Dead Man

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
German title Dead Man
Original title Dead Man
Country of production USA , Japan , Germany
original language English
Publishing year 1995
length 116 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Jim Jarmusch
script Jim Jarmusch
production Demetra J. MacBride
music Neil Young
camera Robby Muller
cut Jay Rabinowitz

Dead Man is a black and white western directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Johnny Depp , Robert Mitchum and Gary Farmer in 1995.


The film describes the last days of the young William Blake, who in 1876 traveled by train from Cleveland to the west to take up a job as an accountant. The destination is called Machine , the end of the line. At the end of the street of the completely run-down town is the huge factory where Blake wants to take his job. However, he is chased away because the post has now been taken. He meets the former prostitute Thel and stays with her. When her ex-fiancé suddenly appears on the doorstep and she lets him understand that she never loved him, Blake pulls out his pistol and fires a shot at Blake. The shot hits the intervening Thel, penetrates through her heart into Blake and wounds him. After two awkward attempts, Blake shoots the man and flees on his horse. The man Blake shot is the youngest son of the factory owner, who now hires three bounty hunters and offers a bounty .

A Native American loner named Nobody finds Blake, who has collapsed unconscious, and treats him. However, he can't remove the bullet stuck in Blake's chest. Nobody later tells Blake his life story: Whites brought him to Europe as a fairground attraction when he was a child. Nobody has another name, Exhibitchee, which in the Native American translation means he who speaks aloud and says nothing .

Blake is believed by Nobody to be a reincarnation of the English painter and poet William Blake , whose works Nobody met in England and whom he admires. The pursuers grow in number and the reward offered increases. He and Nobody successfully assert themselves on their escape against the chasing bounty hunters and highwaymen. The honest, naive accountant becomes a multiple and, over time, cold-blooded shooter. Shortly before the two break away from the pursuers and reach a large Indian settlement, Blake is injured again in the shoulder by a bullet. Blake gets weaker and weaker and begins to hallucinate. Nobody puts Blake in a canoe and pushes him out to sea. He is dawning and barely conscious when a persistent pursuer reaches the beach. Blake can only watch as the pursuer and nobody shoot each other.


The name Nobody could allude to William Blake's poem To Nobodaddy , excerpts of which are recited in the film. His supposed actual name - Exhibitchee - sounds similar to a combination of the English words exhibition and bitch, which can condescendingly denote an exhibition piece or a fairground attraction.

The cinematic images show a close proximity to Franz Kafka's world of thought . Here as there, the protagonist is driven. It happens a mishap, d. That is , he listens to his inner life and fails to effectively assert himself against his persecutors and adversaries and to find a successful path in life. He always gets stuck in searching and dreaming, like many of Kafka's characters (Josef K., Der Kübelreiter , Der Schlag ans Hoftor ...). Especially the story Der Jäger Gracchus , in which the hunter, without being a vampire or the like, drifts in a boat on the water for an indefinite period of time like the Flying Dutchman , finds strong correspondence in the film's end sequences.

In terms of narrative and mood, the film is similar to the work of Aki Kaurismäki ; namely the film The Man Without a Past (2002), but also Shadows in Paradise (Varjoja paratiisissa, 1986) and clouds are passing by (Kauas pilvet karkaavat, 1996). They have in common z. B. that only seemingly individual fates are told, but actually a whole tableau or moral picture , as it was called earlier, the epoch lights up what is wanted. The whole thing is artfully bathed in a mythologizing light in which one can only vaguely distinguish between real and unreal .

The extent to which Dead Man should be examined and interpreted in terms of its significance for the Western genre is controversial. There are different views on the question of whether the film should be assigned to the sub-genre of the anti-western . According to Jim Jarmusch, the Western format was more attractive as a suitable framework for his narrative style: “The Western as a genre is a grateful base for metaphors and has deep roots in classic narrative forms. [...] I have to admit that Dead Man is not a conventional western - the genre was really only used as a starting point. "

The film is also interesting considering a criticism of industrialization and the associated extinction of old forms of life (Indians, bison). The train (as a symbol of the new world) is an important theme of the opening sequence. The town William Blake travels to is called Machine and the setting looks like a mixture of blast furnaces and old western town, steel workers and outlaws, which in turn reflects the aforementioned conflict between old and new. The good guys , the romantics (Blake) and those who are close to nature (Nobody) have no chance against the violence with which the new world breaks down on the old one. Further indications of this interpretation are the people who shoot buffalo for fun while on the train (technology and industry destroy nature) and, related to this, the places where mountains of animal skeletons are shown.

The summary of the plot at, according to which the Indian Nobody prepares William Blake for his journey into a spiritual world, suggests a different interpretation. The accountant Blake, who comes from the east coast, leaves civilization behind and embarks on a path to the west that costs him his innocence and his life, but gives him a rich inner experience. It alludes to the customs of the Indians of the Pacific Northwest and to mythological motifs from the poetry of William Blake and Dante in a variety of ways. In particular, Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is quoted again and again. In addition, the individual sections of the film correspond to different phases of the spiritual journey. Ultimately, Nobody is about to bring the soul of William Blake through the purgatory of the Wild West. On the Pacific coast, he can finally embark it for the journey across the water - a symbol of the redemption (or reincarnation) of the soul.


In 1996 the film received the European Film Award for best non-European film. He also took part in the 1995 Cannes International Film Festival competition.

Movie reviews

  • Lexicon of international film : “A stylistically and dramaturgically broken film, which uses elements of the Western for a kind of metaphysical journey. In beautiful black-and-white images and with an unusual soundtrack, the film creates a dense atmosphere, but repeatedly overrides it through a distancing staging with 'naive' comedy. "
  • “Despite the unusual genre, Jarmusch remains true to his wonderfully laconic style and the idea of ​​intercultural confrontation. As in all of his films, people with different cultural life experiences meet in Dead Man , from which an extremely human comedy always develops. "(Max Herrmann in the film magazine Artechock )
  • Stefan Strucken writes in that he judges Dead Man as a "coherent, perfect and unusual" Western. However, unnecessary brutality, superfluous slapstick interludes and sometimes superfluous dialogues clouded the overall picture.
  • Roger Ebert was disappointed with the film, he couldn't find any meaning in it, he writes in his review in the Chicago Sun-Times . Dead Man is slow, strange and by no means rewarding.


The soundtrack contributes significantly to the magical, often trance-like and highly absorbent effect of the film. It was created by Neil Young watching the cut film in the studio and improvising . He mainly used an electric and an acoustic guitar as well as piano and organ. The soundtrack consists of 13 tracks, some of which contain dialogue from the film, including Johnny Depp quoting poems by William Blake .

DEAD MAN - Neil Young 
No. title length
1. Guitar Solo, No. 1 5:18
2. The Round Stones Beneath the Earth 3:32
3. Guitar Solo, No. 2 2:03
4th Why Does Thou Hide Thyself in Clouds 2:25
5. Organ solo 1:33
6th Do You Know How to Use This Weapon? 4:25
7th Guitar Solo, No. 3 4:31
8th. Nobody's story 6:36
9. Guitar Solo, No. 4th 4:22
10. Stupid White Men ... 8:46
11. Guitar Solo, No. 5 14:41
12. Time for You to Leave, William Blake ... 0:51
13. Guitar Solo, No. 6th 3:22
Overall length: 1:02:25


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "The 'western' as a genre is very open to metaphor and has deep roots in classical narrative forms. […] I have to admit […] that Dead Man is not a traditional 'western' - the genre was really only used as a point of departure. " Http:// 2
  2. Briana Berg: "Unveiling the spiritual nature of Dead Man", Cinescapade 2001.
  3. Briana Berg: "Unveiling the spiritual nature of Dead Man", Cinescapade 2001.
  4. Dead Man. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  5. Criticism in the film magazine artechock
  6. Critique of Dead Man on
  7. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times on Dead Man