"Donít come knocking"
 by Wim Wenders

Review by A. Autino

In the current flat and desolating cultural panorama, characterized by the prevalence of the noir in literature and of the apology of homicidal violence in the cinema, it happens nevertheless to assist, though very rarely, to the work of a director which didn't abdicate the use of his/her own cerebral sinapsis, in a sublimely perceptive and creative key.

It is the case of Wim Wenders, with his "Don't come knocking". Could be that I keep on finding, in Wenders's work, some meanings that perhaps he didn't aim to put in, but his work keeps on fascinating me. And, to me, the meanings, and also the meants, are all present in this movie.

Some years ago I wrote to Wenders, criticizing another of his recent works, "Lisbon story", because I found it stupendous for the high poetic and narrative content, but intolerably nostalgic and completely oriented to the past, besides entirely fanfold on cinema, tautological subject of cinema itself. As if Wenders had lost that ability to realize in the present the skirmishes of the future, as he accustomed us by his whole previous cinema.


Also "Don't come knocking" is nostalgic and poetic, but the sign is well different. As much as "Lisbon story" is oriented to the past, dreaming on the ancient Europe's doors, so "Don't come knocking" is turned to future, thanks above all to some final sequences, a true spiritual and artistic will of the great director, in the defeat and catharsis of the main character, the western movies actor Howard Spence.

The great actor, caricature of the mediatic success, spent his own existence without minding family nor personal relationships. He becomes father after thirty years since the birth of his own children. 

In the turn of few days, on the road of the escape from the set of the film he was interpreting, in a trip searching the few traces of humanity that he discovers to have left around America, Howard sees the nothingness of his own professional and personal history, and he will discover, at his own expenses, that his "family" is not at all available for him, when he decides that he needs a family.

A great Jessica Lange interprets the girl that thirty years before, thanks to a hasty relationship at the borders of the set of a film in her city in Montana, she gave him a child of whose existence he had never known. Dorinne became for some verses a hard woman, but not incapable of emotions, to whose she knows very well she cannot allow herself to grant any abandonment. Like small glimpses of sun through the clouds, Wenders composes a magnificent emotional, expressive and relational fresco, fully exploiting the possibilities of the cinema expressive mean. So we come to understand that, after all, Dorinne can accept Howard, also with a thirty years delay (not without making him to pay for it!). It is a magistral and even surprising cinematography, for us, brutalized as we have been being for decades by cheap cinema, in which the directors mainly use banal and mortifying expedients, to tell histories and feelings. The boy, Earl, is a melancholy and dreamy singer, that doesn't tolerate seeing the father appearing suddendly in front of him. That father of whom he would have had a desperate need when he was a little boy, and of which he had hardly to learn to do without.

Almost at the borders of the history, another female figure is moving. A blonde, serious and sweet girl, another probable daughter of the great actor. Unlike Dorinne, this girl's mother (of which we don't even know the name) is dead, and she will remain only a probable daughter, up to the end of the history. But this won't prevent her from feeling herself daughter of Howard and sister of Earl, neither to develop an almost classical role as a benevolent "demon" from Greek tragedy. She contributes to plot the fragile threads of human relationships which, from unlikely, casual and ethereal, become links on which the people understand, since a certain point and ahead, they can count on.

In Lisbon story we had an old handy video-camera. Here we have an old car, of '50s. It would be wrong and misleading to take it as the nth symbol of the old and misused "American dream." It is rather a reference to technology, a tenderness for the things of the past, manufactured by people that have put accuracy, carefulness and love in their job. We meet such a feeling often in Wenders, and it is one of the cultural lines of its work that I feel more near and suggestive. Even more precious, such brushstrokes, because they are never accompanied by the contempt of the present neither the fear of the future. Therefore they inspire an aware maturity, able to contemplate the anthropological history of humanity with understanding and compassion, even with tenderness, for the job of the fathers and grandparents, and of possible trust in the future of the children.


On that car the children - the Howard's children - up to then somehow static and disheartened, will restart, at the end, for their travel, with an agreement and a spirit given to us, once more magistrally, by a quick but intense scene, and a perfect musical choice. Wenders delivers so to us the last semantic wedge, to fully understand the history and its ethic. The auto becomes the icon of an old technology, still working, that acts as a medium for the ransom both of the parents and of the children.

Also the ability to write a coherent history, with an end that indeed resolves and provides the satisfying general picture, it is not very common: an end that consoles indeed us without being cheaply comforting. Above all because it makes evident to us see how it is always worth to undertake a trip, though late, and it is always worth to face human relationships, though difficult and stormy. And, above all, when we think that our personal history took by now the sunset boulevard, we should not close it in silence and in forgetfulness, but passing to our (true or probable, by blood or by culture) children, a good technological inheritance and good ideas to be developed.

[017.AA.TDF.2006 - 30.10.2006]