Dead Man at the Dryden

I went to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Dead Man. I convinced Ali to not see it with me because I was worried it wasn't her kind of movie — and with other options like food at her parents' house or the video shoot for The Lobster Quadrille also going on, I didn't want her to feel like she wasted her time. Now after the fact, I think she probably would have liked it. One of the things I really enjoy about the Dryden is how the introductions bracket the film — to give one a way to see it and understand it rather than to find no way to understand it and simply dismiss it (especially in a case like this).

Anyway, Dead Man is an excellent movie: a meditative cinematic poem about death on all sorts of different levels. All the actors in the film were stunningly convincing. The direction and cinematography offered a deliberate, steady pace with plenty of room to simply observe.

It's about a guy named William Blake who goes west for a job in the town of Machine. When he arrives, there is no job for him — and he had spent all his savings to get there. He meets a woman, but his bad luck isn't done because her fiancee returns and in a blur of passion, shoots her and Blake who in turn shoots him. Injured, Blake heads for the hills and is aided by a Native American named Nobody — who happens to be a fan of poet William Blake in a moment that transcends the "fourth wall" like none other. The fiancee happens to be the son of the brutal, sole industrialist in Machine and puts a bounty on Blake's head. Meanwhile, Nobody declares Blake to be a dead man and spends his time preparing Blake for his journey to the other side.

But that's not what the movie is about at all.

What I got out of it was that it was about the reality of death. Not the part that it's inevitable, that it's permanent, or that it's man's greatest fear, but simply that it was, is, and will be. The Europeans slaughtered the Native Americans, for instance; and no matter how good or bad we feel about that now, it happened and we cannot change it. There's a certain beauty to the notion of impermanent existence — that no matter what we do in life, we end up part of the same earthly goo from which we came.

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2 thoughts on “Dead Man at the Dryden

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