Wim Wenders’ cult seventies film is very much an outsiders view on the world, while it features a tender central relationship; it also has a very striking take on themes such as consumerism and isolation.
Rudiger Vogeler plays a photo-journalist who having failed to come up with a piece to satisfy an editor has to return to his homeland of Germany, however due to delays he discovers that he cannot catch a flight until the following day, and must travel via Amsterdam. While at the airport, he helps a young mother called Lisa (Lisa Kreuzer) and her daughter Alice (Yella Rottlander), and agrees to travel with them the next day. Things are complicated when the mother disappears, citing personally reasons, and claiming that she will meet up with them later in the journey, something which seems more and more unlikely as time moves along.
The outstanding performance of the film comes from Rottlander, who is brilliantly composed and reserved for such a young and inexperienced actress; we see though her expressions a girl in need of a father figure, and a youngster used to being moved around. Also as the plot slowly unfolds, and tension grows between the central characters, she grows from a rather bored, moody young girl into a strong independent woman who is forced to take control as a result of being surrounded by such a lack lustre older male, in this respect Alice represents a great feminist character.
Like most of Wenders’ great works, AITC has a very observational eye and a great ear for the creepy atmosphere of its surroundings, although there is a distinct lack of music compared with some of his other projects. In fact for a good half an hour, forty minutes the drama plays out almost like a silent movie, with a more focused documentary style feel, and a steely use of black and white photography, creating a very cold, but thought provoking view of the world.
It is ultimately an anti-American film, as the viewer gets a running commentary on the culture of television adverts, and product placement. In one scene the lead watches on bemused in his hotel room, and as Wenders places him in the same position as us, the message is very clear that sometimes the shows themselves are like extended adverts. With these extreme political ideas, bought out in such a quiet, slow and less angry film than one would expect, Alice in the Cities has a feel of a classic Sci-Fi picture, maybe in the mould of a Cronenberg film, a story full of ideas, with an undefined direction, and one which you can place your own themes on. It is one of his most beautiful and challenging films, and deserves to be placed in such high regard as classics like Paris Texas and Wings of Desire.
Director: Wim Wenders
Writers: Wim Wenders, Veith von Fürstenberg
Stars:Yella Rottländer, Rüdiger Vogler, Lisa Kreuzer
Runtime: 110 min
Country: West Germany