On Wim Wenders and The Open Road


This Sunday, September 21st, I’ll be doing a panel discussion at 11:30am with Justine Kurland and Denise Wolff at Expo Chicago about the new Aperture book, The Open Road (More info HERE). In preparation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence of Wim Wenders.

Just today I stumbled across an incredible lecture by Wenders entitled Impossible Stories. Wenders makes an analogy between driving and telling a story:

Film-stories are like routes. A map is the most exciting thing in the world for me; when I see a map, I immediately feel restless, especially when it’s of a country or city where I’ve never been. I look at all the names and I want to know the things they refer to, the cities of a country, the streets of a city. When I look at a map, it turns into an allegory for the whole of life. The only thing that makes it bearable is to try to mark out a route, and follow it through the city or country. Stories do just that: they become your roads in a strange land, where but for them, you might go to thousands of places without ever arriving anywhere.

Later he describes a type of open-ending storytelling which is as good of description as any of my process for making Sleeping By The Mississippi:

I followed the method of ‘day-dreaming’. Story always assumes control, it knows its course, it knows what matters, it knows where it begins and ends. Daydream is quite different; it doesn’t have that ‘dramaturgical’ control. What it has is a kind of subconscious guide who wants to get on, no matter where; every dream is going somewhere, but who can say where that is? Something in the subconscious knows, but you can only discover it if you let it take its course, and that’s what I attempted in all these films. The English word ‘drifting’ expresses it very well. Not the shortest line between two points, but a zigzag. Perhaps a better word would be ‘meander’, because that has the idea of distance in it as well.


It is interesting to think how Wenders love of the open road continues to inspire me. In the current issue of Aperture Magazine, I wrote about my favorite Wenders film: Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road):

Since I first rented the double-cassette VHS as a teenager, Wender’s depiction of two lonely men on the road together has felt like some sort of prophecy. So when I started traveling extensively with the writer Brad Zellar a couple of years ago, you wouldn’t believe my shock when he told me that Kings of the Road was one of his favorite movies.

I discovered this film when I was around 21. Twenty-three years later, I’m not only still inspired by Wenders, I feel like I’ve turned into a character in his movie.


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