A traveling projection-equipment mechanic works in Western Germany along the East-German border, visiting worn-out theatres. He meets with a depressed young man whose marriage has just broken up, and the two decide to travel together.
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German journalist Philip Winter has a case of writer's block when trying to write an article about the United States. He decides to return to Germany, and while trying to book a flight, encounters a German woman and her nine year old daughter Alice doing the same. The three become friends (almost out of necessity) and while the mother asks Winter to mind Alice temporarily, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice will be his responsibility for longer than he expected. After returning to Europe, the innocent friendship between Winter and Alice grows as they travel together through various European cities on a quest for Alice's grandmother. Written by
Karl Engel <email@example.com>
Wim Wenders had recently completed a very troubled production of The Scarlet Letter (1973). The only aspect of that film that he derived any enjoyment from was one small scene between Rüdiger Vogler and 'Yella Rottlander', something he was keen to recreate. See more »
At 59:17 when Alice is coming out of the toilet, the door handle in the close-up is reverse (l-r) compared with the next shot when she opens the door. See more »
Lisa - Alice's Mother:
What are you writing?
Philip 'Phil' Winter:
The inhuman thing about American TV is not so much that they hack everything up with commercials, though that's bad enough, but in the end all programmes become commercials. Commercials for the status quo. Every image radiates the same disgusting and nauseated message. A kind of boastful contempt. Not one image leaves you in peace, they all want something from you.
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A man around thirty, German journalist Philip Winters, travels alone in a rented car all over the States. He makes pictures with a Polaroid camera, which he wants to include in a story that he has to write for a publishing house. But the results of his photographic efforts do not correspond with what he believed to see when he took the pictures. And he does not even dare to assimilate his impressions into a written form. It seems, as if he keeps seeing nothing but the void, either the uniform monotony of always recurring urban landscapes on his lonely journeys or, in the single rooms of the motels, a television program that constantly reels off the same dull and dreary patterns. And how can you put emptiness into words?
A silenced bewilderment has already become routine in the completely paralyzed life of a man, who only pities himself, and who apparently has lost all access to his fellow men. Therefore the girlfriend in New York, to whom he wants to unburden all his world-weariness can do nothing for him but show him the door, saying: "Nobody told me how to live either."
So he forgot how to live, our very typical hero of modern times. But just as in a children's story rescue suddenly appears in the shape of a wondrous fairy, Philip Winters also has a surprising encounter, which will help him to determine his position in this world anew. The unexpected enlightening figure is a child, nine-year-old Alice. Her mother, whose acquaintance Philip had somehow forcibly made at the airport counter, has let her down, leaving behind a succinct message, in which she asks Winters to take provisionally charge of the girl until she will follow them to Amsterdam in a later airplane.
The mother does not appear though, and thus Philip Winters does not have any other alternative but to go on looking after the child, a responsibility he most willingly would like to avoid. But Alice remains persistent, she scents the possibility of an exciting adventure. She mentions a grandmother, who possibly lives in Wuppertal, West Germany. Unwillingly Winters bows to his fate, but after a few abortive attempts he simply deposits her at a police station and goes to a Chuck Berry concert on his own.
That could be the end of the story. But as I already mentioned, Alice is a fairy. And so she does not only come back, but also actually succeeds in getting a mechanism going in Philip Winters which seemed to be already dead and buried: the reference to the other one, the preparedness to get involved with his fellow creatures. At the end of the film he seems to be recovered, the train in which he and Alice are sitting, is obviously moving along on newly built tracks, the decisive switching of the points has been made.
At least for the time being. For it is exactly in this hopeful and promising moment that we have to leave this wonderful movie. We are just allowed to throw another brief glance at the protagonist, who is sitting in the compartment joyfully united with Alice, a moment before the camera steps back and rises into the air, moving irresistibly away from the scene, until it depicts a vast panoramic view. But our eyes are still fixed on the train that hastens steadily through the immense landscape heading towards a destiny unknown.
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