By Bartosz Szarek (Nowy Sącz, Poland)
Falling on Deaf Ears
“The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez have come to an end. We have come here in vain” – a phrase was taken from the play Don Carlos (1787) written by Friedrich Schiller. The film entitled The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez (Les beaux jours d’Aranjuez, 2016) which was nominated in the final for Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival directed by Wim Wenders, appeals with disturbing lyricism and melancholy. New film created by Wenders is not bad. It is not that bad that it’s good. Screen adaptation of the play written by Peter Handke, with whom Wenders had the opportunity to cooperate in The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (Die Angst des Tormannes beim Elfmeter, 1972) or Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin, 1987), can be considered as artistic curiosity, festival of pretense and boredom, as it is predicated by the voice of world criticism. You can, of course, create various peculiar comparisons, such as juxtaposing of Beautiful Days of Aranjuez with the film Empire (1964) by Andy Warhol, an eight-hour static shot of the Empire State Building – symbol of New York. You can do that anyhow… But in the Wenders-Handke production, you can perceive genius, which is ahead of its time – a case of the music album called Transformer (1972) produced by Lou Reed underestimated by the critics, from which the opening track Perfect Day, comes from.
The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez is an excellent camerawork of long-time collaborator Gaspara Noé Benoîta Debie, film score and cast including: Reda Kateb, Sophie Semin, Jens Harzer, author of the script materials – Peter Handke as a bustling gardener holding a ladder and clippers, as well as the second cameo role played by brilliant Nick Cave performing a beautiful song Into My Arms (1997) at the piano. Postcard locations of desolated Paris from the opening scenes is a style of experimental Wenders, who uses simple, and at the same time brilliant means of expression once again, to situate a sort of brace of his journey from the very beginning; to convey something subjectively important and simultaneously unimportant, when all threads and conjectures finishing existence of the two invented and collaterally real characters are coming to an end. It is not a fiction, Ladies and Gentlemen – it is a pure image.
Deserted Paris, with Lou Reed in the background, quickly gives way to romantic scenery, idyllic and subtle as well as unrealistically sophisticated conversation occurring in the foreground between two protagonists – a man (Reda Kateb) and a woman (Sophie Semin). There is an arbor, two chairs, and a table. On the table – lemonade jug, two glasses and a red apple and “the royal couple is sitting amid the garden”. The characters share with each other with the most intimate memories and observations on sexual experiences, childhood, gender differences (alternately from male and female point of view) with more or less relevant insertion concerning flora and fauna, beauty of the ending summer surrounding characters. Meanwhile, on the back of the arbor, at home the screenwriter (Jens Harzer) invents discussion, male-female polemics about everything and nothing, and possibly documents swirling in his head memories of lost love somewhere of the French province. If so, one thing is certain. There won’t be catharsis. The beautiful days of Aranjuez ended, and screenwriters have come here in vain…
Wim Wenders shows the reality to the viewer, in which nothing is obvious and clear at first glance. The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez is not a film – it is a material for the script. But what a sample! It is a screenwriter from above typewriter, not the characters, who looks out two characters, man and woman, himself and his lost couple of years ago love. Wenders evidently gives priority to be a writer over director, who came up with an idea that writer attempting to invent a story is a perfect idea for a story. Wenders’ screenplay read by the two protagonists is an unashamed and simultaneously virtuous declaration of love of the poet to his muse, deeply honest in the flight of ideas and precise in estimating of the deepening distance between them – falling into the void as seen, both in the fiction as well as actual dimension. Such a shame…
(Translated from Polish)