I think imagination is the greatest and most essential asset that an artist poses. I also think that imagination is the only thing that differentiates the creative people from the not-so-creative people. Jim Jarmusch gets into the most plausible Zen mode in his 2009 feature film ‘The Limits Of Control.’ A vague, almost frustrating film about a loner on a quest, the film is, as I would like to call it, a soul brother of Jarmusch’s very own psychedelic western ‘Dead Man.’
In ‘The Limits of Contol’, Isaach De Bankolé plays The Lone Man – a calmer, more authentically dressed version of Jef Costello from Melville’s Le Samouraï (1957), who talks only when he can’t go ahead without saying anything, orders two espressos in two cups (Not a double espresso), does his Buddhist ritual of calming oneself & never sleeps. He is sent to Madrid (followed by Spain and some other beautiful location) with cryptic instructions in matchboxes. He encounters strange characters of philosophical importance & supposedly criminal intent but he sits there listening to them eating their own pieces of mindsets, one at a time.
Like many other Jarmusch films, there’s a mystery that surrounds ‘The Limits Of Control.’ Quite like Broken Flowers, where the loner at its center skims around his past to abhor which of his lovers has left him a child, The Lone man in this film seems to have an agenda of his own. The mystery becomes vaguer and abstract as we see characters talking about various things that seem disjointed and borderline obnoxious, which makes ‘The Limit Of Control’ very hard to digest at times.
The point of the film, however, isn’t about a conspiracy, a strange protagonist who never sleep or the disjointed characters that he meets, it’s just a testament to all the creators of the world. A presumptuous and stupendous representation of the importance of art, science, and everything that connects creativity to the world in general. I suppose the film tries to contradict the idea of existential decay in every individual. It follows the philosophy that creating art is even more important than the political bureaucracy that the world sustains. The little notes that the protagonist swallows are symbols of the various forms of creations that are necessary to sustain a livelihood. The Lone Man, hence becomes a summation of all those creative urges becoming a force that no one can reckon with.
That being said, this is probably one of my least favorite Jim Jarmusch films. In spite of the redundant subject matter and quietly philosophical monologues, The Limits Of Control tests your patience. Even though the film explores themes which are similar to Jarmusch’s Dead Man, the film doesn’t engage as much as it should. It becoming self-indulgent & vaguely unfamiliar at times. The end also spells out everything for you, instead of leaving threads to be untangled by your own. However, the film is beautiful to look at. Christopher Doyle’s breathtaking frames speak for themselves when there are no words to fill up the screen.
Much like Dead Man, where Tobacco becomes a mantra for every character present. You don’t speak Spanish/French, right?” beautifully encapsulates that imagination & creativity defies language and ethnicity. It’s the only thing that binds people of all color, caste, creeds and religion together. The Limits of Control is a film that should be seen, not because it’s necessary but because your own words and imaginations are at test every time you spill out something beautiful.