The American Friend ★★★★

A lot of recurring characters in films have a clearly defined persona, they are expected to behave in a certain way whether it's Freddy Kruger or Inspector Clouseau. There are also characters that are expected to act in a way that is befitting according to the time in which they are presented. There has been much debate recently regarding the definition of James Bond and whether his character should be altered to conform to modern day political correctness where his blatant misogyny and ' toxic masculinity' can for some people feel like a part of a bygone era.
Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley is something else entirely. He has become more of a theoretical concept where the fundamental parts of his original personality remain mostly intact but depending upon the director and the actor who plays him, are projected in various different ways. In 'The Talented Mr Ripley' Matt Damon emphasised his nerdish demeanour and social dysfunction. In ' Ripley's Game' John Malkovich exemplified a more confident and arrogant creation, with his connoisseur status pushed to the fore. In ' The American Friend' Dennis Hopper portrays Ripley as a menacing and enigmatic figure that appears out of nowhere as a devilishly persuasive presence, dressed like a Texas ranger and looking like a world apart from Damon's bookish introvert. He is a strangely inhuman presence almost as if his sole purpose is to persuade people to commit terrible acts of indecency, like a satanic apparition compelling the vulnerable towards abject darkness. In this situation Bruno Ganz's Jonathan Zimmerman is a terminally ill man who is sucked into Tom Ripley's evil vortex and convinced to commit murder in exchange for a large sum of money.
Wim Wenders film is a road movie deliberately without a satisfying resolution. It's a thriller that bears the hallmarks of Hitchcock channelled into an existentialist journey. It's a tragedy underscored by a Shakesperian sense of fatalism. This is a gripping and intriguing thriller that is amongst Wenders' best films. We feel genuine pathos for Ganz's character as his realisation that he doesn't have long to live implores a feeling of sudden urgency as if he is trying to correct a life spent looking through tinted glass. Wenders allows for a natural feeling of progression where a character's fate isn't based solely on that person's mistakes but predetermined by a cruel twist of fate. We can only watch Jonathan head towards his grim and inevitable outcome and wonder what eventually happens to Tom Ripley. He will appear again, a chameleonic and endless and inescapable force of nature.

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