Lior Chodjaev


CarCrash While Hitch-Hiking

Thefilm was more direct in addressing the theme of drug addiction.Having read the short story by Denis Johnson, one would expect aconvolution of events that culminated into other. However, the filmrevolved around the narrator’shallucinations and the actual events of the car crash, the scene ofthe crash, and the emergency room where the narrator recovers frominjuries. Furthermore, the director was quick to disclose thatPhoenix was the setting of the film. In the film, it takes moreanalysis of the complex time representations (of the present and thefuture) to understand that the story actually takes place in Mid-westSeattle to Phoenix.

Whenthe wife of the man who perished in the car first learns of herhusbands while arriving in the emergency room, her reactionappallingly amuses the narrator. The narrator says the followingabout her reaction:

“Sheshrieked as I imagined an eagle would shriek. It felt wonderful to bealive to hear it! I’vegone looking for that feeling everywhere” (Cuthrell,Urrutia, Moverman, &amp Johnson 155).

Thisreaction is a moment that the narrator has longed for in a long time.It shows that the narrator truly has a drug problem because it isabnormal to be impressed by the grief of widow. His hallucinationssimply echo the horrific experience of the widow. Fuckhead comparesthe woman to an eagle to symbolize the power she had before shelearned of her husband’s death and the power she needs to get outof her predicament.


Thecar crash serves to the set the mood of the film and also underscoresthe theme of drugs and their harmful effects through the experiencesof the narrator. As depicted in the novel, the narrator hallucinatesabout a possible impeding accident that still occurs and the factthat people will expect him to help the victims of the crash. As thecar crash happens the film begins to flow through the unfolding ofevents as they are in the short story. Symbolically, the car crashalso represents viewing the world through a distorted perspective.The distortion, in this, case, happens due to life threatening drugabuse and addiction.

Drugssymbolize and reinforce the theme of human experience. Based on thestory, human absurdity is more complex than anything and depicts it.The film depicts human experience as random and prone to differentmeanings. Considering that the man on drugs is psychologicallyand emotionally bereft, it is ironical that the same mind can haveaccurate clairvoyance about the fate of the journey. Thus, the mainlesson from the drugs symbol is that human sadness is beyond death.The fact that a man on the brink of life and death cannot communicateimpeding death makes life even sadder.

TheMennonite couple represents another side of life. While people’sview of life may actually look the same on the surface, the differentexperiences they have actually make them to view circumstances andevents differently. They also embody a different narrative of humanexperience. While they are going about their business, the personthey help becomes the contrasting figure in the way human beings canbehave and think. The man’s behavior has nothing to do with hisfeelings for Michelle, but the effect of drugs.

Touchmeans singularity in humanness. The story intends to show theambivalence of the author on the nature of human experiences. “Touch”amongcharacters is a symbol of humanness as an aspect that brings peopletogether regardless of their circumstances. This explains whynarrator (the young man picked on the way before the car crash),later comes to the human-self after being depicted as inhumane andout of touch with reality. At the end of the film, the psychiatrichelp the narrator is about to get proves that the “touch”symbolizeshow drugs and other experiences can alter human perception.

Thenarrator discovers that all his psychological problems emanate fromhis heavy reliance on drugs. For the first time, he is able torecognize the difference between his view of the world and the waynormal people view it. This is evident when he gains the slightestfeeling of empathy. He says,

“Allthese weirdos ………andme getting a little better every day right in the midst of them. Ihad never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a placefor people like us”(p.160).Itis clear that the narrator now understands that him and people likehim need psychiatric care.


Cuthrell,E., Urrutia, D., Moverman, O., &amp Johnson, D. (1998). Jesus` son:[screenplay]. New York, NY: Evenstar Films.