The American Friend
Title: The American Friend
Original title: Der amerikanische Freund
Release year: 1977
Countries: France, West Germany
Director: Wim Wenders
Stars: Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz, Lisa Kreuzer
Rating: 4/5

Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.

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Delving into the Depths of Moral Ambiguity: A Review of Wim Wenders' The American Friend


In the realm of cinema, few films manage to capture the complexities of human nature quite like Wim Wenders’ 1977 masterpiece, The American Friend. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground, this neo-noir thriller delves into the murky depths of moral ambiguity, exploring the choices that blur the lines between good and evil.

At the heart of the film lies Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), a charming yet ruthless art dealer who finds himself entangled in a web of deceit and murder. When his associate, Raoul Minot (Gérard Blain), proposes a risky plan to eliminate a wealthy businessman, Ripley suggests enlisting the help of Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz), a picture framer rumored to be terminally ill.

Zimmermann, driven by financial desperation and a desire to secure his family’s future, reluctantly agrees to become the assassin, embarking on a series of calculated killings. As the body count rises, Ripley maintains a façade of innocence, his involvement shrouded in secrecy.

Wenders masterfully crafts a suspenseful narrative that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The film’s pacing is deliberate, allowing the tension to simmer and the characters’ motivations to unfold gradually. The cinematography, characterized by stark contrasts and muted tones, perfectly complements the film’s somber atmosphere.

Hopper delivers a captivating performance as Ripley, exuding an air of nonchalant charm that masks his sinister intentions. Ganz is equally compelling as Zimmermann, portraying his transformation from a mild-mannered framer to a cold-blooded killer with nuance and depth.

The American Friend is not merely a suspenseful thriller; it is a profound exploration of the human condition. It raises questions about morality, the nature of evil, and the consequences of our actions. The film’s ending, ambiguous and open-ended, leaves the audience grappling with these questions long after the credits roll.

Wenders’ The American Friend is a cinematic gem, a haunting and thought-provoking examination of moral ambiguity. With its stellar performances, masterful direction, and captivating narrative, it remains a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences today.

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Adolf Hansen,Andreas Dedecke,Axel Schiessler,Bruno Ganz,Daniel Schmid,David Blue,Dennis Hopper,Enzo Robutti,Gérard Blain,Gerty Molzen,Heinrich Marmann,Heinz Joachim Klein,Jean Eustache,Lisa Kreuzer,Lou Castel,Nicholas Ray,Peter Lilienthal,Rosemarie Heinikel,Rudolf Schündler,Samuel Fuller,Sandy Whitelaw,Satya De La Manitou,Stefan Lennert,Wim Wenders