"“The best films are like dreams you’re never sure you had”"
Jim Jarmusch has never been a director who makes easy films. His approach frequently avoids straightforward narratives and he often blends genres with usually positive and always interesting outcomes. As a result, he’s an original if challenging director and one who often divides opinion.
His latest film, The Limits Of Control is likely to divide opinion even further. It sees an unnamed suited man (Isaach De Bankole) travelling through Spain on an unexplained mission. Along the way he meets a series of individuals, a violinist (Luis Tosar), a blonde obsessed with Hitchcock (Tilda Swinton), a bizarrely naked but bespectacled woman (Paz de la Huerta), a British guitarist (John Hurt), an edgy Mexican (Gael Garcia Bernal) and a silent driver (Hiam Abbass), all of whose first words to him are "Usted no habla Espanol, verdad?" ("You don't speak Spanish, right?"). The man usually says nothing, but regardless they continue “Do you happen to like...” and then continue talking about their chosen subject.
His journey eventually leads him to a confrontation with a rich American man (Jarmusch regular Bill Murray) and here his intentions are finally revealed.
De Bankole gives a strong performance as the taciturn lead and even though he says very little, there’s something almost dreamlike and hypnotic about his performance that you’ll quickly find yourself mesmerised by him. The repeated lines and motifs also contribute to give a phantasmal feel to the film, shot beautifully by cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
The supporting cast are equally good - Murray is at his sardonic best in a darkly hilarious confrontation with De Bankole at the end of the film and Paz de la Huerta has all the allure and intrigue of the most dangerous femme fatale. The highlight has to be Tilda Switon though, dressed up to the nines in a white cowboy hat and boots, waxing lyrical about what she loves about film.
“The best films are like dreams you’re never sure you had,” she says, surely a statement which sums up The Limits Of Control.
Your enjoyment of the film will depend on your patience for its style and cryptic musings. It is slow paced with very little explanation and as a result leaves many questions unanswered. What exactly are his motives? Are the characters allegorical representations of modern liberal society? Why doesn’t he say anything? These puzzles will keep you thinking and guessing long after you’ve seen the film and it’s certainly open to many possible interpretations.
If you don’t have the patience for this kind of abstraction, then it’s probably not the movie for you but if you’re happy to be carried away by its beautiful cinematography and play along with Jarmusch’s mind games, then you’ll have a blast.