The Ambivalent Object(s) of America in Wim Wenders

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This article considers Wim Wenders’ relationship to America in several of his films during the New German Cinema Movement of the 1970s and 1980s. In particular, it explores the place America occupies as a fantasy object, framing this through the distinct roles individual objects play in Wenders’ films. Firstly, in the initial period of his life, various accounts point to the fact that the director related to American culture as a substitute for his own country’s fascistic past. Such a viewpoint is then countered in his film Alice in the Cities (1972), where the protagonist is initially puzzled by the enigma of America, but finds he can comprehend it upon hearing of the Hollywood director John Ford’s passing from a newspaper. In The State of Things (1982), apropos Wenders’ experience working in Hollywood under Francis Ford Coppola, the relationship to objects again changes, this time from the subject’s mastery over objects, to the mastery of the object over the subject. However, an alternative position emerges through a more careful reading of the film Hammett (1982), which, exists as a short-circuit in the typical narrative of Wenders’ cinematic trajectory. Rather than emphasizing the mastery of the subject or the object, through the use of narrative, the film Hammett reveals an alternative position by implicating the two in a dialectic. Such a position takes on a refined inflection in Paris, Texas (1982), in which the subject implicates themselves in their own fantasy, repeating the radical gesture from Hammett (1982) and forging a new relationship between subject and object.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-223
Number of pages37
JournalCINEJ Cinema Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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