Elements of Western, Comedy and Thriller in Jarmusch’s Film Dead Man

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Elements of Western, Comedy and Thriller in Jarmusch’s Film Dead Man

Released in 1995, the film “Dead Man” is set in the West in the latter half of the 19th century. The film is a genre-combining work. Although “Dead Man” is a Western, it brings in many elements from the Comedy and the Thriller. The movie is set in the west, yet the audience finds themselves laughing at many comical incidents as well as anticipating what will happen to Blake next.

The film is a Western in many ways, but is also a satire of the genre. First of all, the character Nobody is a Native American. This is common to Westerns, however, the remainder of his character is not. While Indians in Westerns are usually savages, Nobody was educated in England and only interested in helping the protagonist. Also, Blake arrives in town alone. Heroes in Westerns have typically been loners. However, Blake’s character is not much of a hero as he does not demonstrate many characteristics commonly associated with heroism. He is not courageous, fighting some ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ presence, or have some sort of special skills. When walking through, the town is established as a lawless place. For example, Blake and the audience see a woman performing oral sex on a man in public. This lawlessness is expected in the West. However, this specific incident is also satirical of the genre as Westerns would not normally show such a vulgar act.

During the course of “Dead Man,” Jarmusch uses some scenes to create a Thriller-like tension. For example, in the first scene, when Blake is traveling, many interesting passengers ride along with him on the train. The train conductor sits across from Blake and warns him of his destination, the town of Machine. The conductor tells Blake that Machine is the “end of the line.” These are very ominous words. The conductor also states that Blake is likely to find his grave there. A gunshot is then fired. These are actions and dialogue not regular to Westerns. This scene brings to “Dead Man” the element of suspense common to the Thriller.

Throughout the film, the audience is also exposed to many different comical scenes. Many situations and even dialogue are humorous. For example, one of the three killers sleeps with a Teddy Bear. Additionally, Nobody calls Blake a “stupid fucking white man.” This is funny purely because it is not something that would be expected from his character.

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