Alice in the Cities (Alice in den Städten, West Germany, 1973)


On the road in America

On the road in America

This film is a terrific, improvised road movie. Wenders, apparently, based the idea of the film on the rapport between his actors (pictured above) in The Scarlet Letter (Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe 1973). This fits well with Stroszek (blogged three days ago) as here the movement is opposite: from America to West Germany. Phil (Rüdiger Vogler) is trying to write an article about America but his experience of its commercial soullessness has emptied him of identity. He watches Young Mr Lincoln (1939) on television but finds it infuriating that it’s interrupted by advertising – he destroys the TV. Later, he reads John Ford’s (Lincoln‘s director) obituary – his disillusionment with America is complete as what he loved about it has died.

It’s striking how debates about the malign, commercial influence of America have subsided considerably since the 1970s. The post-World War II anxiety about Americanisation still exists, but the commercial aspects of American culture are generally accepted in Britain now; and, probably, Europe.

The search for identity was an important theme of New German Cinema: trying to rebuild self-respect after the Nazi-inspired atrocities tempered with disillusionment with the authoritarian nature of the West German state in the 1970s.

Although the film sags a bit in the middle, the visualisation of ‘souless’ America is brilliant. The final, unresolved, journey is to Munich – is that meant to be into the heartland of the Fatherland?


One Response

  1. […] Vogler, who also featured in Alice in the Cities, plays an itinerant repairman, Bruno Winter, who journeys through Germany fixing film projectors. […]

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