Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The Limits of Control
The Limits of Control; Drama, USA/ Japan, 2009; D: Jim Jarmusch, S: Isaach De Bankolé, Paz de la Huerta, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael García Bernal, Bill Murray, Alex Descas, Youki Kudoh
A Black Stranger gets an assignment at the airport and takes a flight to Madrid. He stays at a hotel room and goes to an open cafe where he orders two espressos. One after the other, people sit at his table - a man who talks about violins, a Blond cowgirl who talks about film, a man who talks about bohemian life and a Mexican hippie who talks about "reflections in the mirror looking more real than the original" - and all give him a box of matches containing a note with instructions. Finally, the Stranger arrives inside a maximum security outpost and eliminates the American who tells him "he can't eliminate the control by eliminating him". The Stranger then leaves.
"The best movies are like dreams you're not sure you ever had", says the cool Blond cowgirl (Tilda Swinton) to the main protagonist (De Bankole) at one point. That metafilm line hidden in "The Limits of Control" itself gives a guideline how to perceive this unusual-hermetic film that is heavily abstract: 90 % of the running time has no dialogues and unravels in silence, observations, turning into Jarmusch's most minimalistic film he ever had to date. It turns practically into an anti-film, closer to Bunuel than a linear, loud assassination action flick that could have been its Hollywood twin. "Limits" are a dreamy experience that floats in your subconsciousness and relaxes you, whereas some of its dialogues are poetry, from the already mentioned cowgirl's line, the Universe line ("Space has no center or edges, reality is arbitrary") and the violin monologue ("Guitars, violins and others instruments remember the music that has been played on them"). However, the film is still too overstretched, especially in the last third which seems like an empty walk, to engage completely.
One of the interpretations could be this: the Stranger is a person who is controlled by the rigid, restrictive view on life that has been imposed on him his whole life. He wears a fancy grey suit all of the time. But there is a psychological battle inside him. He is visited by "free" people who stimulate his right, intuitive side of the brain and reject the limitations. After seeing a painting of a violin in the museum, he is visited by a man who speaks fondly of music. After seeing a painting of a naked woman in the museum, he finds a naked girl in his hotel room, but doesn't want to sleep with her. The cowgirl is enchanted by movies, the Japanese girl by science, a man by 'bohemian life'. They awaken the long dormant imagination in him and he confronts the figure that restricts him, the American (Murray). He gets inside his compound because it is a part of his mind. The American clearly says: "And I suppose you believe that by eliminating me, you will eliminate control over some artificial reality", referencing all the encounters the Stranger met. By eliminating him, the Stranger changes his clothes, and his previous worldview, and embraces the right, free side of the brain, showing that there are limits of any control the society can have on every individual.