(An essential interview guided by intelligent questions and meditative answers... bravo!!! made me want to watch all of Wenders' films again in light of his words here... A nod to Wood's Lot for the suggestion.)
Wim Wenders: Dreaming Between Frames
Question for Mr. Wenders composed by Tully Rector and Simon Huxtable in consultation with Qalandar Memon.
WW: I’ll do my best to answer them. Let’s see…
NP: You've written that "the act of filming is a heroic act", because "the camera is a weapon against the tragedy of things, against their disappearing." The world your camera records, however, is one that you have created---dramatic configurations, characters, orchestrated scenes, etc. How is your creative work something other than a "rescuing" of what disappears? How does the creative act, for you, do something other than merely (in Belazs words) "show things as they are"?
WW: I have to disagree, at least partially. I do NOT create the entire world in front of my camera, on the contrary, I try to let as much unaltered reality as possible enter into my picture. Of course I come with my fiction and my characters to the places that I set the story in, just like any other director. But then I do my best to do justice to that place, its light, its mood, its specificity. I believe that fictional stories sometimes transport real places and objects and things better than documentaries. Whenever I see a chance to let something appear as it is, without the film reality messing with it, I go for it.
NP: Regarding Peter Handke's novel Slow Homecoming, you said that "there are experiences described in it for the first time, strands of consciousness it was thought impossible to describe in words." Do you believe that film can achieve depictions of interiority inaccessible through verbal forms? Is film a privileged mode of truth-telling for you?
WW: I wouldn’t see these things (words on one hand, images on the other) as if they could be separated. Of course film has opened up a whole world that was inaccessible to literature, theatre, music, poetry, painting etc. And of course the contemporary novel has entered into very refined areas of the human experience. I would rather cite in this context a newer work by Peter Handke as an example – but I’m not sure it has been translated into English yet – and that would be “Der Bildverlust” (“The loss of images”). The tricky word in your question is “interiority”, of course. What is that? If it describes the realm of our innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, confusion, angst or joy, then “the word” seems privileged to describe it. All these expressions of our existence are communicated first through words, anyway. That’s how they reach our consciousness and that’s how we pass these things on to others. But the beauty of cinema as the most complex use of imagery today is that it can incorporate the achievements of all the arts, and that it can use words at their most acute, and music at its most refined, and in that amalgam go further than words or music can get on their own. “Truth-Telling”, of course, is as relative in movies as it is in literature, and as impossible as in politics. Sometimes I think you can only determine “true intentions”, and no longer “true statements”, in whatever medium.
NP: Many of your films explore fantastical geographies of feeling and being (the angels in Wings of Desire; the use of landscape in Paris, Texas; technological mutations of the human in Until the End of the World) In a 1958 lecture, Bunuel (quoting Breton) said that "the most admirable thing about the fantastic is that the fantastic doesn't exist; everything is real." Does this belief inform your use of the fantastic, the para-real? Do you intend your films to challenge or interrogate viewer's assumptions about what counts as real, as possible, as mutable?
WW: Great question, I must say! (Considering that I rarely get to answer questions I haven’t heard in one form or another before…) Let me think loudly for a while, before I get to the core of it. When Bunuel used the word “real” in that context in the Fifties, he already pretty much indicated its irrelevance already. If everything that your imagination comes up with is real, then “nothing is real”, as the Beatles sang 10 years later in “Strawberry Fields”. And that was before anybody had heard of the word “digital”, and before we were able to take just about any image and any sound and split them into their very atoms. We can do with “reality” today, so to speak, what physicist can do to “matter”. We live in the nuclear age, and that is no longer restrained to energy, but to information as well. Not only TIME is relative today, SPACE is, too, and any image of it or any sound in it. The word “reel” should be scratched from any dictionary. It has become, indeed, a four-letter-word. Only George Bush will continue to use it, in the same perverse way that he continues to use the word “freedom” in every second line. Given that, what do I expect people to believe or to see when they see a film of mine? First of all, I take it for granted that they will also see, let’s say, “Resident Evil”, “Matrix“ or any other contemporary thriller. So their assumptions about what is “real” are already challenged all the time, anyway. In fact, they only have to turn on their TV in order to get their brains washed. “Reality TV” fucks with your perception of the world just as much as the “news” on Fox. So where does that leave a gentle filmmaker like myself, if not with the only recommendation to my audience left which is: “Brace up. Protect yourself. Take nothing more seriously than your own feelings and your own judgment. Don’t let yourself be invaded by junk all the time. Your brain and its capacity to differentiate are your most precious possessions and your best protection. Use them every now and then for firsthand experiences!” And any movie of mine I’m showing them wants to convey one thing only: “Whatever you do in your life is worthless if you don’t do it with love and conviction. And remember: Things can be changed! You’re in charge of your life and nobody else!” If you want those are the only “messages” my films have ever carried. And those messages concern the only “reality” I’m interested in: My viewer’s perception.
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