The other film review

Nils Zurawski (zurawsk@UNI-MUENSTER.DE)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 15:46:44 +0100

A film review on Anthro -L seems rather unusual, esspecially when the film
is 'Dead Man' by Jim Jarmusch.

I found the film remarkable, because it illustrates one of the grat books
on death by the french sociologist/ethnologist Robert Hertz from the Annei
sociologique' group`: Death and the right hand 1960, with a foreword by
Evans Pritchard.
It was written in 1907 and still gives a good modell for the ritual of the
temporary burial as practised in south east Asia.

The conclusions he draws are not all valid today, the stuff on totemism is
clearly influenced bythe master himself (Durkheim), but it functions as a
modell of how the ritual goes on and the way it affects the people related
to the death.

So now 'Dead Man', starring Johnny Depp.

he gets shozt at the beginning of the film, dies throughout the film, or as
one can see it having the book in mind, decomposes, is on a journey etc.

At the end of the film he gets his final burial, on a canoe pushed into the
open sea.

The film contains notions of cross dressing, cannibalism, spirituality
through an american-indian (native-american, what ever suits best) that is
his side kick an leader on his trip.
We have violence, the death and danger, symbolized in three hitmen.

I read the book for a class, to give a shor review of the book, and halfway
through I saw the film. The film showed just what I had read.

Other than Dances with wolves, Rapa Nui, and countless other film with
ethnological / ethnographical content, Dead Man isn't exotic, doesn't show
other people performing rituals and making us believe all they ever do is
all this hocuspocus.

It is deeply anthropological without being wrongly exotic and cheap.

I recommend it very much.

Any comments?
Has anybody else seen the film?

Regards to all