The fall of the Wall, at the end of the world

I spent the autumn of 1989 in Australia,
on a location survey for my film “Until The End Of The World”.
And that’s exactly where I was in early November:
at the very edge of the world.
You could hardly be further away from Berlin:
You had to fly for 24 hours to Sydney,
then inland for 3 hours to Alice Springs, on a regular jet,
from there another 4 hours on a small plane
to the north coast, to Broome,
and from there, finally, on a chartered Cessna for 3 more hours
to a remote one horse town in the West Australian desert
called “Turkey Creek”.
But even then, you still had to drive a Land Rover
down a bumpy dust road
for 10 hours, deep into the Bungle Bungles,
a former coral reef from an age
when this area was still at the bottom of the ocean,
umpteen millions of years ago.

Thus, we were far away from any civilization.
Once a week, someone had to drive back to Turkey Creek
to buy new supplies…
That was in the times prior to mobile or even satellite phones.
No one could reach us there.
But in the only general store in Turkey Creek there was a fax machine!
I had passed on the number to my office in Berlin.
Just in case…

Actually, it wasn’t even my turn to drive to Turkey Creek,
but I had gotten a deep cut on my foot
while swimming in a shallow pond
(on that very razor-sharp coral
that you couldn’t see and didn’t expect under the water there)
and it seemed safer to have it taken care of
than to risk an infection in the blistering heat.
In Turkey Creek, there was also a rudimentary medical clinic,
where a lethargic country doctor, who also served as veterinarian,
was responsible for all of the locals, particularly the Aborigines,
within a radius of several hundred kilometers.
The man gave me a shot and changed my bandages,
which seemed to entirely exhaust him for the rest of the day.

And as we were already there,
my (one-armed) guide Charley and I then also went to the store
to buy provisions for the next few days
and, above all, to fill up our tank of drinking water.
And just then, the owner of the general store pulled out
a rolled-up fax from underneath the counter
and handed it to me, his face glowing with joy.
He said it had arrived a few days ago…

Perhaps you remember those terrible print-outs from back then,
on thin thermal paper that immediately rolled up,
and which you couldn’t smooth out if your life depended on it.
You could certainly not send pictures with that!
But in this case my office had tried to do so, anyway,
so I was holding a pitch-black little roll of paper in my hands,
on which, under a certain angle and with a lot of imagination,
you could recognize some shapes:
people who were dancing on top of a wall? The Wall?
Along with that illegible headlines, absolutely undecipherable.

We stared at these black pictures.
What was that supposed to mean?
Had the Wall fallen?
How long ago was that by now?
Was the whole thing just an apparition?
Hadn’t the Russian tanks long since intervened?
What was going on in Berlin?!

At that moment, it was the middle of the night in Berlin,
but this was no time to worry about being considerate.
Through long waits, lots of patience, endlessly spelling names
and reciting telephone numbers,
it was also possible to make long-distance calls
from this general store,
if you paid for it in advance…
At any rate, I finally got hold of a line to Berlin
and woke up somebody from my office.
The connection was bad, and only that much was to be understood:
the Wall was indeed open,
the Berliners were beside themselves with excitement,
the rest of the world as well,
and there were no used cars or bananas left
in the whole of West Berlin.
Actually there was also no West Berlin anymore…
Then the connection got cut off again.

Actually, we never drank any liquor out there in the desert,
but that day I made an exception and packed in a few bottles of wine
and a few cases of beer, and a lot of ice to cool them,
and Charley and I returned with all that to the camp.

Although we only got there after dark,
there was reason enough, in that night at least,
to finish that entire stock of alcohol all at once.

Wim Wenders

Photo: Wim Wenders by the replica of the Berlin wall on the shoot of WINGS OF DESIRE. © Wim Wenders Stiftung 2014