What Commodification And Consumerism Are For Art, Environmental And Economic Disasters And Wars Are For Human Race

Wenders went to Portugal to help Raul Ruiz who was making his film “The Territory” (1981), with film stock. Wenders hired much of the cast and crew for making “The State of Things”. After completing the filming in Portugal, Wenders flew to Los Angeles to shoot the final scenes before continuing work on his “Hammett”.

The director of the film inside “The State of Things” Friedrich Munro (Patrick Bauchau), on the right, the cameraman Joe (Samuel Fuller), on the left, and the screenwriter Dennis (Paul Getty), right behind them, work on the film about a small group of survivors after an ecological catastrophe destroying life on Earth. Pay attention to Bauchau’s directorial gestures – with his right hand the director is encouraging his actors to express meaning rather than vitality, thoughtfulness rather than self-projection. Bauchau’s left hand is in the pocket of his vest – as if he is saying to actors – don’t sentimentalize, keep your emotions enveloped.

When they ran out of film and work stopped, the crew started to concentrate on their personal situations, the actors – Anna (Isabelle Weingarten) and Mark (Jeffrey Kime) decided to use forced vocation to advance their personal relationship. Look at the composition of the shot – it is as if Mark was trying to stop Anna from leaving their bed while still trying to keep his already hurt pride.

Robert (Geoffrey Carey) went to the city to modestly entertain himself

Friedrich who is trying to find the producer Gordon in Los-Angeles, visit his cameraman who left Portugal earlier because of the sudden death of his wife. Colleagues and friends exchange their thoughts about the changing nature of cinematic art in a world where money managed to marginalize the artistic motivations of the filmmakers. Pay attention to the composition of the shot: two competent filmmaking professionals with interest in artistic sublime and human truth are sitting on the side of the high-tech road to the future (metaphorized by the high voltage electric lines and the giant metal tower). They themselves aren’t necessarily side-roaded on the highway to a technocratic future (the system “generously“ gives them a choice – either to correspond to the general trend it itself set up, or resist and become miscarriages), but their thinking and dedication is with humanistic culture and responsible art.

With a really detective-like perseverance Friedrich finds Gordon (Allen Garfield) who has lost money on his Lisbon film and now he is trying to escape from the creditors in his motor-home.

After listening to Gordon’s story all accusations of the film director abandoned by his producer, got stuck in Friedrich’s throat. The fact that Gordon let them even to start shooting the film about destruction of environment and life on Earth (the topic meant to be represented without any mythological lubrication) was already such an idealism on his part, that fiasco was inevitable. Friedrich never felt so bad in his life – he felt as if he was born into a wrong life. Not just a mask of entertainer is needed in order to be able to continue to function as an artist in commercialized (oriented on mass consumerism) environment – but the very identity of organic, visceral entertainer.

Shots from the passing car, Gordon is killed, and Friedrich is trying not only to get the license plate number of the cars on film but he is ready to die together with his producer and his movie. This pathetic – romantic gesture is all that is left for an artist if he is refusing to be transformed into the breed of an entrapped entrepreneur-entertainer.

Friedrich looks like a mad person to the people of business and the philistines – the people without “eccentric and foolish” need for responsible art. The very idea expressed in this shot – that serious art is a sublime weapon (killing the ghosts of non-freedom, corruption and conformism) becomes more and more outdated with each day.

In these moments in Friedrich’s soul his own film about the possible self-annihilation of human race, the film which is shot dead in the middle of production, and Wim Wenders’ film (carrying the first inside itself,) about strangulation of responsible cinematic art by a world of commercialized entertainment are perceived as one living organism victimized by brutalization of human life into a permanent state of war, work on any conditions, consumption (without quality), and life in which there is no place for the sublime, for the (critical) truth and for freedom from despotic necessities.


“The State of Things” is about the danger of annihilation of the human race amidst an environmental destruction (that humans themselves created with naiveté of fig tree from the Evangelical parable or with the blind despair of a scorpion killing itself with deadly stinging prick on his tale). But the film is actually even more about the destruction of serious culture personified here by the cinematic art (which doesn’t make substantial compromises with non-truth and is not servile to the orientation on entertainment).

On the level of the plot, the film is about making a film which depicts the agonizing death of human race as a result of environmental collapse. The crew suddenly faces the situation when the financing of the film suddenly stops without any explanation. The director has to go from Portugal (the place of shooting), to Los-Angeles to find the disappeared producer; and the members of the crew, in the expectation of his return with the good news and money give themselves to their humanity and personalities, giving us the chance to appreciate their gentleness, sensitivity and sophistication.

When the director of the film inside Wenders’ film (Patric Bauchau) eventually finds the producer, he learned that Gordon (Allen Garfield) is a rare idealist among the Hollywood movie-industry entrepreneurial tribe, a person who really wanted to make this film exactly because it is dedicated to the truth about the human situation in the modern world, but to make film like this is in total contradiction with the very logic of Hollywood filmmaking, with the very taste of Hollywood hamburger or oysters.

Friedrich, who was trying to find Gordon so as to reproach him for not following their contract, etc., suddenly felt guilty and swallowed his accusations. Their conversation on the wheels was a fiesta of sad truths with bitter drinks of despair. It was exchange of those who resisted to sacrifice art and were forced, by the very rules of financial game, out of table.

When Gordon was shot dead right in front of Friedrich – the unexpected and overwhelming finale of the film took place when Patrick Bauchau tried to use his movie-camera not so much to catch on film who could kill Gordon amidst the light of the day but to leave a trace of the truth about the assassination of art in a dying world, both suffocated by human money-idolatry.

Such ending of the film was perceived in the beginning of eighties as “too much” – as objectively not-motivated over-generalization, but today, in thirty three years later the film is gaining relevancy and looks penetratingly realistic. Super-blockbusters meticulously demonstrate the futuristic weapon systems, with robotic heroes personifying American supermen-saviors amidst the fallen world in need of being saved, the endless police dramas where detectives are represented as role models, or the comedies where viewers are given the chance to laugh at others and themselves and through this laughter, stay the same, never change – can, as if, illustrate Wenders and Friedrich Munro/Patrick Bauchau’s two films, but entertainers, mobilizing their craft make consumers enjoy their psychological dying, enjoy the poison which will eventually kill them.

Today, we are much closer to apocalypse of our own making (than we were in the past century) because of the monopolistic: anti-free market practices (like fixation on fossil fuels with its deadly fracking/cracking earth) of the decision-making elite (of those who so loudly proclaim the sacredness of the free market). And today, we are already “survived” the very death of serious cinematic art.

The level of acting by even small role actors is encouragingly impressive – we understand that even those who are ready to act robotically and formulaically in Hollywood and Hollywood-like commercial movies are still keep the ability to act in a human way – portray their characters as free human beings who are not completely determined by the social situations, and that Hollywood’s canon of technical acting/starring is the price for the actors’ survival in a non-free market of mass production.

Wenders’ “The State of Things” will live as a monument of humane civilization which is in a process of being wiped-out on a daily basis by the profit- and entertainment-worshippers.