Globalisation: Meeting the other in the back of a taxi

Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991) is an example of globalisation in film. It consists of five vignettes set in five different cities where a temporary bond is experienced between a cab driver and passenger. The stories appear to be unconnected, but are shown as taking place at the same time, and the location is confined to a taxicab. However, there is also an extent to which differences are accentuated or even exaggerated by the setting: the Finnish characters are gloomy, the Italian is excitable and only talks of sex. Polan (1996) suggests that this film ‘insists on an experience that cannot be assimilated to a globalist project of economic amelioration’ (p.270).

Night on Earth (1991): Rome:

 

 

 

Therefore, considering the concept of the global village, Night on Earth (1991) shows that there are shared frames of reference, in terms of the space of the taxi, and the relationship between the driver and passenger (McLuhan & Powers, 1989).  In each of the stories, the taxi is a place where the self and other come together. However, these differences could be regarded as superficial and the concerns of the individuals in each of the vignettes are local rather than global (Nelmes, 2003).

 

Perhaps the most significant example of this opposition of cultures lies in the Rome vignette, where Gino, the taxi driver, picks up a priest and offers him a confession of his sexual history. Gino never makes a connection with the priest, and his stories and friends, two transsexual prostitutes, further alienate him. Significantly, this vignette is perhaps the most humorous throughout, a light relief in an otherwise largely weighty set of meetings, but it is perhaps also the one point where the space of the taxi does not offer a point at which two worlds meet each other, but one where there is no understanding between the two and there is no meeting between the two cultures.

 

– Ziyi Wang

 

 

References

  • McLuhan, M. & Powers, B. R. (1989). The Global Village: transformations in world life and media in the 21st Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nelmes, J. (2003). An Introduction to Film Studies, London: Routledge.
  • Ponal, D. (1996). Globalism’s localisms. In R. Wilson & W. Dissanayake (eds.) Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary, Durham NC: Duke University Press, pp.255-283.
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