The movie The Best Intentions by Ingmar Bergman and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai by Jim Jarmusch both involve complex relationships between characters with a code of honor such as Ghost Dog and Henrik Bergman, and other characters that try to influence the lives of these two men. Henrik becomes a Priest, while Ghost Dog follows the Samurai way. The Bergman film is semi-autobiographical and is based upon his parents’ marriage. Ghost Dog is completely fictional. Jarmusch tries to explore the balance of crime under the context of an eye for an eye. Bergman displays the struggles between social classes when Henrik and his new wife have issues over the simplistic life that she can no longer tolerate.
Visually, Bergman’s film shows the themes of sorrow, struggle and death throughout the film by the many scenes depicting the poor and sickly. It shows the harsh realities of what it means to be a devout religious, only it does not glorify them. Jarmusch’s film is dark themed with lurking shadows. It leaves little to the imagination. According to Terry Lajtha, “events, dialogue, commentary and sounds are juxtaposed so that the viewer is forced to make moral decisions and extract a truth at each point of the plot,” (1).
In Ghost Dog, Jarmusch utilizes the Reluctant Hero archetype for the main character’s personality. It is portrayed silently that Ghost Dog is a victim of circumstance but ends up trying to do the best he can in his situation and the book he reads on the Samurai code helps him achieve this. According to Nancy Kress he is also given the role of underdog which “immediately enlists our sympathy on the side of the character fighting with fewer resources” (1). In the film by Bergman, Bergman uses the device of sound to set the mood of the oncoming scenes. Bergman particularly has sad, soft music playing during the most bittersweet and memorable moments of the film.
Existentialism is the philosophy that the individual is absolutely responsible for every choice, thought and behavior through his or her own free will. The depth that this goes to can frighten people because it takes away the victim role that something external controls their actions and behaviors or the circumstances that occur. Examples of external controls would be God, Fate, Karma, Evil and social norms and mores. According to Algis Valiunas “Sartre singled out its portraits of individuals who, apprehending the absurdity of existence, begin to realize they are free to make anything they choose of their lives, even if they are sometimes distressingly unsure just what that should be” (1).
In Bergman’s film Henrik is blissfully unaware of his existentialist freedoms, but his bride is not. She chooses to leave him and the countryside due to her own wants and needs, in other words putting the self first. This goes along with Sartre’s thought that “Existentialism is a Humanism” (Valiunas 1). Ghost Dog is freed in the existential way by using his own skills and freedom, even as a criminal-hero, to live the life that he has to the fullest. He makes his own choices and follows through with them taking full responsibility.
Kress, Nancy. "What's Your Archetype?" Writer's Digest 07 1997: 6-9. ProQuest. Web. 27 June 2015.
Lajtha, Terry. "Brechtian Devices in Non-Brechtian Cinema: Culloden." Literature/Film Quarterly 9.1 (1981): 9-14. ProQuest.Web. 27 June 2015.
Valiunas, Algis. "Sartre Vs. Camus." Commentary 01 2005: 59-62. ProQuest. Web. 27 June 2015.