Dead Man is an original variation on the indestructible genre of the western. The film encompasses the journey of a man young in spirit and body, Bill Blake (Johnny Depp), to unknown regions. He travels to the far western border of America, some time in the second half of the 19th century. Blake is lost and severely injured when he meets a strange outcast native American called ‘Nobody’ who in turn believes that Blake is really the dead English poet of the same name. The story transports Blake to both comic and violent situations and he is aided by Nobody. Against his nature, Blake is forced to become an outlaw and murderer; he feels the physical world slowly slide away from under him.
All of Jim Jarmusch’s previous films have been screened in Rotterdam and with Dead Man he made his first ‘historical’ film. It is a fine display of good and pretty well-known actors. Jarmusch chose the Western as starting point because of the open form and the fact that the genre is bound up with America. He himself describes his film as “a black-and-white-psychedelic-micro-epic”.