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UBC Theses and Dissertations

At a standstill or in motion, always looking for the "freeway": changing patterns of resistance in the films of Wim Wenders Ellison, Benjamin Alexander


Wim Wenders's cinematic projects have recently changed from the anti-narrative road movies of previous decades. This shift in the German director's stance is only noted in an article (1996) by Roger Cook, and here, a reading is given as to why Wenders has switched over to films that embrace narrative form. The more recent release of Wenders's 1998 film The End of Violence (1998), however, now casts doubt on these limited remarks made about "the post-road movie." The End of Violence can be seen as a valuable cipher that suggests an alternate understanding of this new direction for Wenders in the 1980s and beyond. In this movie, many details seem to coincide with the plots of the other three major pictures following the road movie period. In each movie, protagonists possess technological "super speed," but in each, this capacity is renounced by characters. In nostalgic returns to the world of physical motion, life for characters is then portrayed as being only marginally better. In the four different films there appear surveillance systems that are used to control all who do not use the "technology." With the exact repetition of this pattern of events in all his movies, one must believe Wenders is trying to communicate some sort of specific message with his post-road movie. Indeed, it is believed that in the post-road movie, Wenders is repeating the theoretical focus he has had since the very beginning of his career; he is considering the ability of speed to obtain freedom for the individual from metanarratives. The older road movies centered on the idea of motion as being the great liberator for images from film narrative. With the pre-millennial "death of real speed," however, how one might free humans caught within the "(inter)net" of a computer-covered world changes. Given the modern advent of disembodying computer speed, the German director must re-evaluate his take on how stasis confines and speed frees elements from within total systems. With today's evolutionary shift in the nature of speed, Wenders decides to opt for using the message, not the medium of film to encourage audiences to resist a totalizing world system. In accepting narrative, Wenders is now changing his cinematic mode, but nonetheless, his spirit of "metanarrative-busting" is intact. Wenders maintains his postmodern questioning in art, as, in his new films, he continues to cry out for the freedom provided by velocity. The only difference is that Wenders's films now have the complexity to recognize the impossibility of liberty in a world codified by information-gathering total systems.

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