Wim Wenders: Land of Plenty
"My first remembrances of America are of a mythical land where everything is better."  ––
Wim Wenders, in the 1980s
"Indeed, I feel betrayed in my love to this country and its ideas. More precisely, I think that the Americans themselves get betrayed beyond belief. […] This is what "Land of Plenty" is about.”  – – Wim Wenders, 2004
Professionally, Wenders left Europe for the United States only once. And it was a disaster. The shooting, or better the two shootings of “Hammett” between 1977 and 1982 as an “employed” director under Francis Ford Coppola’s control ended in a personal nightmare. It was a kind of filmmaking he never would accept. Accustomed to writing his own story which would usually change during the process of filming, and used to choosing his actors and his crew, Coppola’s Hollywood-style approach in the production of “Hammett” was a blow to Wenders’ professional ambitions in the United States. Asked if he wanted to work there again, he said that “it would be too much of a loss of autonomy. The way they despise and destroy their abundance of talent is appalling. The films are not made by artists, but by agents and lawyers.” A couple of years later, his tone appeared to be more moderate: "It was a comprehensive experience [and] one of the most important at the same time.” Nevertheless, ever since “Hammett”, all of Wenders’ movies have been produced and financed through Europe.
“America” as a mythical place and the place of his dreams developed in his early youth. The fascination for this country, for its culture, especially for its cinema and its music, has been decisive throughout his life. After seeing “Easy Rider” in 1968, at the age of 23, he later explained that after leaving the cinema he “realized that [he] indeed looked like the people in the film, that [he] loved Jimi Hendrix, that [he’s] not served in many places, and that [he] too spent time in jail for literally nothing." This is not just a statement about a film, more than that, it seemed to be an identification with the protagonists of “Easy Rider”. But, on the other hand, doubts about “American colonization in the heads of Europe” obviously arose just as early.
Wenders’ “Hammett”-experience followed the decade of the 1970s, which in the United States, according to the Time Magazine, “as far as foreign films are concerned, [belonged] to the Germans.” Wenders made more movies in or about the United States than any of the protagonists of the New German Cinema, and his early work already mirrors his affinity to (and influence of) U.S. American cinema and music. All of his early short films somehow refer to “America”. “Alabama: 2000 Light Years from Home” [sic!] (1968) and “Drei amerikanische LPs” (“Three American LPs”, 1969), for example, both combine road trips, pictures out of a driving car, and American popular music (Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Van Morrison, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Harvey Mandel). Austrian writer Peter Handke, with whom Wenders produced several movies since, stated of “Three American LPs” that you “can hardly imagine this American landscape without music anymore. This is a landscape, if you talk about it, [it] gets destroyed.” Remember that the film was shot in the suburbs of Munich, West Germany; but it’s images (long shots of bleak constructions, a drive-in theater, a large Coca-Cola ad, etc.) show Munich as if it would be somewhere in the United States. The ongoing critical conversation between Wenders and Handke about “America”, the American music in the background, and the ongoing movement in form of a road trip “are signs which all mean the same: an America within us […]. The character of America in Wenders' films can't be dismissed easily. If you'd take away their American pole, they'd collapse.” Without a doubt, to take away the “European pole” would have the same result.
Starting in the 1970s, Wenders continuously received international recognition, and after the "great traveler's" (Jean-Luc Godard) first permanent years in the USA at the latest, "one could no longer speak of a German director without hesitation." Wenders built up a personal and professional network all over the world, besides the USA and “at home” in Germany especially in France and Japan. Even today, he is constantly relocating, mainly between Berlin, Paris and New York.
 Rauh, Reinhold: Wim Wenders und seine Filme, Munich 1990, p. 9.
 Bickermann, Daniel: Wim Wenders: A Sense of Place. Texte und Interviews, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 239.
 Interview in Der Spiegel 43/1987, pp. 234/235.
 Interview with Reinhold Rauh on Aug. 11, 1989, in: Rauh, p. 260.
 Rauh, p.14.
 Interview with Reinhold Rauh on Aug. 11, 1989, in: Rauh, p. 262.
 Gerald Clarke in Time Magazine, March 20, 1978.
 Rauh, p. 21.
 Jansen, Peter W. and Schütte, Wolfram (eds.): Wim Wenders, Munich and Vienna, 1992, pp. 8 and 16f.
 Rauh, p. 96. But is film ever a purely “national” product at all?
- Quote paper
- Adam Seitz (Author), 2008, Wim Wenders' "Land of Plenty". A love-hate relationship with the USA, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/130796