Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Alice in the Cities

May 19, 2015 - Conor Clarke

Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities), directed by Wim Wenders (1974) A German black and white road movie that travels through America to Amsterdam, Wuppertal and the Ruhrgebiet. Philip Winter is a disillusioned journalist with no money, writers block and an unexpected nine year old traveling companion called Alice. Before meeting Alice, Philip had been on the road for four months, supposedly writing a story about American life that instead turned into a search for his own identity. He obsessively shoots polaroid pictures of disconnected objects and scenes in an attempt to validate his own experience, to make sense of it. Frustratingly though (for him), the pictures don't justify what he thinks he saw - they leave him unfulfilled, lost, still searching, photographing. Philip and Alice then travel through Germany in search of Alice's family. Although she becomes a financial burden on Philip, they form an unexpected bond. The relationship and search for Alice's grandmother gives him a sense of purpose, one that relieves him of the need to constantly take pictures - experience becomes gratifying enough. This film is one that was not actually recommended to me, but that I was lucky enough to discover when researching the Ruhrgebiet. It's a subtle film about relationships, and the ways in which circumstance and environment affect our identity, whether disorientating or affirming, familiar or strange. The car window frames the varied views through a commercialised America and an industrialised west Germany. There is rarely a pause, no destination, no spectacle. Eventually Phillip learns through his relationship with Alice that everyday life can be a destination too, and it is then he is able to write again. The actors Rüdiger Vogler and Yella Rottländer are brilliant, really convincing. Thanks to Wim Wenders for making this film, easily a favourite. [embed width="1000" height="563"][/embed]