Wim Wenders is one of the greatest names in German cinema of the 1970s. Profound analysis that shifts from the outer to inner world is a particular trait of his work – his extraordinary ability to scrutinize reality and an incessant, destructive progress that sweeps away the past concluding with an analysis of the human soul, the meaning of life and its impermanence.
As we examine the places chosen by Wenders for his cinematic landscapes, we note his experimentation with the most advanced technology. For instance, his Until the End of the World features HD technology. His more recent Pina, a 3D film on the life of Pina Bauch, presents a «traditional» photographic documentary that confers scientific and anthropological value to photography while placing emphasis on its expressive worth. A series of photographs were recently presented at the Appunti di Viaggio. Armenia Giappone Germania / Travelogue. Armenia Japan Germany exhibit in Naples as a part of the Place, strange and quiet project (curated by Adriana Rispoli). The images on display – natural panoramas and urban landscapes marked by the passage of humankind – reveal the artist’s propensity for analogical tools described by Wenders as such: «What I love most about analogue photography is not the nostalgic aspect as much as the pure pleasure of how it can still represent ‘reality’. Taking photographs is a full-time job combating its progressive disappearance.» The photographs on exhibit display the photographer-director’s great narrative ability and a profound reflection upon temporal perception. They are time capsules whose large formats immerse the spectator completely, creating an empathetic relationship with the place and artist. Several brief notes by the director are displayed as support for the photographs. Here Wenders is presented in his indivisible roles of cineaste, photographer and writer to tell the story of humankind today, offering us the emotions of a «necessary interval» which we had thought forever lost. In fact, an intense sensation of suspension is conveyed from each image to the spectator; the initial feeling of precariousness, a remarkable alienation is then resolved by our standing in awe of the greatness of nature. The absence of humans underscores its immensity – as Wenders himself admits – enhancing the evocative charge and triggers the viewer’s creative imagination as well as the departure for an intimate «voyage».
In the true nature of an explorer, Wenders takes on the theme of travel in his films in 1973 in what could be defined as a physical and introspective journey. The result was the «Road Movie Trilogy» (Alice in the Cities 1974, The Wrong Move 1974 and Kings of the Road 1976). The city, in all its aspects, is the cardinal point of his artistic quest acting not only as a scenario but as an integral part of the narration – a real element and metaphor of the contingent, a mirror of emotion and conflict as well as a physical place and space for memories. Memory is not represented with nostalgic tones in his work. It is a cognitive instrument and is another essential reference in the German director’s poetics. Wenders offers the spectator the necessary time for considering, remembering and recognizing reality through image, «systems of reflection» which he constructs with meticulous attention and to which he imparts extreme purity. His cinematic style favours a narrative deliberation and fully respects the time in his stories and those of his characters, putting himself in direct contrast with the accelerated dynamism of contemporary society and its current «virtualization» of space and the «mediatisation» of its relationships.
The director makes use of all available cinematic techniques in order to become a contemporary «storyteller» in the words of Walter Benjamin. Wenders preserves this German philosopher’s positive attitude towards art’s new technology and shares his reflection upon the «enchantment of narration». The narrator offers his or her experience to the public: a personal and intimate vision of the world as seen in his 1987 film Wings of Desire in which he uses images to tell the stories and various viewpoints of his characters as they describe post-war Berlin as a divided city marked by deep wounds.
Yet, notwithstanding the proven attention he pays to the many possibilities that technology has to offer him, Wenders basically creates «analogical» works in that they have no aspiration to forge an alternative reality. Since they are fragments of reality, they become the object and instrument of an analysis of the present – far from the world in which «the adventuresome journeys» Benjamin spoke of occur in a web. The very notion of Journey takes on a variety of connotations and nuances.
The images here reproduced are the photographs depicted on show in Naples at Villa Pignatelli (21.09 – 17.11.2013).
Each image was accompanied by a note of the author:
Armenian Alphabet [img 1]
The Armenian alphabet, I was told,
kept the country alive,
like the central nerve in its backbone.
I was strangely moved
by this monument in the wilderness.
Ferris Wheel [img 2]
The wind slightly moved the big wheel,
so that it squeaked every now and then.
The echo I was imagining:
and voices, laughing and shouting,
without a care in the world.
Petrol Station in Alaverdi [img 3]
Seconds after I took this picture the gas station attendant
who had fallen asleep in his shed woke up, saw me with my camera,
immediately got up shouting
And chased me away with a stick. He must have had a bad dream.
The Sea near Naoshima [img 4]
Some people can stand for hours
and look at the mountains.
I prefer to stare at the sea.
There is nothing more mysterious
than how time passes by the ocean.
The horizon slows you down.
(1cover) Wim Wenders, Armenian Alphabet, Armenia, 2008, C-print, 183.5 x 378.2 cm, Copyright: © Wim Wenders 2013; (2) Wim Wenders, Ferris Wheel, Armenia 2008 C-print 148.8 x 345.5 cm Copyright: © Wim Wenders 2013; (3) Wim Wenders Petrol Station in Alaverdi, Armenia 2008 C-print 183.5 x 452.5 cm Copyright: © Wim Wenders 2013