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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 18 | volume IV | January, 2001



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 18January, 2001
Essays

Europe, America and the Atlantic Bridge

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p. 1
Aleš Debeljak

    When Wim Wenders, a brilliant German filmmaker, returned to the European continent after a few years of living in America, he was led by the unclear, yet persistently present belief in the crucial difference between the European and American “forma mentis”. The return of Wim Wenders, contrary to the drowning of his colleague director Volker Schlendorf in the Hollywood’s industrial labyrinth, suggested his personal and, in particular, his artistic preference. No wonder. Wim Wenders’ wonderful film meditations wherein he sought to uncover some kind of existential meaning in the age of electronic images, have represented a distinctive part of the European cultural landscape for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, Wim Wenders shoots his films for his own “Road Movies” production house, whereby the name itself clearly discloses the American inspiration. With regard to the substance of the films, Wenders’ collected works originate in a radical movement started in Munich and is known as the “new German film”. Today, alas, few remain knowledgeable about this movement.
    That’s understandable. We live in a historical moment which only requires participation in the “perpetual now”. The obsession with the present is, after all, the main force that drives corporate capitalism and the American mentality. To have it, to have it all, to have it all today: this is the imperative of a country in which history is but of little importance. The United States of America were created on the basis of escape from history and its cultivation of prejudices. The emigrant experience that defines the American life is the experience of individuals forced to keep a distance between yesterday’s ritual, determined by a archetipal formula, on the one hand and today’s promise of happiness freely available to anyone because it is constantly evading, on the other. The American culture is still defined by the paradox Alexis Tocqueville so eloqeuently described a century and a half ago. Democracy and mercantilism imply that while anyone wealthy enough can afford a life-style of aristocracy; yet no one can be king.
    Instead of the weight of history and the capital of blue blood, the Americans, who are emphatically not familiar with the aristocratic tradition, have successfully created the hierarchy of financial capital. This, in turn, enables affiliation with the elite whose social status is changing with the appearance of each “nouveau riche”, whose pockets are warmed by the platinum American Express card. In this context it is not unusual


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