Modern Times · Reality

Wim Wenders: Paris, Texas. Part 4.

The Tragedy Of Our Modern Time.

Travis is telling Jane about their life together, and doing so as though he were looking at them. Eventually Jane plucks up the courage to speak with him, to tell him that she’s pregnant.

For a man like Travis, her pregnancy brought him down to earth, it showed him that she did love him. He found work, and worked hard; he stopped drinking his problems now forgotten. All goes well, or as well as any birth will, and they have a son who they call Hunter.

It’s tough for Jane, though. Life is for a young mother in our day and age: family members who might help are no longer within walking distance of each other. Friends and neighbours that you’ve known all your life simply don’t exist. I doubt that Jane got much help from anybody, and when it comes to babies, they are literally 24/7. If a child doesn’t sleep was the case with my second, you’re in for a truly hellish experience. Even if they do, they need feeding every two to four hours. I can tell you from direct experience that losing sleep for a period of months warps the mind. Then it is repeatedly crushed.

Add to all this the social services in the US are not exactly world class.

Jane would have been at the end of her tether. Everything now seemed an injustice – it can, especially when you’re faced with a screaming kid who simply won’t be quiet. Or even the simple fact that the nappies need changing so frequently, and that when they do the stink is unbearable. It’s not the baby that’s the injustice, it’s the incessant overload. Most men will never comprehend this, and the way Travis speaks, the scriptwriter was a man.

That didn’t mean Travis could necessarily do much to help, he did bring presents and treats for her. She did at least have someone keeping the bank account afloat. Imagine the life of a young mum in a social desert like America without a regular income. That would truly be a hell on earth. Travis could have helped her by actually helping her, taking some of the burden from her shoulders.

For Jane, it was too much to bear.

The Tragedy That Fear Brings.

It took two years for things to turn sour again: Travis started drinking, Jane started blaming. Feeling imprisoned by him, she tried to escape. She wasn’t wrong in thinking this; and just to prove her point, he tied her down. What else could he do? He couldn’t let her out, could he? After all, he knows best, doesn’t he? He tied her to the stove in their camper-caravan-home. He couldn’t let her go, she might not come back…

… which is precisely what happened. Only the fears people have are not justified when it comes to imposing this on someone else. When someone blames another in this way, it’s because it’s on their mind, not the other’s. This is the riddle of the comfort zone, and is why people who blame will blame others for the very things they do themselves.

Because it was Travis who left, not Jane. He left and never came back. After all, the film begins when he’s found in a dusty Texan settlement, four years later.

In a way, it’s also where the film ends. Right at the beginning.

Fear Itself.

The problem with fear is that it breeds on itself, and in that it is limited by the facts of a person’s life, it means there is only so much any one person can do when surrounded by the occasional image of the things that terrify them. In short, they go around in circles: hence the comfort zone. It is limited, it is the psychic area in a person’s life that is safe from their fears. On this account, it is self-limiting. Especially if you don’t have the keys to unlock the paradox it presents. I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t know many who do.

Travis’ problem is that because he doesn’t understand that the heart of the paradox is that these fears live within him, his natural inclination is to run away from them. Like the kid on the farting scooter telling everybody how big he is, he has to come home when his parents tell him it’s time for bed. Reality is reality, and it is the same for all of us. That’s why living inside one’s comfort zone is so poisonous: we are here on earth to meet reality, not run away from it. Running away only means that you’ll meet the same problems time and time again, even when walking in the desert, away from everyone else on the planet. The problem lies in Travis’ heart, the solution lies in meeting other people, not running away from them.

Questions And Answers.

As with all things modern, the film has no answers, only more questions. Travis has seen to it that Jane is reunited with Hunter in the hotel room in Houston. In the happiness of their reunion, they are unaware of Travis’ departure.

Where does this leave her?

She’s got a shitty little job pandering to losers who can’t get a stiffie. Can she look after a child and do this work? Has she a home big enough for two? We don’t know and we will never know: the film simply stops dead as though switching off a radio broadcast of Beethoven’s Fifth in mid bar. It is an ending typical of someone who doesn’t know the answers, and like Travis, don’t want to. Because if I do leave an open ending, as I do towards the end of my own book, it’s for a very good reason. It is done deliberately to sow doubt in the reader’s mind whilst the story at that moment is frivolous, even funny. Travis’ leaving was a conclusion and there was nothing more to be said. Because there was nothing the film-makers could say.

Anne and Walt Henderson.

So what of Walt and Anne? The film has ended and every question it answered only opened a dozen more. It’s what happens when people don’t know what they’re looking for. Worse, demand the very answers that are staring them in the face. They want to look inside themselves, but that only leads to more questions.

The problem with reality is that it’s there, it doesn’t allow for questioning of the comfortable type that means you can continue dreaming. Continue to look inside your own self. Only for those who know reality, accept it, it’s way nicer than any dream. Even nicer is its enormity; there’s always something new, something delightful. Rather than the plodding, same-again-Sam dreams that people prefer.

What happens when Jane phones them in tears to tell them Travis has disappeared again? He only left Walt and Anne a few days ago, and he’s vanished again. What can they do about Hunter? As things stand, she really can’t look after him properly. His friends, school, are in Los Angeles.

There’s Nothing Wrong Here. Is There?

For most people who just watch movies and don’t really connect with the characters, there’s nothing amiss. But that’s modern life for you: the disconnect. It’s as important a part of how the film was made as it was the subject of the film itself. It is possible to watch the film as simply a series of unfolding scenes, it’s not as if most of them have much real action to them. So they’ll go unnoticed by the dull minds of the kind of viewer that needs James-Bond-excitement to stir even the faintest of responses from them.

The drama there has to be understood from the viewer’s own understanding of psychology. There are too few of us who can do this for ‘Paris, Texas’ to be a truly powerful statement. Because most people don’t have the acumen to comprehend life at this level.

All in all, the story is a tragedy. To those of us who have an imagination that can follow the intricacies of the psychology involved in the film, it’s like the ending of Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’. Where it speaks of Rose, who is the girlfriend of a brooding psychopath with a proclivity for cut-throat razors. Rose, as you can imagine, is as young and naive as Jane is in the film.

The ending of the book sees Rose, who ‘goes home to the worst horror of all.’

As an ending, it is pregnant with the message that is written through the entire book. The ending of Paris, Texas is merely the last scene, and the film stops in mid pace.

I don’t imagine anybody noticed. All they saw was the credits rolling and they were scrambling for the exit.


5 thoughts on “Wim Wenders: Paris, Texas. Part 4.

  1. I see what you’re saying, but I also see a reason for the ending being placed where it was, as opposed to its being completely arbitrary. Travis has facilitated the reuniting of Jane and Hunter. Again, your points about where this leaves them are well taken, but I had the sense that whatever happens next – likely Hunter returning to LA – some sort of relationship between mother and child is likely to follow.

    The rest of your insights would never have occurred to me and I’m glad I had at least some of them before watching the film tonight.


    1. I agree that Travis managed to reunite Jane and Hunter.

      For me, that was the problem! What could either of them do in the circumstances without Travis around as a father, and potential bread winner? That was my point: Travis sowed more seeds of unhappiness.


      1. How can we know? The story stopped in mid stride.

        If Hunter is back in LA, then the pain of separation from his mum will be the greater. He will have the family and friends he grew up with, but knows his mum and dad are somewhere else. He’ll be as torn in two as Travis was.

        It’s the typical can of worms that the intellectual mind creates.


      2. Let’s put this another way: Hunter was happy with the family he lived in.

        Everything in the film pointed to disruption. A disruption caused by people thinking that family is more important than bonds that have been created freely and with care.


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