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DON'T COME KNOCKING
2005

Director:
Wim Wenders

Screenplay:
Sam Shepard

Story by:
Sam Shepard & Wim Wenders

Director of Photography:
Franz Lustig

Editor:
Peter Przygodda

Music by:

T-Bone Burnett

Additional Music by:
Patrick Warren

Cast:
Sam Shepard
Jessica Lange
Tim Roth
Sarah Polley
Gabriel Mann
Fairuza Balk
and
Eva Marie Saint

Festivals/Awards:
2005 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection

Producer:
Peter Schwartzkopff

Production:
Reverse Angle

Length:
122 min.

Format:
35mm anamorphic widescreen

 

 

www.dontcomeknocking.com

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A farce, a family story, a road movie
Synopsis by Wim Wenders

Howard Spence has seen better days. When he was younger he was a movie star, mostly in Westerns. At the age of sixty, Howard uses drugs, alcohol and young girls to avoid the painful truth that there are only supporting roles left for him to play. After yet another night of debauchery in his trailer, Howard awakens in disgust to find that he is still alive, but that nobody in the world would have missed him if he had died.

That morning Howard is absent from the film set. Instead, we see him galloping away on his movie horse in his costume – full cowboy regalia. But there is no camera filming him this time. Howard is fleeing, from the film and his life.

At an old train station, Howard trades in his costume for the shabby clothes of an old ranch hand. He rides the train for a while and then he rents a car. Eventually he catches a Greyhound, after discarding his credit cards and cell phone. Finally he arrives in Elko, Nevada, the place that he ran away from years ago and where his 80 year-old mother still lives.

Mom takes him in, even if she hasn’t seen her only son for more than thirty years. Although she’s only seen his face on the covers of tabloids, and received nothing but a handful of postcards from him, it’s as if he had only left for a moment to buy a pack of cigarettes. She treats him as if he were still a boy. Perhaps Mom realizes that Howard is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. With her dry humor and matter-of-fact approach to his failed career, she awakens Howard to his self-loathing and self-pity.

Meanwhile, the film shoot that Howard has abandoned is interrupted. The insurance company is furious about the costly damage, which increases daily. They hire a private detective, Sutter, to find Howard. Sutter is a sort of bounty hunter. Like Howard, he is a figure from a different world. In the following scenes, we always see Sutter on Howard’s trail, in hot pursuit.

Howard, an alcoholic, doesn’t stay sober for long at Mom’s house. One night he wanders into the city and ends up in a crummy casino, drinking with an old school buddy whose pitiful existence mirrors his own life even more painfully. They get thoroughly drunk, have a mindless fistfight, and end up in the gutter where they get scooped up by the cops.

Howard wakes up in a drying-out cell. This police incident brings Sutter dangerously close to him, but Mom bails Howard out in the nick of time. Afterward, they finally have a real conversation about the past. Mom remembers that more than twenty years ago a young woman called her up trying to locate Howard. Mom figured that the girl was pregnant. Howard is shocked at the thought that he has a grown child somewhere. This child seems to be a ray of hope, a possible salvation from his narcissistic and meaningless life. When Sutter appears in town, reminding Howard of the reality he has escaped from, he flees again, this time to find his child

In 1900, Butte, Montana was the biggest city west of the Mississippi. Now it is a place of deep depression. Downtown Butte is a ghost town, barely recognizable as the setting of the film shot there 25 years ago, a movie that catapulted Howard to stardom. Many affairs and one-night stands took place during that shoot. Doreen was one of Howard’s flames then. She’s still working at the same coffee shop where she met Howard as a young, blooming beauty. She has a son, Earl, a rock musician and singer living in Butte.

Howard meets Doreen again. She reacts very calmly to the sudden reappearance of her old lover and the father of her son. Howard’s meeting with Earl, on the other hand, is quite violent. Earl completely rejects this unknown father who appears too late in his life. Saddened by this encounter, Howard is ready to give up and leave Butte again, when out of nowhere a young woman named Sky appears. She is exactly the same age as Earl. She is in fact, Howard’s daughter, the product of another short fling that happened during the filming of the same movie. She is Earl’s half-sister. These siblings do not know about each other. That’s when the real complications of this American family reunion begin...


For the first time in his life, Howard tries to do something unselfish. He tries to put this disconnected family back together. But he has little success. In the end, he is relieved when Sutter appears to forcibly escort him back to his role on the movie set. At least there he has written dialogue, a schedule, and an order to keep that he is incapable of mastering in real life. But even if his mission as a father is a failure, he has managed to bring a brother and a sister together, and mother and her son closer to each other...

 

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