Land of Plenty Review
Wim Wenders makes a highly political statement in Land of Plenty, a film made to coincide with the disillusionment felt in America following the events of September 11, 2001. The German director’s subtle style of filmmaking can make his films feel a little detached and whimsical, none more so than the ill-judged Million Dollar Hotel, however on Land of Plenty the air of detachment is well-suited to a criticism of the American government’s response to the terrorist attacks in this thought-provoking drama.
Lana (Williams) returns to Los Angeles after 10 years living in Africa and Europe intending to go to college, but finds herself helping the homeless at a Downtown Mission where her Christian faith in people brings out the kindness to all. Her uncle Paul (Diehl) has a contrasting view on life due to the political climate in America. A retired Green Beret, he is a suspicious recluse who plays his role in the War on Terror by spying on others from his surveillance van. The events of 9/11 re-triggered his trauma of war, heightened by being exposed to Agent Pink exfoliate in Vietnam. Having cut his ties with family, Lana’s return prompts him to have more direct contact with a diverse range of cultures. Lana’s kindness towards strangers relies on trust, something Paul forgot a long time ago. When they both witness the shooting of a homeless Middle-Eastern man, they join forces to investigate with differing goals: Lana to offer sympathy, Paul to continue his hunt for terrorists.
Originally released in 2004, Wenders used Land of Plenty to clearly state his grievances with the American government’s response to September 11. Paul’s patriotic nature fuels his support of the administration’s every decision, acting out what Wenders sees as America’s closed reaction to violence in their own country: suspicious, threatened and ready to lash out at the first opportunity against those deemed responsible or conspiring to act again. Lana’s compassionate stance towards people beyond American borders goes against her uncle’s narrow-minded attitude as she finds strength in helping those he mistrusts so deeply. In doing so, Wenders develops the notion America is naive in its understanding of the ways of the world if its decision-makers think tarnishing certain Middle-Eastern nationalities with the same brush and threatening them with military action will lead to a resolution that brings peace. Indeed, while the climax shoehorns in a rather obvious revelation for Paul, Wenders makes a valid point: blind patriotism is an admirable trait which can lead to dangerous beliefs when it goes unquestioned.
Although Land of Plenty may have lost some of its relevance in the years since its release, it remains a telling example of the impact of September 11 on many Americans and how dims views were taken on its War on Terror as a course of retribution.
Interview with Wim Wenders, cast and crew interviews, making of feature, stills gallery, trailer.
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