In a Jim Jarmusch film, lone figures traverse sparse landscapes, using information, relics, and dialogue as currency, all while pushing down a long and gap-riddled road toward some sort of personal enlightenment. His latest film, The Limits of Control, strips this already bare narrative down to its core essentials, and changes it up by admitting that the hero might already have found his peace.
A mysterious Man (Isaach De Bankole) dressed in a sharp suit walks out of an airport bathroom, then awaits an unknown assignment (an assassination is the best guest). From here, Jarmusch charts the existential meetings this man has with his many diverse and eccentric handlers, conversational moments lined with subtext regarding the man’s identity, his diligence, and the passions of those around him.
Each conversation ends with an obscure barter, making the characters seem personal and obtuse simultaneously. The vignettes are strategically placed to guide the viewer toward an ideological realization, but Jarmusch resists even letting an ounce of movie logic outweigh the menacing and confounding mood of the film.
In this sense, The Limits of Control challenges the power of modern technology and it’s stranglehold over the world, allowing a fluid spring of imagination to take its place. The Man with no name comes to signify the beauty of silence, or a blatant lack of explanation in modern filmmaking. Some critics have judged The Limits of Control as indulgent, but they seem to be missing the point. There’s a beauty in not fully comprehending the small moments that attract characters, repulse them, and challenge them. The story and meaning stem from what’s not said, what’s felt by the absence of certainty in a world consumed by control.