Wim Wenders' 1982 film The State of Things is a wonderful look at the nuts n' bolts of making movies. The story concerns a small European film crew shooting an apocalyptic sci-fi movie on the coast of Portugal. The film, known as The Survivors**runs aground, when the money dries up and the producer goes missing, leaving the cast and crew to sit it out and wait for the production to restart...
The State of Things is essentially Wenders' 8½, made during some downtime on the troubled production of Hammett which Wenders was directing for Coppola's Zoetrope. Shot fast and cheap, and co-written with maverick American director Robert Kramer, Wenders' film is the very antithesis of Hollywood film making, lensed in black and white and for most of its running time, a film with hardly any plot - this is a film about people marooned on a gloomy wave battered coast, hanging around, waiting for something to happen. Only in the final act of the film does Wenders make something of a compromise, when the director of The Survivors goes to LA in search of his producer, and the film shifts gears into the kind of strange enigmatic thriller territory of The American Friend.
The State of Things may be one of Wenders' bleakest films - it is after all, a film about the impossibility of making films, but it's often a very funny film - the film director's deeply pretentious, neurotic wife, or one of The Survivors' actors discussing his catalogue of embarrassing childhood illnesses are particularly witty. Among the fine cast, is a marvellous larger-than-like appearance by Sam Fuller as The Survivor's veteran cameraman, an excellent turn by Allen Garfield as the producer-gone-underground, and a short cameo by Roger Corman as a sinister lawyer.
The State of Things is available as a R2 DVD on the Axiom label, who have released some of Wenders earlier movies and documentaries. Generally, this is a strong effort. The image is nice, a little heavy on grain perhaps but pleasing nonetheless. Audio is fine, doing justice to Jürgen Knieper fine score. Extras include some deleted scenes. It's a real shame Wenders didn't provide a commentary for this fascinating film.
* Notes Wenders devotes the entire first reel of The State of Things to The Survivors, shot entirely in sepia tones, similar in look to Lars Von Trier's 1984 debut feature The Element of Crime. Wenders would return to the sci-fi genre in 1991 with the epic Until The End of The World