The dead don’t die

A film by Jim Jarmusch. In English with German subtitles.

[Credits] [Tickets & Termine] [Trailer]

That‘s the the­me song“ says Adam Driver to Billy Murray, when Sturgill Simpson‘s song “The Dead Don‘t Die“ plays on the car radio for the first, but not last, time. Does he real­ly mean the film‘s the­me song, which has been run­ning for a few minu­tes? Jim Jarmusch doesn‘t make things that easy for hims­elf or his view­ers, but it quick­ly beco­mes clear that the New Yorker‘s 13th film isn‘t just a zom­bie film, it‘s also a meta zom­bie film. The plot doesn‘t unfold quick­ly, becau­se it‘s exact­ly what you would expect from a zom­bie film, and Jarmusch cares even less about a con­ven­tio­nal nar­ra­ti­ve than usual.

Strange things sud­den­ly hap­pen in the small town of Centerville. Clocks stand still, cell pho­nes stop working, the sun­ri­se and sun­set switch, and worst of all, the dead are coming to life. For the resi­dents who know a thing or two about zom­bie films like poli­ce­man Ronnie (Driver) or the gas sta­ti­on atten­dant Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) it quick­ly beco­mes clear that this is a veri­ta­ble zom­bie apo­ca­lyp­se, mea­ning the end of the world. The only thing to do against the undead is to sever their head. Ronnie does so with an ele­gant swing, just like samu­rai sword wiel­ding Scottisch mor­ti­ci­an Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) who seems like a rela­ti­ve of Ghost Dog. Many regu­lars from Jarmusch‘s oeu­vre appear here, from Bill Murray to Tom Waits to Iggy Pop – who plays a zom­bie of cour­se, and didn‘t requite a lot of make up for it.

It‘s not just the cas­ting that indi­ca­tes that Jarmusch is play­ing with the per­cep­ti­on that view­ers have deve­lo­ped about the actors and musi­ci­ans. Tilda Swinton as Zelda Winston seems like the ali­en she‘s often descri­bed as with her extre­me Scottish accent, her accen­tua­ted white hair, and espe­ci­al­ly her stran­ge beha­vi­or. The short appearance of RZA blends rea­li­ty, fic­tion, and cli­che ide­as so much that the public figu­re is cast as a post­man for a com­pa­ny cal­led WU-PS.

All of the­se nice dis­tor­ti­ons of rea­li­ty help Jarmusch crea­te aworld that is cha­rac­te­ri­sed by super­fi­ci­a­li­ty and apa­thy. Even a dis­as­ter like a zom­bie apo­ca­lyp­se, that turns more and more resi­dents into the undead, regis­ters as bare­ly a blip on the radar, They take their desti­ny as it comes as long as someone says: ever­y­thing will be fine! It‘s easy to see what Jarmusch was thin­king about. The US under Donald Trump. Even though the president‘s name isn‘t utte­red, you can‘t help but think about the dem­ago­gue and his fol­lo­wers, about the dete­rio­ra­ti­on of values and mora­li­ty. Using dys­to­pian zom­bie films as meta­phors for grie­van­ces was ori­gi­nal when George Romero did it in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, by now it‘s an old cli­che. Jarmusch is awa­re of this of cour­se and doesn‘t even try to be subt­le, but rather mark­ed­ly broad. Jarmusch has rare­ly shot more cru­de moments, but the coar­sen­ess of the humor makes THE DEAD DON‘T DIE into a per­fect film of this moment: it might not be the best time for refi­ned humor when the world order is collapsing.

Translation: Elinor Lewy
Michael Meyns | indiekino


USA 2019, 103 Min., engl. OmU
Regie & Buch: Jim Jarmusch
Darsteller: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat, Rosie Perez, Eszter Balint, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Larry Fessenden, Tom Waits.

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