And fourth, those who are strongly committed to American values engage in political activism in order to bring about reforms. According to Huntingdon, this means that:. American institutions are seen to be open and democratic; America is the land of opportunity; the equality of man is a fact in American life; the United States is the land of the free and the home of the brave; it is the embodiment of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
During these periods, Americans so shape their perceptions that they cannot see any gap between the unpleasant facts of political institutions and power in the United States and the values of the American Creed. Reality is hailed as the ideal. The discrepancies are strained out and avoided. The United States not only should be the land of liberty, equality, and justice for all; it actually is.
The heroic rebels fight the menacing colonizing forces from outer space by turning themselves into suicide bombers. This is true for Hiller and Levinson, who find themselves on a suicide mission to implant the deadly computer virus on the alien mothership. Quite literally, the final destruction of the alien invaders is caused by Casse flying his jet into the center of the ship.
This self-sacrifice functions as a heroic deed in the cause of humankind. The fantasy of the United States as the de-facto government of the world which re-unites mankind in a concerted struggle for freedom and independence harks back to the very founding myths of the New World. In contrast to Emmerich, Wenders activates another narrative formula which is by no means less popular in American mass culture: the fight of a modern day Don Quixote against the windmills as a parody of the David against Goliath theme.
One of the two protagonists in Land of Plenty is Paul, a Vietnam Veteran who presents himself as a self-appointed homeland security agent. In his van equipped with second-hand surveillance equipment, Paul scans the streets of Los Angeles. In a pseudo-military jargon, he talks to himself and tapes his observations for future references.
His perspective is clearly one of a delusional person trapped in an extreme system of fear of an invisible enemy. In the character of Paul, the power relations of superiority and inferiority are inverted.
However, it is clear to the audience that his excessive patriotism renders him blind in a fight against an imaginary enemy in which he cannot possible win. Land of Plenty reveals the illusionary quality of the Hollywood dream factory. The first shot shows people through an infrared camera producing distorted colourful images. The production of patriotic images has led to an obsession with surveillance devices and frantic xenophobia. Wenders, Hunger Capital, Land of Plenty The murky images show homeless people living under miserable conditions surrounded by garbage.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces: Commemorative Edition
Through dialogue, the film locates the site geographically and emphasizes the cynical situation. The scene is followed by a sequence displaying extreme poverty in some streets of Los Angeles. After , American myths and their deconstruction were not so much part of an Ideologiekritik but driven by personal disappointments. At a moment of crisis in the early s, he blamed American films for covering up democratic gaps and the creation of false myths. A set of rhetorical questions charges the movie industry for his cultural misconceptions.
Wenders, Drive-By shooting, Land of Plenty This recurring theme in Land of Plenty sets the tone for the climactic scene when the protagonist enters the house of an alleged terror cell in Trona, California with night vision gear in front of his eyes. When asked to switch the channel, the protagonist meets the request by a heavily charged metaphorical action.
His scathing critique of the shortcomings of democratic expectations draws on what Samuel Huntington identifies as a form of political activism. The moralistic response occurs when people feel intensely committed to American political values, clearly perceive the gap between ideals and reality, and attempt to restructure institutions and practices to reflect these ideals. His lens is calibrated to perceive imaginary signs of criminal energy against the American system.
The filter of the screen image distorts his perception of his environment. Wenders pushes this distortion to further extremes when Paul is in full gear with infrared glasses to destroy the terrorist enemies. In this sequence, Wenders finds the ultimate metaphor to visualize how the media informs the perspective on the world around us.
In his critical commentary on the home-video edition of Land of Plenty , he gives vent to his irritation caused by the Bush Government. A war-hungry government which wages war on the back of the poor in the country and undermines every notion of truth with ever more shameless and unbearable lies — this could not be harmonized with the Christian spirit. As a German and a Christian believer living in the United States, I had the notion that the country had been hijacked. Our film deals with the consequences of this kidnapping of American ideals and the perversion into their opposites.
His urge to fashion himself into an American was particularly intense. Surprisingly, even leftwing critics have responded unfavourably to his attack on American patriotism in Land of Plenty. In the remaining part of this chapter, I will offer an explanation and analyze the cinematic translations of the German cultural imaginary which caused such irritation among American audiences. Wenders and the New German Cinema filled a gap in German cultural history. At the same time, American intellectuals, who tried to come to terms with the traumatic events in Vietnam, used the critical outside perspectives as a source of inspiration.
The first approach follows the thesis of cultural imperialism as an object of criticism. The Marshall Plan with its promise of political stability and economical wealth for a democratic Western Germany has given way to a sense of materialism and a sense of potential doom brought about by an ever more aggressive foreign politics, particularly in the context of the Vietnam War.
For many of those who had travelled and lived for some time in the United States, the transatlantic experience became simultaneously a source of enchantment and disenchantment. He identifies Wenders as a national and cultural outsider who intervenes in intimate American affairs. Wenders may not have the power to heal the rifts his movie acknowledges — and his account of them may not always be persuasive — but there is nonetheless something touching about his heartfelt concern.
It is as hard to argue with this idea as it is wholeheartedly to believe it completely. This is a surprising response to a film that shows the ugly side of poverty in Los Angeles, urban sprawl, deserted villages, people out of touch with their environment and traumatized by a history of imperialistic wars.
Wenders celebrates images of the American West with its open and vast landscapes familiar from American photographers and guidebooks. In the spirit of the s and shot in road-movie style, he has the protagonists criss-cross the country in their run-down van with a battered American flag attached to the rear.
The music brings a spiritual quality to the quest for truth which reverses the myth of Manifest Destiny. Wenders carefully selected the lyrics by Leonard Cohen to function as a poetic mirror of his own state of mind as an Americanophile transatlantic traveller. Shine on the truth some day. They close their eyes to listen to what this particular space might have to tell him. Other senses need to be activated and sensitized.
The addiction to sights and ideological filters in the act of seeing has led to a lack of vision. In order to understand the reasons, symptoms, and potential answers to the site of Ground Zero, familiar ways of apprehension need to be unlearned, changed, and put to better use than before.
Wenders, sound senses at Ground Zero, Land of Plenty The quotation from the quintessential American western The Searchers by John Ford activates memories of the hero as a broken character. Before both of them are prepared to face the space of Ground Zero, Wenders puts them into situations of quiet despair. The sequence shows a breakdown of communications. Paul suffers from post-traumatic stress haunted by a recurring nightmare about his time as a soldier in Vietnam.
Silently, Lana uses her computer to get in contact with her friends from Palestine while feeling lost in the American middle of nowhere. A comparison with the aesthetic impact of the paintings of Edward Hopper might shed light on the opposing forces at work in Land of Plenty. Wenders utilizes aesthetic techniques which dominate the paintings of the very American artist whom he most admires.
Hopper has been identified as an artist who successfully shows the audience the other side of the American dream by focussing on loneliness, isolation, miscommunication, and anonymity.
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This iconography created for the Farm Security Administration in the mid-thirties has entered the public consciousness and determines the shared visual history of the depression era. The German-born director combines elements of American soft power and public diplomacy of the European Reconstruction program, from which Western Germany profited substantially, to fashion himself into a representative American.
The United States appears as a democratic beacon for all Mankind following a response pattern based on denial of the democratic gap. Wenders comes from a similar transatlantic cultural background. However, he offers a gloomy counter-narrative to the American promise of democracy. However, since the mid-twentieth century, the acquisition of American citizenship has lost its appeal for intellectuals as a means to fashion themselves into Americans and to gain recognition. Instead, a new generation of what might be called transatlantic Germans with cosmopolitan aspirations have developed an ambivalent perspective on American culture.
The work of Roland Emmerich and Wim Wenders exemplifies the spectrum of approaches to negotiate the fantasy of, desire for, and experience of American culture in the medium of film. Emmerich works within the confinement of American genres in close collaboration with major Hollywood studios and has earned the reputation of being a patriotic American director par excellence.
This form of activism produces a paradoxical situation.
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The transnational arena in which Emmerich and Wenders screen American patriotism exemplifies the need of the fictional construction of a democratic America. Wim Wenders.
West Germany, Der Amerikanische Freund. West Germany and France, The End of Violence. Wim Wenders, United States, The Million Dollar Hotel. United States, The Soul of a Man. Independence Day. Roland Emmerich. United Sates, Tod eines Handlungsreisenden. United States and West Germany, Born on the Fourth of July. Oliver Stone. Forrest Gump. Robert Zemeckis. Jefferson in Paris.
James Ivory. Air Force One.