How America Is Seen by Contemporary European Filmmakers?
American film industry is widely known throughout the world with Hollywood being its shining beacon. It is not a secret that it already penetrated every corner of the movie marketplace. It has always been a struggle for filmmakers from all over the world to catch up with their American colleagues. But nowadays the situation is changing, and the focus is drawn to the European filmmakers as they became competitive enough to stand that fight shooting films worth of being noticed. Among the issues they portray, address to the image of America perceived by foreigners still abounds, but the way it is depicted differs from the one we used to as contemporary filmmakers use new perspectives of view and techniques. Now it is not only the promised land with an endless stock of opportunities where dreams undoubtedly come true. Contemporary filmmakers portray America as a real place with its dangers and hazards which strangers may encounter after arrival.
It is common knowledge that our perception of the world is driven by certain stereotypes that are either passed to us by previous generations or formed by our own experience. The European view of America is not an exception, and there is an abundance of stereotypes about it among Europeans. The primary perception of America which idea, in general, has not changed over the time passed. That is the thought of America as the promised land which reveals strong bound to the Bible image. The relation of this concept to America dates back to the times of colonization when people traveled across the Atlantic ocean in search of a better place to live and longing for the opportunities they could not lay account with at home anymore. They were exactly like Hebrew people full of hope seeking for the promised land to cease their grievance and find happiness.
Another stereotype of a massive matter is the concept of the Melting Pot. It emerged as a result of the United States’ motto “e Pluribus Unum” a Latin phrase which means “out of many, one” and may be construed as an intention to create one nation out of people who differ regarding beliefs as well as backgrounds (Stokes & Sipière 2010). Following this idea, people from every corner of the world might come to America and find their place among other seekers becoming a part of another community. At the same time, they got a chance to feel like a meaningful piece of a puzzle, because they had a hand in the creation of a whole nation. The analogy with the Melting Pot appeared because new people were like metals melted together by a smith to create something new. For all newcomers that meant the right not to follow the molds of former society but to discover new roles and provide more beneficial conditions for their ancestors.
Then, comes an inevitable part of America both for the foreigners and for the natives the American Dream. “The American Dream is the ideal that the government should protect each person’s opportunity to pursue their idea of happiness” (The balance 2017). The sense which states behind the idea is that a right to happiness is by no means of less importance than other human rights and is not a demonstration of self-interest. Securing citizens with that right government gives everyone the opportunity to fulfill their potential. It is evident that such a concept must attract a lot of people as no person in the world would reject the opportunity to achieve happiness.
So, there is no wonder that such images resonated with a vast number of directors including Michelangelo Antonioni, Constantin Costa-Gravas, Julien Duvivier, Milos Forman, Emir Kusturica, Sergio Leone, Anatole Litvak, Adrian Lyne, Wolfgang Peterson, Paul Verhoeven, Wim Wenders, Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, William Dieterle, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Rouben Mamoulian, Otto Preminger, Douglas Sirk, Charles Vidor, James Whale, Billy Wilder, William Wyler etc. resulting in loads of movies by means of which they “have constructed their own ‘America”(Stokes & Sipière 2010). Although contemporary filmmakers approach the same stories and plot they managed to be less traditional in the aspect of perspective on the topics they discuss. In their films, they give way to experiments, discovering new methods of expression.
For example, Emir Kusturica’s Arizona Dream. In this film, he addressed the idea of constructing the American nation out of different people. But he upheaved the perspective and implied another purpose behind the traditional concept – to create a unified nation the otherness should be discarded. Also, Emir Kusturica shows openly that his movie is viewed from the point of view of Europeans as it cites a lot of other movies concerning Europeans. The director juggles three locations to present the full picture of American reality, at the same time, emphasizing cultural diversity. He aims at depicting the idea that by denying others America denies itself because it was created by others. That is shown by the remembrance of Columbus and the presence of the Chinese character.
Taking all things into consideration, the conclusion could be made that the perceiving of America by Europeans is based on certain stereotypes. However, the perception of these common beliefs changed greatly throughout history. So, nowadays they receive new coloring and sense.
Stokes, Melvyn, and Dominique Sipière. “Out Of Many, One: European Film-Makers Construct The United States.” European Journal Of American Studies, vol 5, no. 4, 2010, Open edition, doi:10.4000/ejas.8650.
“5 Ways Our Founding Fathers Protect The American Dream.” The Balance, 2017, https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-american-dream-quotes-and-history-3306009.