By Afra Nariman
Paris, Texas (1984)
Directed by: Wim Wenders
Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, Hunter Carson, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell
A confused man named Travis (played by Harry Dean Stanton) is found wandering the desert and seems to not know who he is. He is later picked up by his brother from California, who has been taking care of Travis’ son after he and his wife (the child’s mother, Jane) both went missing around the same time 4 years ago. Although hesitant to go home with his brother at first, Travis eventually returns home to his son, Hunter. He slowly begins to remember his life and his family. In hopes of putting his old life back together, Travis, accompanied by Hunter, sets off to Houston in search of his missing wife, Jane.
A master of the “Road-film” genre, Wim Wenders created a masterpiece of simplicity in Paris, Texas. The film is about family, love, time, regret and making amends. It progresses at a slow, enchanting pace that keeps you dialed in, waiting to see what happens; but at the same time, satisfies you in every singular scene of the film… keeping you in the moment. Although curious of what will happen next, we aren’t aching to get to the next scene. We enjoy every inch of this film. It’s a sweet, comfortable story about a father and his recovering relationship with his young son after years of separation, and perfectly but simply highlights the factors that come into play as they work to put their family back together.
One of the things that keeps you questioning where the film is going, and perhaps also the characters’ past, is the enigma surrounding Travis’ wife and Hunter’s mother, Jane. We hear little details here and there about Jane and their past life together, but we never get a substantial explanation of what happened to them and why they all went their separate ways, as Travis doesn’t open up too much. By preserving the level of mystery surrounding the family’s past, Wenders is able to control our perception of the bonding scenes between Travis and Hunter, while keeping us interested in what we may get an answer to later in the film.
It takes some time for Hunter to feel comfortable enough around Travis, but when he does, they quickly bond and eventually set off to find their missing link. When they finally find Jane in Houston, we hear one of the most beautifully scripted monologues during Travis and Jane’s reunited conversation, where Travis anonymously tells her a love story that ends up being about them. During his speech, Travis opens up about the past for the first time and we are finally given some insight to what happened that resulted in the family’s break-up. His speech encompasses everything Wenders hoped it would. It’s endearing, revealing and concerns love and regret. It satisfies every question we hoped would be answered.
Paris, Texas also explores the importance of time; how it passes by while we become unaware of how many things about the world and the people in our lives change when we aren’t paying attention. Most of all, it’s about lost time. It’s about never taking time with our loved ones for granted. It tells a story that ties together the everlasting power of love and the infinite, yet limited scope of time. The simplicity of the storytelling makes watching this film a pleasant and natural experience.
Wenders created a perfectly paced film that outlines the heartbreaking journey of a broken family. Brought together by Wenders’ exceptional script, some excellent camerawork, and a perfect soundtrack, Paris Texas is a truly beautiful and mesmerizing mood-piece that gets better with each viewing.