In Jim Jarmusch’s genre-bending classic, William Blake (Johnny Depp) disembarks from a train that has reached its terminus in a town called Machine. Normal enough, you might think, but it so happens that Machine is where civilization’s frail finger tip meets the great western wilderness. If Depp’s character’s name weren’t a clue to the major subterranean workings of the story, and the suggestive title of Depp’s destination didn’t get the wheels turning, true suspicions begin to arise when, in this town called Machine, Depp meets a native American named Nobody. Very quickly, the careful viewer begins to see that the tale unfolding is an austere but elaborate allegory. Where the allegory points though is mysterious.
Jim Jarmusch has this to say about the swirling mysteries in his film, “Death is life’s only certainty, and at the same time, its greatest mystery. For Bill Blake, the journey of Dead Man represents life. For Nobody, the journey is a continuing ceremony whose purpose is to deliver Blake back to the spirit-level of the world. To him, Blake’s spirit has been misplaced and somehow returned to the physical realm. Nobody’s non-western perspective that life is an unending cycle is essential to the story of Dead Man”. And there you have it; one of America’s renowned maverick filmmakers has gone and made a film about the Bardo. And with a great score from Neil Young to boot, Dead Man is not to be missed.