more strong to the idea of purgatory. It feels in movie if Blake actually died prior to arriving in Machine and that what he is going through is actually a purging process, before he is allowed to enter heaven and that Nobody is his spiritual guide through purgatory.

    Not much good seems to happen to Blake during the film; he is shot more than once and appears to be being followed by death. Blake murders several men throughout the film (all of which are in self defence) in rather shocking ways. This takes its tole on Blake and brings him deeper into a sense of physical and metal isolation from others and himself. This strengthens evidence for the argument that Blake is undergoing a purging process.

    There are also several more spiritual undertones in the film, which are often very hard to identify in particular the struggle between good and evil, or if you wish to be more spiritual heaven and hell. As I have said numerous times before Blake is escorted by Nobody the good guy, while being chased by sadistic psychotic bounty hunter- Cole (evil black as coal). Both wish to claim his "soul" in this surreal world; Nobody wants to save him, Cole wants to kill him. This classic good vs. evil is also emphasised in Blake's character. At times he is good natured; helping a woman who has fallen in a muddy puddle and at times he is evil; shooting a deputy and a sheriff. But even when he is "evil" we must search for any meaning or beauty to what he has done. The sheriff for example looks remarkable like Lenin and his death at the hands of Blake and his crushing of his head by Cole can very well be interpreted as an act of evil stopping evil- a definite paradox. Nonetheless there is beauty in this act as before shooting the deputy and sheriff Blake says a significant one liner "Have you read my poetry?" This is quite significant as poetry in a sense regardless of its content is beautiful, and as Nobody puts it "You will now write your poetry in blood, not words" (Nobody says this as he mistakes Blake for a poet of the same name, unaware to an ignorant viewer such as myself, Nobody constantly quotes from the poets poems) . Hence in a sense the two murders though evil, are beautiful.

    Overall Dead Man" is a remarkable, surreal, depressing and at times a boring movie. But that is exactly what it should be. If you can handle the surreal and the depressing tone (as well as some graphic violence), and can appreciate spiritual and if you interpret it as such "religious" overtones, you will be astonished.
  • I don't know how a mental healthy person can say that this is a masterpiece. The only good thing is Neil Young's soundtrack, really suggestive. But the movie!!! First, there's absolutely no plot. Second, most dialogues are unintellegible. Third, it doesn't happen anything. I think I looked at my watch 30 times during this movie. I don't know... poetry? I call it self conceit. Philosophy? Yeah like the sentences you find in chocolates. Stay away from this movie or you'll get bored to death!!! Ending question: William Blake (Johnny Depp) is an accounter who can't use weapons. After 3 or 4 shoots he becomes the best shooter in the West. Am I the only who have noticed it?
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