In Sprague’s list of his ten favourite films that he gives Marietta as she leaves him, The Passenger is number 7.
Things become complicated, with not only David’s wife, Rachel, hard on his heels, but also a journalist colleague, government agents and rebel leaders. Appearing not to recognize the danger the government agents represent, David puts all his efforts into evading his wife and colleague. In this, he solicits the help of an architecture student (known only as ‘the girl’) that he meets in Barcelona. She will become his guardian angel.
But David is too far gone in his death wish to recognize that angels can bring the promise of a new life just as much as they can guide one to one’s death. As he and the girl drive south from Barcelona, she asks him, ‘What are you running away from?’. He answers, ‘Turn your back to the front seat’. We see the face of the girl as she kneels on the back seat of the convertible, the tree-lined road receding to the horizon: David is running away from his past.
Theses on the Philosophy of History, IX
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.