When Being Near Another Human Being Can Unexpectedly Awaken One’s Taste for Life

Philip, a German journalist, feels as if “under the bridge”. Deficit in an existentially spiritual sensitivity in American life makes him unable to write about this country where people are too much in self-assertion and oriented on achievements and calculation of success.

Alice feels as if in the corner of an empty public bench. She is not really sad; she is just not animated by having a deal with adults who are overburdened by necessities.

Alice’s eyes see the absence of caring (or at least genuine and sincere) adults who could share with her their love for living.

Like all abandoned children (by the physically or mentally absent parents) Alice becomes an appendix to a larger or smaller screens. It means that she identifies with image, not the reality. Pop-images are monological like political propaganda and commercial advertisement; they are a masked authoritarian voice. If democracy abandons children, they‘re doomed to become authoritarian adults.

Alice didn’t find her grandmother, with a disappeared (hopefully, temporary) mother, and with Philip who is irritated that he is stuck with a little girl instead of attending his work.

We see the moment of equality between a nine- and a thirty-year-old (what is for the Creator of the world twenty-one years difference in age?) Unfortunately, it will not continue for too long – the pressures and frustrations of life will interfere.


This film is about a disinterested togetherness between a journalist (with a heart of a writer) in the middle of a creative block and a pre-adolescent girl who unexpectedly found herself in his care. It is also about the unique psychological atmosphere (which is created by the existentially gifted personalities of two main protagonists: Alice – Yella Rottlander, and Philip Winter – Rudiger Vogler), which made it possible and natural for Alice’s mother to entrust her child to a stranger – a situation which is near impossible to imagine today, in 2011, thirty seven years after the release of the film. Thirdly, “Alice…” is about creative process when the object of creative effort is life itself. And, finally, it is about the geography of two cultures, American pre-globalist and European post-fascist.

The girl is without any of the usual appealing, without any need for success and popularity (in relation to other characters or the audience). As a screen presence she is rather shocking for most American viewers. She is as genuine as only life without calculation and commercialization can be. She is without any nymphet-ness (in this sense “Alice…” is an important polemics with Nabokov’s “Lolita”). The guy’s creative authenticity can match Alice’s existential one. And that’s why the encounter with her being helps him to overcome his creative deadness and awakens his vitality.

We see Vogler and Yella in New-York and during their meaningfully absurd trips through West Germany in search for the girl’s grandmother. The power of the existential encounters without any expectation of any advantage as a result (both protagonists just disinterestedly give themselves to life), is strong exactly because they leave life in peace. Only life left in peace can reward people with enlightenment. Today, in 21st century, we are already forgetting what it all means. We are growing new, post-democratic teeth; we make our souls neo-predatory. We dare to take our being into our own sweaty and greasy hands. But the quiet and relaxed bliss Philip feels after his encounter with Alice’s being will stay on with him.

The film is about the very possibility to feel together in the world as two human beings with different interests who are accepted by one another without any sentimental ties.

“Alice…” is a film of moods when visual currents follow the music of emotions with freedom from conventions and strains. It is a film-fluidity, film-freedom – of nobility without posturing and humility without self-appreciation.

Posted on Feb 4 2015 –   “Alice in the Cities” (1974) By Wim Wenders  by Acting-Out Politics