The Limits of Control
Jim Jarmusch :: USA :: 2009 :: 1h56
A tall black man in a shiny suit (Isaach de Bankomé) is sent to Madrid. A few mysterious meetings later, he gets off a train in Seville. And then another stop. He is on a mission, or perhaps on several missions, taking him cross country over the Iberian peninsula. This is a film without a customary narrative, leaving you to paradoxically guess the ongoings. Paradoxically, because every step taken by our hero is meticulously planned and controlled. He, at least, knows what he is doing, with a silent, patient cool.
At times the film looks like an old-school 1970s thriller. At other times, we see carefully chosen images which look more like works of art photography than than part of a feature film. At again other times, the surroundings and characters are so painfully normal that it seems out of place with the rest. As you are taken along, you will notice that the same structure of the scenes is repeated, with little curious reminders forwards or backwards in time to create an overall harmony. Perhaps the aesthetic could have been even more formal than it was, as after all the whole film takes on an experimental role. The background canvases of the countryside might at times even have been fake, as it would not have mattered. Reality is a flexible notion in the film and could easily have been bent a little more.
Reconstructing the film in a cafe afterwards is a lot of fun, so try to avoid seeing the film by yourself. You can take the side characters, the locations and the sparse exchanges to reconstruct a world in which the different characters all have their own obsessions and interests. But somehow they all work together. This succession of characters who are “in” on the conspiracy, even originate from widely different horizons, apparently all motivated to work together against the final puppet-master, whose presence we feel intrusively hovering above us throughout the film. And make sure you are up for it too. If you did not catch it yet, the pace of the film is slow.