IT FOLLOWS (2014): DIRECTOR DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL

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©2019, by M. Keith Booker

It Follows begins with a shot of a peaceful-looking, middle-class American neighborhood. Nice (but not too nice) older homes are discreetly space along a quiet street, their lawns dominated by large old trees. It’s a classic setting for American horror, which—at least since Halloween (1978)—has so often focused on the dark dangers that potentially lurk beneath the placid, secure surface of middle America. This film, in fact, is constructed almost entirely of well-known horror-film motifs, the most important of which are the motif of a curse that is passed from one person to another—central to the recent Drag Me to Hell (2009)and the even more classic motif of the notion that engaging in sex can make one a prime target for violent murder—central to entire genre of the slasher film[1]. What is different here is that the two motifs are combined into one, so that the curse is passed from one person to another through sexual transmission. This motif makes the film an obvious allegory about sexually-transmitted disease (especially HIV/AIDS, given that the curse is so deadly), but this film is also marked by a number of stylistic flourishes that mark it as clearly postmodern and that tend to complicate any simple interpretations of the film.

Also in classic horror-film mode, the opening shot in It Follows is part of a teaser prologue that sets up the remainder of the film. As this opening scene proceeds, a teenage girl—Annie (Bailey Spry)—comes running out of one of the houses and into the street, as if something is chasing her. She’s wearing shorts and a tank top, but also spike heels. The odd ensemble adds to the sense that something is wrong, but she assures two inquirers (including her dad) that everything is fine. We’re not so sure, though, and her incongruous ensemble creates a sense of uncertainty that will recur many times in the film. Then Annie turns and runs back to her house and through the front door, passing her confused dad on the way. “What’s going on?” he asks, and we might very well be wondering the same thing. Then she immediately runs back out of the house, car keys in hand, jumps into a late-model (possibly 2014) Nissan Versa automobile (with recent Michigan plates) in the driveway, and drives frantically away from the house, again as if she is being chased by something, though there is nothing shown on the screen that appears to be chasing her. There are few other clues, though we do see that her house number is “1492,” corresponding to the year of Columbus’s first trip to the Americas—one of the most remembered years in American history, probably rivaled only by 1776. This number suggests that something relating to Columbus’s voyage—or perhaps something simply relating to history in general—might be important to this film, though there are no other related clues at this point. Annie drives to the beach, then sits in the sand in the beams of the car’s headlights. When her father calls her on her cellphone, she tells him she loves him—in a mode that sounds like a goodbye. A sudden cut to her violently mangled body on the beach suggests that she knew what she was talking about.

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An old CRT television in the home of Jay and Kelly.

Another cut shifts to the main narrative and back to a seemingly peaceful neighborhood (though apparently not the same one as in the prologue, which was a bit more modern and upscale). However, as the camera moves through this neighborhood, it makes a point of highlighting the trash in the gutter by the street, suggesting that things might not be as ideal here as they seem. Another girl, Jay Height (Maika Monroe), floats on her back in her family’s above-ground swimming pool. It’s a nice accoutrement of middle-class life, but hardly a sign of extravagant wealth. That the pool is not too clean, with patches of dirt on the bottom, reinforces the notion that it is a rather modest luxury. Jay floats on her back and looks through beautiful trees at a lovely cloud-speckled sky. She enjoys watching a squirrel and a bird playing on power lines overhead, though those power lines look a bit ominous. The background music in the scene feels a bit ominous as well, like something from a David Lynch film, with a dash of John Carpenter. Then Jay notices an ant crawling on her arm—another hint that there are flaws in this ostensibly idyllic suburban paradise. Meanwhile, neighborhood boys stealthily peer through the fence to try to get a look at Jay’s bikini-clad body. Nothing really bad is shown in the scene, but it does create a certain expectation that something bad might be coming.

While there are no events of consequence in this scene, we are—as so often happens in this movie—given a great deal of information, though it is not clear how we should interpret it. When Jay goes inside, we encounter another scene that seems almost overloaded with information. She finds that her sister Kelly (Lile Sepe) and her friends are watching the science fiction film Killers from Space (1954) on a clunky old CRT television, clearly suggesting that we might want to keep in mind the classic alien-invasion films of the 1950s as potential background to this film, but also creating confusion about exactly when this film is supposed to be set, especially as the décor of the house seems as old-fashioned as the television. Is this a leap back into the past, relative to the prologue? Temporal markers are, in fact, scrambled throughout It Follows, contributing to a sense of confusion and interpretive instability that reigns throughout the film. In any case, the friends constitute what seems to be a reasonably typical group of teens, though it updates the typical teen dynamic when young Yara Davis (Olivia Luccardi) jokingly farts toward the nerdy-looking Paul Bolduan (Keir Gilchrist), reversing a classic moment of teen vulgarity in which it is usually the boy who farts. If nothing else, the fart seems to indicate that these are old friends, comfortable in the presence of each other. Meanwhile, Mrs. Height (Debbie Williams) sits at a dining table behind the teens, oblivious and seemingly distracted. She has a glass of wine, suggesting that she might have retreated from reality into drink. She seems the typical out-of-it suburban mom. Meanwhile, the bookish and bespectacled Yara is reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (which she claims is about Paul) on her e-reader, suddenly giving the setting a contemporary feel. The problem is that her clamshell-style e-reader does not resemble any device that actually existed in the world of 2014 (or any other world we know of), possibly suggesting a science-fictional element in the film. It’s an odd science-fictional element, though, because it’s not really a very practical design and seems likely far less functional than a Kindle or other real-world e-readers. Is this some sort of alternate reality?

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Yara’s clamshell e-reader.

Killers from Space, incidentally,stars Peter Graves as Dr. Douglas Martin; Graves, meanwhile, was the brother of actor James Arness (of Gunsmoke fame), who played the alien in the classic alien invasion film The Thing from Another World (1951), one of the most influential such films of all time. It was, for example, a major influence on John Carpenter and is featured in Carpenter’s Halloween when the kids of the film view it on television. Carpenter himself remade The Thing from Another World in 1982 as The Thing, a much-admired film that has influenced many subsequent horror films. It Follows director David Robert Mitchell, for example, has identified Carpenter’s remake, along with his Halloween (1978), as two of the most important inspirations for It Follows. As Mitchell said in an interview:

“I totally love Carpenter—Halloween, and his version of The Thing is a favorite of mine. I’ve definitely watched his movies a million times. I’m a fan of his blocking and his staging and his compositions. For me, it wasn’t just about saying, “This particular shot is a Carpenter homage.” I’ve watched his stuff enough that’s probably going to come out in the filmmaking” (Dowd).

In terms of both style and content, It Follows in fact shows the influence of numerous horror film predecessors. Indeed, aside from its obvious meaning, the title of the film can also be taken to indicate the way in which the film follows in the footsteps of so many predecessors. Meanwhile, that a science fiction/horror hybrid such as The Thing would be a major influence, suggests that we look for science fictional as well as horror influences. However, beyond the glimpses of Yara’s e-reader and of films such as Killers from Space, there are few true science-fictional elements in It Follows. On the other hand, the film does operate essentially in the mode critics have associated with science fiction for decades now. I am thinking in particular of the academic (especially Marxist) strain of science fiction criticism that began with the work of Darko Suvin in the 1970s. According to Suvin, science fiction is first and foremost a literature of “cognitive estrangement” that places readers in a world different from their own, causing them to ponder those differences and thus to view their own world from a fresh perspective. In particular, this experience of estrangement might cause readers of science fiction to ponder ways in which their own world might be different, thus giving it a strong utopian dimension. In this sense, Suvin sees science fiction as operating much in the mode of the “epic” theater of the German leftist dramatist Bertolt Brecht, and it is surely no accident that, earlier in his career, Suvin had been primarily a Brecht scholar.[2]

For Suvin, meanwhile, other forms of non-realist narratives (he singles out fantasy, but a similar characterization would pertain to horror) have less political power: they present readers with worlds different from their own but do not typically ask them to think critically about the ways in which those worlds are different. Recent scholars of fantasy literature have revised Suvin’s view of that genre, seeing significant utopian/political potential in the works of recent leftist fantasy writers such as Britain’s China Miéville. Here, Fredric Jameson has led the way by declaring that works such as Miéville’s Perdido Street Station (2000), demonstrate the potential for a “radical fantasy” that is “capable of registering systemic change and of relating superstructural symptoms to infrastructural shifts and modifications” (“Radical” 280). With It Follows one might see something similar happening with horror—though it is also worth noting that Miéville’s work itself (often characterized as “weird fantasy”) contains significant doses of material derived from the horror tradition.

In any case, whatever their political potential (something to which I will return at the end of this essay), the various instances of cognitive estrangement that are produced by It Follows clearly impact our viewing of the film. For example, one could argue that Yara’s clam-shell reader is designed precisely to call attention to her reading—as a Kindle would not be likely to do. On the other hand, it is also highly unusual to find a teenager in a horror film (or in the real world, for that matter) reading a book at all, much less a book by Dostoevsky. The other teens in the scene don’t seem at all surprised by Yara’s reading of The Idiot, though: Jay merely asks if it’s any good, as if she might want to read it herself, but Yara is still very early in the book and answers, “I don’t know yet.” It seems a throwaway exchange, but it does suggest that these teens might be more literate than the ones we have become accustomed to in horror film. In any case, the clam-shell reader calls extra attention to Yara’s reading and asks us to consider whether reading might be a crucial motif in this film—or whether The Idiot might be an important gloss.[3]

 As it turns out, The Idiot does shed at least some light on It Follows. In particular, while Yara’s remark that the book is about Paul would seem simply to be a joking suggestion that Paul is an idiot, it is worth pursuing her suggestion a bit further. The main character of The Idiot is Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, who is most decidedly not an idiot—but who is regarded as mentally challenged by some of the more worldly charactersbecause of his naïve goodness and generosity toward others. Myshkin is almost saintly in his dealings with the book’s central female character, Nastasya Filippovna Barashkova, a dazzling beauty whom some of the other male characters (especially the dastardly Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin) treat far less kindly—essentially as a sexual object. For example, Myshkin offers to marry Nastasya Filippovna in order to save her from the clutches of Rogozhin (who eventually murders her), just as Paul offers to have sex with Jay in order to lift the curse that has been placed upon her. The appearance of The Idiot within It Follows does, therefore, shed a bit of light on Paul’s character in the film, while also providing an early hint that Jay’s current boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary), cast in the role of Rogozhin, might be up to no good.

It is clear that this world does not necessarily operate according to the perceived rules of what we know as reality, but what rules (if any) does it follow? Indeed, much of the experience of watching the first segments of It Follows consist of an extended exercise in trying to get our bearings and trying to understand the world in which the film is set—an experience that is usually associated more with science fiction (whose worlds are expected to differ from our own in ways that can be rationally understood). This is an exercise in what Jameson calls “cognitive mapping,” in which individuals in the postmodern world must constantly struggle to understand the confusing, rapidly-changing, and increasingly globalized system in which they live. For Jameson, this cognitive mapping is a crucial form of resistance to capitalist domination, potentially providing tools that individuals need to overcome their manipulation by a capitalist system that employs subterfuge and obfuscation as crucial weapons. Jameson concludes that, if postmodernist art is to have any political power it all, it would probably lie in its ability to encourage us to learn to perform feats of cognitive mapping. He thus argues that, “the political form of postmodernism, if there ever is any, will have as its vocation the invention and projection of a global cognitive mapping, on a social as well as spatial scale” (Postmodernism 54).

By constantly asking us to perform such feats, It Follows might be seen as a step in the direction that Jameson here indicates. For example, in the scene just after the one involving the clamshell e-reader, we see Jay in her room, which presents us with more estranging information to process. For example, Jay has another old-fashioned television, with rabbit ears. Most of the furniture looks vaguely like something from the period of the 1950s to the 1970s. Jay gets dressed and puts on makeup—a possible reference to the scene in which the title character of Carrie (1976) gets ready for her prom. Jay then heads out for her movie date with twenty-one-year-old Hugh. The movie theater is definitely old-style, with elaborate Japanese-themed décor like something from a 1930s movie palace.[4] An old woman plays music on a vintage Wurlitzer organ prior to the beginning of the film, further enhancing the antique feel. The film showing in the theater is Charade (1963), though there is no indication whether this is a first-run showing or a later revival. Still, it is clear that the temporal indicators in this scene are completely scrambled, perhaps in ways that might encourage us to ask questions such as, what makes one time period different from another?

Before the movie begins, Hugh and Jay decide to play a game in which each has to guess which audience member the other would most like to trade places with. Hugh chooses a young boy, because the boy still has his whole life ahead of him, with unlimited possibilities. We will soon learn that Hugh has special reasons for envying the young and the innocent, though it is also the case that the contrast between innocence and experience (a classic theme in Western culture) constitutes a thread that runs throughout this film. Trying to guess whom Jay has chosen, Hugh apparently sees a girl whom Jay cannot see, whereupon he gets seriously spooked and insists that they leave, pronto, with no explanation.

On their next date, Hugh and Jay have sex for the first time in the backseat of his vintage auto (a 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury), with a large building looming behind them. The scene is made more ominous by the knowledge that the building is the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, a Detroit facility that was closed in 2003 and that had been rumored to be haunted ever since. As of this writing in early 2019, the building is in the process of being demolished. To add creepiness to the setting, the wooded area around the hospital is known as the “Evil Woods” by the locals, complete with lots of stories of paranormal activity.

After they have sex, Jay kisses Hugh tenderly, but somewhat dispassionately, on the forehead. Hugh seems distracted and even less passionate—for good reason, as we will learn. It’s a big moment in their relationship, but it seems oddly affectless. Lying across the backseat of the car and playing with flowers growing on the ground outside the car, Jay begins to wax nostalgic about how her childhood self habitually fantasized about the freedoms that would come with being older, when she would be free to come and go as she pleased. “Now that we’re old enough,” she muses in a melancholy mode, “where the hell do we go?” Then, as if to verify Jay’s sense that acting out her childhood fantasies is turning out to be a disappointment, Hugh chloroforms her, and she awakes tied to a wheelchair, half-naked, amid what is implied to be the ruins of the abandoned psychiatric hospital. It’s a creepy setting, for sure, but one that is also rich with significance. As films such as Session 9 (2001)and Grave Encounters (2011) have demonstrated, abandoned psychiatric hospitals represent particularly creepy settings for horror films, and this one is no different, though the building is not actually identified in the film, which perhaps decreases that effect. What is clear, though, is that it is a dilapidated ruin, thus serving as an emblem of the well-known decay of Detroit as a city—a motif that was emphasized just a year before in Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive.[5]

Given this creepy setting (and the fact that Jay has been rendered unconscious and then tied to a wheelchair), It Follows finally seems to be showing its horror film colors, roughly eighteen minutes in, though each scene is so packed with information that it seems longer. Hugh seems to have revealed his true colors as well, though not completely. Will he torture her? Kill her? Then he reveals his true agenda and the true premise of the film. He is being followed by an inexorable and unstoppable Entity that is determined to kill him. Like Christine in Drag Me to Hell (2009), he can only save himself by passing on the curse to someone else. In this case, however, the only way he can pass the curse to someone else is by having sex with them, which means the curse has now been transferred to Jay. He has tied Jay to the wheelchair so that she can see It approaching and will thus take his warnings seriously.

The Entity can take the form of anyone, though only the cursed person (and previously cursed people), can see it. Viewers of the film can generally see it as well, and one of the creepiest things about the film is the Entity’s tendency to take on such bizarre and nightmarish forms and to appear in strange places—as when, in one scene when It is chasing Jay, It appears atop her house as a naked, elderly man. It is, in fact, often naked, and seems to prefer taking on obscene and troubling forms, possibly derived from the unconscious fears of the victim, though the motivation behind these forms is never made clear. While Jay is in the wheelchair, a naked woman approaches (we will later learn that It has taken the form of Hugh’s mother); Hugh then wheels Jay away and takes her back to her home, where he leaves her in the street and hurriedly drives off. Meanwhile, Hugh has advised her to pass the curse on to someone else before the Entity can kill her, a suggestion that is not especially generous, given that he also informs her that, if It does kill her, the curse will revert to him. The rest of the film then involves Jay’s efforts to evade the curse with the help of Kelly, Yara, Paul, and their neighbor Greg Hannigan (Daniel Zovatto). As often happens in teen horror films, authority figures are not much help, and the teens have to fend for themselves. Mrs. Height, who has pretty much checked out and withdrawn from life, seems especially useless, though the police are not a lot better. Even the other teens don’t believe in the curse at first, though events quickly convince them.

We don’t really know what Mrs. Height thinks about the curse or anything else, though, because she is such a distant figure, almost like a ghost haunting the Height home. She seems a broken woman, perhaps because of the absence of her husband, the father of her two daughters. The daughters seem relatively normal and functional, but certain aspects of Jay’s behavior in the film seem subtly informed by a certain affectlessness and lack of trust. Andy Hoglund is probably right to argue that Jay seems to have suffered some sort of emotional trauma even before her experience with Hugh and the curse. Ultimately, for Hoglund, It Follows is really the story of “the journey of a young woman coping with the fact she lives in a world where nearly all the men in her life—including her dad—can’t ever fully be trusted.”

The Idiot might provide some helpful insight here, as well. A key source of the troubles of Nastasya Filippovna in Dostoevsky’s novel is the fact that she was orphaned at the age of seven, then raised by a guardian (Totsky) who abused her and placed her in a position of sexual servitude. There is no indication in It Follows that Jay was sexually abused by her father (though that might explain the broken condition of her mother), but the fact that Nastasya Filippovna has been so thoroughly betrayed sheds some suggestive light on Jay’s seemingly traumatized condition.

If It Follows provides few details about exactly what might have happened within Jay’s family, it is much more explicit in its presentation of the curse at the center of the film as an allegorical stand-in for the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases. In addition, it just as clearly allegorizes much more, including overall social anxieties about sex and sexuality and about how being introduced to sex might lead to bad things for young people. When Paul and Yara sleep over at Kelly and Jay’s house to help calm Jay’s anxieties, Jay and Paul (with another old science fiction film playing on TV in the background) discuss the time when, as kids, they and Kelly were caught reading some porno magazines by Greg’s mom, who frantically took away the magazines, then reported the event to the parents, who just as frantically gave their children the “sex ed talk,” hopefully to control the flow of sexually-related information to their children.

Such information forms a crucial part of the experience of growing up and thus directly addresses the dynamic of innocence vs. experience that is so central to It Follows, which adds an even broader dimension to the allegorical aspects of the film.In this sense, the film can be taken as a statement in favor of adequate education and in support of more appropriate preparation of young people to deal with the adult world than we currently have. Within this framework, sex education would of course be key, and he film certainly indicates that young people need to know about sex in order to grow up safely and properly. After all, anyone who has sex in the world of this film is apt to be able to survive only if they have full information about the curse and what it entails. Much of the film is spent, in fact, in gathering information and trying to interpret it to best effect. For example, almost Scooby-Doo-like,Jay and her gang set about playing detective, tracking down Hugh (who has now disappeared) to try to acquire more information about how to evade the curse. They drive through dilapidated areas of Detroit seeking Hugh, again emphasizing the decay of the city. Finally, they locate the abandoned house where he has been hiding out. It’s in a rundown neighborhood that looks like it might once have been nice, like the one where Jay and the other teens live now. The jarring contrast between the ruined areas of the city and the suburban areas that are still in good shape emphasizes how far the city has fallen, but it also reinforces the sense of temporal uncertainty that runs throughout the film. It is almost as if Jay’s neighborhood and this one exist in complete different times, even though the difference is really a matter of location.[6]

Using information found in the abandoned house, the teen detectives finally trace Hugh (real name Jeff Redmond) to his real home, again in a nice neighborhood of Detroit. They don’t learn much from him, other than the fact that It always travels on foot, so that driving can at least buy time by putting it in the distance. So the teens head out in Greg’s car to drive to his family’s lakeside country house. On the way, Kelly asks Greg if his mom is going to freak out at their abrupt departure for the house, and he tells her that “she won’t even know.” Apparently, Kelly and Jay’s mom is not the only parent in this film who is completely out of touch with the lives of her children.

Luckily, the young people have each other. The way in which the teens work together has a clear utopian dimension, suggesting some genuine group solidarity—as opposed to the every-person-for-themselves attitude often seen in horror (and other) movies. Paul, who has been Jay’s neighbor all his life, seems particularly selfless in his devotion to her. In one scene, Yara and Kelly agree that Jay is “so pretty it’s annoying,” whereupon Paul adds that “at least she’s nice,” making it clear that he is sweet on Jay and eliciting a look of exasperation from Kelly. When Paul later offers to have sex with Jay in order to shift the attentions of the Entity from her to him, it seems to be a genuinely giving gesture and not just a maneuver to get her to have sex with him—somewhat along the lines of the marriage proposal issued by the selfless Prince Myshkin to the beleaguered Nastasya Filippovna in The Idiot.

Greg, on the other hand, is a different story. He, in fact, does have sex with Jay (while she is in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered while fleeing the Entity), but only because he still doesn’t believe in the curse. Exactly how unscrupulous he is being here (one could argue that he is trying to make Jay feel better by making her believe that the curse has been lifted and not just looking for an opportunity to have sex), but he pays for the gesture. The curse is, in fact, transferred to him, and the Entity (in the guise of his own mother) kills him in a rather obscene manner. The curse reverts to Jay. For her part, Jay says she didn’t think it would be a big deal to have sex with Greg, as they had already had sex together back in high school, though it remains unclear what she means here: does she mean she didn’t think the curse would transfer to him, or does she mean that she herself didn’t find it onerous to have sex with him?

Whatever Jay’s motives with regard to Greg, she declines Paul’s offer to have sex, precisely because she doesn’t want to transfer the curse to him. Then, as the film nears its end, with the Entity having seemingly been killed, she does have sex with Paul and they seem to have become a couple. They seem unlikely to live together happily ever after, though. As the film ends, they are walking hand-in-hand down a sidewalk, and someone (possibly the Entity) seems to be following them.

It’s a fairly typical horror-film ending, that (among other things) sets up a possible sequel. But it also resonates with the other themes of the film to suggest that life’s dangers are never over. One does not merely pass through the crisis period of adolescence and then sail smoothly forward thereafter. Even as one crisis is seemingly averted, there will always be new crises on the way. This ending, combined with the constant demand for cognitive mapping that operates throughout the film, also suggests that the need for such mapping is also ongoing. Because the world of late capitalism is constantly changing, one’s cognitive map must be continually updated to reflect new information and new situations. It is not likely, of course, that a film like It Follows is going to transform the world and lead young people to the kind of enlightenment needed to build a genuinely better world. It might, however, be an early step in the right direction; enough such steps might eventually mean that what follows is precisely that better world.

WORKS CITED

Dowd, A.A. “David Robert Mitchell on His Striking New Horror Film It Follows.” The A. V. Club (March 12, 2015).https://film.avclub.com/david-robert-mitchell-on-his-striking-new-horror-film-1798277440. Accessed January 4, 2019.

Grimm, Joshua. It Follows. Leighton Buzzard, UK: Auteur, 2018.

Hoglund, Andy. “References in It Follows Set the Tone.” Huffpost (May 25, 2015). https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-hoglund-/references-in-it-follows-set-the-tone_b_6933810.html. Accessed January 5, 2019.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

Jameson, Fredric. “Radical Fantasy.” Historical Materialism 10.4 (2003): 273–80.

Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1979.

NOTES


[1] While noting that the slasher subgenre is the one with which It Follows has the most in common, Joshua Grimm notes that it has affinities with other horror subgenres as well. For example, he notes that the deadly entity in the film has much in common with zombies, while also comparing it with the supernatural entity Sadako in Ringu (1998).

[2] Suvin’s discussion of cognitive estrangement (which has played a founding role in the history of serious academic criticism of science fiction) is included in his book Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979).

[3] Later, we see Jay (and Greg) attending English class, as Laurie Strode had done in a scene in Halloween, though Jay and Greg are apparently in a college classroom. Here, Jay’s English teacher reads from T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a poem about sexual insecurity and the loneliness and alienation resulting from life in the modern world. This scene similarly asks us to wonder how Eliot’s poem might be relevant to the film—which certainly involves a curse that makes fulfilling intimate relationships nearly impossible, thus resonating with Eliot’s theme.

[4] This scene was shot in Detroit’s Redford Theatre, which opened in 1928. The theater is still in use, so this setting does not necessarily indicate anything about the time frame of the film, other than that it appears to be taking place some time after 1928, which is obvious.

[5] One of the rundown locations emphasized in Jarmusch’s film is Detroit’s once-impressive Packard plant, currently under renovation but once a key symbol of Detroit’s decay. Interestingly, the scenes of Jay in the wheelchair were apparently shot not in the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, but in the Packard plant.

[6] In another scene, as they again travel into a rundown area of Detroit, Yara muses on the fact that, when she was a little girl, her parents wouldn’t let her go south of Eight Mile, the road that serves as a line of demarcation between the affluent suburbs and the dangerous city of Detroit. The radical disparities that exist within the city in the film are very real in Detroit.