Mike is a successful Hollywood producer of violent movies. Then he himself experiences extreme violence, goes missing, joins some Latino gardeners and reviews his life.Mike is a successful Hollywood producer of violent movies. Then he himself experiences extreme violence, goes missing, joins some Latino gardeners and reviews his life.Mike is a successful Hollywood producer of violent movies. Then he himself experiences extreme violence, goes missing, joins some Latino gardeners and reviews his life.
As always with Wim Wenders, the plot is fantastic. But, as always with Wim Wenders, the movie isn't about the plot, and those who expect to be carried by the plot will be disappointed. In the same way WINGS OF DESIRE had a great plot about angels but was not a fantasy; in the same way UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD had a great plot about a high tech dream machine but was not about technology; in the same way LISBON STORY had a riveting plot about a missing person but was not a mystery, here we have the same Wendersian formula which he pulls off flawlessly.
The plot, if you're curious, is about a futuristic "God machine" that can eliminate people with the push of a button. Designed ostensibly for crime prevention & surveillance (the old "to protect & serve" - where have we heard that before?), it gets out of control and takes murder & corruption to the next level of clinical perfection. Caught up in the game is Mike Max, a movie producer struggling with his own intense xenophobia and paranoia, which, like a disease, he himself spreads to society through his films.
That's all I'll say about the plot because (a) I don't want to ruin anything, and (b) like I said, the plot is secondary. What's really important, as you watch this movie, is to pay attention to the thought-provoking dialogue, the philosophical allusions and the overall metaphor of the situation. If you can tune into that stuff, then you're set for a great experience.
I'll give you just one example of the philosophy. There's a scene early on where they talk about the "observer effect" (you might recognize it as the paradox of "Schrödinger's cat" which you can look up on wikipedia). This is the fundamental theme of the film: the idea that, even by "impartially observing", we change the situation or in some cases destroy it. As one of the characters says, it's like "flipping on the light to observe the darkness." What a poetic & appropriate analogy.
This movie is choc full of that kind of stuff, and you may miss it if you're expecting car chases and gunfire. No, instead you get the ultimate anti-violence violence film, and I gotta give Wenders a standing ovation on being the first director I've seen pull it off.
A lot of movies in the past have carried a message of anti-violence; yet the films sink to the thrill of showing violence themselves and often glorifying it (the biggest example would be Norm Jewison's classic ROLLERBALL), and this becomes confusing if not outright hypocritical. But in this case, we get a chilling depiction of the epidemic of violence without showing any blood & guts to excite our savage instincts. It remains an intellectual film, not visceral. Don't get me wrong; this movie is plenty suspenseful, and on more than one occasion it'll have your heart flopping like an electrified noodle. But it's all done by way of the mind. To me, that's what makes this depiction of violence all the more effective & frightening: the way it's so clean & neat like in a video game. And without any fuss, someone's head could just go pop.
This is the best film I've seen in a while. I'm only taking off a few points because I wished it was twice as long & had more monologues, like some of the older Wenders films. But I have to say this film sticks to its objective and delivers a perfect product.
- Feb 8, 2010