Why you must watch these Jim Jarmusch films before 'The Dead Don't Die'

Every one of Jim Jarmusch's films transports you into dark, deep places


The zombie flick The Dead Don't Die just released in the US. While we may not yet know when the film releases in India, it is a good time to read up on the film, and its director in particular. One of the most celebrated and followed independent filmmakers from the US, Jim Jarmusch stays true to the tag. He thrashes the notion of original ideas not only in filmmaking, but around art in general.

“Nothing is original,” Jarmusch has famously said. Furthermore, he has spoken about 'stealing ideas' from 'somewhere that had effected inspiration, or from something that had fuelled your imagination'.

This ensues in the new movie The Dead Don't Die, from what could be caught off the trailer. It is a funny zombie film, and if you have followed Jarmusch then you'd know it follows his own style of slapstick—from having impromptu-seeming lines and monologues, the scenes and sequences will catch you laughing offhand.

Being a zombie comedy, The Dead Don't Die is hellbent on spoofing the genre-defining blockbusters like The Night of the Living Dead, or the other four flicks from the same Dead series, all of which were directed by George Romero.

The trailer teases us into Centerville, its denizens, and then the zombies come out of literally nowhere. It is hilarious how the police officers of Centerville are so nonchalantly cool, even about a zombie apocalypse looming over their town. The audience can feed on the smug reactions of the characters as they confront the zombies. One would even imagine being there in person and thinking 'here's another guy in zombie clothes, nonsense!' Until the next second when you see the zombie planting its teeth around your neck.

If you are planning to begin Jarmusch films with this one, then know that the humour lies in the attention to detail. For instance, take a look at one of the character posters of the film featuring RZA, wherein he is holding a newspaper which reads "EARTH OFF ITS AXIS: THE END OF THE WORLD?"

Moving on to Jarmusch's other films, let's start off with Dead Man (1995). A subtle parody of the western genre and the white man in general, the film follows William Blake, played by none other than Johnny Depp, who's come to the last town in the western hemisphere. Jarmusch creates a poignant and brilliant monochrome canvas to balance the transformation of a feeble man becoming a killer. The movie features Depp from a time when he is an introspective actor. Very brooding and daring at his job back then, Depp’s portrayal of William Blake seemed fully absorbed. The movie, like an online commentator out it 'is a look at a familiar subject from an unfamiliar angle, that pays little or no heed to the conventions of the genre it’s nominally part of.'

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) has Jarmusch having a typically offbeat entry into the vampire genre. Funnily enough, he has Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play vampire lovers, seeing it hard to cope in a world burgeoning with dystopia, getting ruined in the process. Find out how hard it is for these two vampire lovers, to even get their supply of blood, that too bootlegged. And to run away from the cops in the process. Sadly, in an America that is facing inevitable ruin, just as Hiddleston's character puts, life asks one question, 'what a drag?!'

Jim Jarmusch is a legend in cleverly contriving make-believe worlds, beautifully concocting the cinematography, or the music. Be it making Dead Man into a 'psychedelic western', a new genre which he himself coined, or when Only Lovers Left Alive sums up the sluggishness, 'the drag' which its protagonists suffer, Jarmusch in every film of his, makes it a hell of a one-off.

Elsewhere, Jarmusch films were quoted as 'cavernous'. This is correct, every film of his transports you into dark deep places, but only if you're willing to take the plunge.

Having talked about just two of Jarmusch's films, worry not if he's new to you, for this man has no career graph. Feel free to begin anywhere.

Some of Jarmusch's films are:

Permanent Vacation (1980)

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Dead Man (1995)

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)

Broken Flowers (2005)

The Limits of Control (2009)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Paterson (2016)

The Dead Don't Die (2019)