Night on Earth

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenwriters: Jim Jarmusch

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Jim Jarmusch’s latest venture into the unimportant moments in our lives is also his most humane and poignant film to date, laced, as always, with the oblique humor that has become synonymous with his name. Night on Earth is made up of five separate stories, set in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki, that have no direct connection except that they share the same location—a taxicab—and occur simultaneously. Each story records the private moments shared between a cabbie and a passenger within the drab confines of a taxi: There is the no-nonsense, youthful-looking L.A. cabbie unaffected by the “power” her passenger wields with a cellular phone; Helmut, the eager East German driver and disenfranchised circus clown now living in New York, is so hilariously uncoordinated that he trades roles with his desperate passenger for a ride to Brooklyn; a temperamental French cab driver meets his match when a young blind woman refuses every attempt at kindness which seems even remotely patronizing; the relentless, irrepressible Italian cabbie makes an outrageously scandalous confession to his demure Vatican passenger that leaves the poor priest speechless; and finally, the dour and fragile Helsinki driver voices his private agony to three seemingly tough and drunken workers. The final story offers a resonant coda for the film: an unconscious passenger is carried out of the cab by his two friends and set upon the curb, where he awakens to a new morning in a dazed state that reveals he is no better off now, no closer to understanding his place in this world, than when he got in the cab. Whereas Jarmusch’s earlier films represented the filmmaker’s sense of being a foreigner in a strange land, Night on Earth is comfortably cosmopolitan, drawing its characters from the giant melting pot of human experience.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

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