Thomas Verdois (3.verdois@...) started a very interesting conversation yesterday (4/9/2000) about the role of William Blake (the poet) on the movie "Dead Man" of Jim Jarmusch.[...]
We could start by making a reference to the name Nobody and its use. "Nobody" is one of the names that Blake uses for God, or instead of God. This thesis of Blake is not simple. (Also see Ludwig's mail:Jarmusch assured me that he was unaware of Nobodaddy, and that no such thought ever crossed his mind. -by Jonathan Rosenbaum).
Blake did not accept the idea of God that "people" had on his times (18th century). Blake thinks that God does not intervene in our world in order the right and good thing to be done. Thus, God includes bad and evil in "god-self" because god is everywhere and everything. Thus, God is composed or encloses controversies -as a whole or not-. We could now support -simplifying of course- that "Nobody", the Indian, on Dead Man, is a sort of God, the God, which finds Johnny Depp (Bill Blake), the "Dead Man", already dead, and takes his soul to lead it to the truth, to the One, not by guiding-teaching it, but showing it the endless way of self-taught:
"The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn from the crow" (W.Blake).
Johnny Depp at the moment he is found by Nobody, is already dead and has just started his big journey to stand before truth, leaving back any human activities. He has left his hometown, having back nothing at all (his parents have just died), he does not get the job, helped here somehow by the evil-ironic-coincidence, and then he meets Thel Russell (Mili Avital), the reformed prostitute who offers him shelter in a room festooned with paper flowers, almost the last step before getting out to begin his way to "real" freedom. [see Ludwig's mail: "The maiden Thel, whose name is derived from the Greek word for desire (in Greek is thelo:"θέλω"), is first glimpsed living in a state of aimless, pastoral bliss. She briefly enters the world of Experience (meaning, in this case, mature sexuality), then flees, horrified, back to the primal Vale of Har".](Jacob Levich). Also, we must note here the controversy of the world of Thel that just meets "Experience" and the world of Bill (Johnny Depp-William Blake) that just gets away from it. Controversies are non-stopping on Dead Man as they are in Blake's world.
Johnny tries to overcome the "material" side of being (paper flower e.t.c.) the need of food-need to work, the need of belonging someplace with beings (no shelter, no companion), and at last he overcomes the need of love-eros, the need for women, companionship, even sympathy. (Don't forget that Thel is also naive and frightened by the reality that they have shown her and she stays or flees in panic without any ability to act differently).
Johnny is on his way out of anti-Blake world, of "cosmos" of bad-meant/bad-builded "order", where harmony has no real place. Of course eros is the last step. Eros can not be condemned, Blake at least supports so, and eros is not meant only as love-sex for flesh, but as a need for a higher contact with any possible and available essence. Eros could be considered as being located between the two states. Eventually, it is just the mean on a meaningless condition.
At the end eros of everything-anything must be overcomed also and this is due to the fact that desire should have no place on the final journey to truth.
"Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead"
(the last half hour of Dead Man shows this very clearly. Jarmusch insists on it).
Preparing for the big journey, the Dead-man-hero is helped by luck-coincidence or in other words we can say he is helped by fate-destiny:
"Some are Born to sweet delight / Some are Born to Endless Night."
Thus, his soul is close in being awakened, once it passes through the Door of Death, in seeking the truth, in order:
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower."
Also note here in Ludwig's mail:
When Nobody rouses a sleeping Bill with the words
"Don't let the sun burn a hole in your ass: rise now, and drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead,"
he's paraphrasing a "Proverb of Hell" usually interpreted as an adjuration to the artist not to be constrained by tradition and precedent. (Jacob Levich)
5th of September 2000