(Kings of the Road)
West Germany, 1976
Director: Wim Wenders
Production: Wim Wenders Produktion; black and white, 35mm; running time: 165 minutes, some sources list 176 minutes; length: 15,740 feet. Released 17 March 1976. Filmed along the border regions between West and East Germany.
Producer: Wim Wenders; executive producer: Michael Wiedemann; screenplay: Wim Wenders; photography: Robbie Müller and Martin Schäfer; editor: Peter Przygodda; sound recordists: Martin Müller and Bruno Bollhalder; sound re-recordist: Paul Schöler; art directors: Heidi Lüdi and Bernd Hirskorn; music: Axel Linstädt; performed by: Improved Sound Limited.
Cast : Rüdier Vogeler ( Bruno Winter ); Hanns Zischler ( Robert Lander ); Lisa Kreuzer ( Cashier ); Rudolf Schündler ( Robert's father ); Marquard Böhm ( Man who has lost his wife ); Dieter Traier ( Garage owner ); Franziska Stömmer ( Cinema owner ); Patrick Kreuzer ( Little boy ).
Award: Cannes Film Festival, International Critics Award, 1976.
Wenders, Wim, "Casem" (script extract) in Film a Doba (Prague), August 1977.
Sandford, John, The New German Cinema , Totowa, New Jersey, 1980.
Geist, Kathe, The Cinema of Wim Wenders 1967–1977 , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981.
Johnston, Sheila, Wim Wenders , London, 1981.
Buchka, Peter, Augen kann man nicht Kaufen: Wim Wenders und seine Filme , Munich, 1983.
Corrigan, Timothy, New German Cinema: The Displaced Image , Austin, Texas, 1983.
Franklin, James, New German Cinema from Oberhausen to Hamburg , Boston, 1983.
Grob, Norbert, Die Formen des filmische Blicks: Wenders: Die fruhen Filme , Munich, 1984.
Phillips, Klaus, editor, New German Filmmakers: from Oberhausen through the 1970s , New York, 1984.
Devillers, Jean-Pierre, Berlin, L.A., Berlin: Wim Wenders , Paris, 1985.
Boujut, Michel, Wim Wenders , 3rd edition, Paris, 1986.
Geist, Kathe, The Cinema of Wim Wenders: From Paris, France to Paris, Texas , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1988.
Elsaesser, Thomas, New German Cinema: A History , London, 1989.
Wenders, Wim, The Logic of Images , New York, 1992.
Kolker, Robert P., and Peter Beicken, The Films of Wim Wenders , New York, 1993.
Cook, Roger F., and Gerd Gemunden, The Cinema of Wim Wenders: Image, Narrative, and the Postmodern Condition , Detroit, 1997.
Wenders, Wim, The Act of Seeing , New York, 1999.
Variety (New York), 17 March 1976.
Wiedemann, H., and F. Mueller-Scherz, Interview with Wenders in Film und Ton Magazine (Munich), May 1976; also in Cinéma (Paris), December 1976.
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Maraval, P., in Cinématographe (Paris), June 1976.
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Bonitzer, Pierre, "Allemagne, années errantes," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1976.
Tarratt, Margaret, in Films and Filming (London), May 1977.
Combs, Richard, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), July 1977.
"Wim Wenders on Kings of the Road ," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), July 1977.
Hallen, S., in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 20, no. 4, 1978.
Kass, J. M., in Movietone News (Seattle), 22 February 1978.
"De Emotionele reizen van Wim Wenders," in Skrien (Amsterdam), April 1978.
Alvarez, R., in Filmcritica (Rome), February 1979.
Bencivenni, A., in Bianco e Nero (Rome), May-June 1979.
Balzola, A., "L'afasia del cinema nel silenzio di Wenders," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), October 1980.
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* * *
The first image of Im Lauf der Zeit is a title specifying where and when the film was shot. The importance of location becomes obvious from the length of screen time devoted to images of the land, the road, and the small towns along the itinerary which, rather than a script, was the organizing structure of the film.
The choice of subject was made early in the production. The preeminence of the itinerary insured that the spatial dimension would structure the narrative. The choice of route allowed the filmmakers to photograph the east/west borderline guard towers, providing a visual metaphor that functions on several levels. Wenders claims to have chosen the area because it was seldom photographed, an underpopulated, forgotten area he wanted to record on film. He was also able to preserve images of the disappearing small town cinema houses, which served as subject matter in terms of both the condition of the German film industry in 1975 and the history of German cinema. These two facets of the same subject are introduced in a pseudo-interview conducted with an actual movie house owner by a fictional character. Just as important as location is an exactness of time. Wenders and cameraman Robbie Müller were able to make use of the natural light to evoke a precise sense of time of day.
Another significant production decision was to shoot chronologically, allowing the crew to react to what was found along the route— to react to their subject in the sense of documentary filmmaking. It allowed for the workings of chance.
The film does not attempt to reveal the characters psychologically through the editing style. While the film does to a certain extent represent the consciousnesses of its two protagonists, a distance is maintained. The acting is relatively unrevealing, there is little dialogue, and the camera pulls out to extreme long shot at intervals. Most important is an editing style that de-emphasizes point-of-view techniques. This includes the frequent absence of either the glance or reaction shot, a lack of signification registered in the reaction when it is present, and a tendency to cut just after the glance has turned away, rather than on the look.
A primary characteristic of the film is its length, or more exactly the length of time between "events," resulting in its slowness, or sense of duration. The film covers six and a half days in three hours. It is the time between events that shifts the emphasis from story to setting. These are the summary sequences, transition scenes punctuated by wipes and dissolves. The sense of duration also comes from the types of events portrayed on the screen. It is as if Wenders wanted to record actions which usually are excluded from films—the time it takes to enter a room, climb a stairway or the process of an everyday task—in the same way that he wanted to film in an area that is usually ignored as a film location. Ellipses in this film tend to be between scenes, not within them.
The third part of a loosely connected trilogy (with Alice in den Städten and Falsche Bewegung ), Im Lauf der Zeit possesses a documentary quality dependent primarily on its descriptive nature, a pre-occupation with recording and preserving events and a concern for surfaces. Its ending suggests the possibility of change for its protagonists, but it is not so optimistic for the future of film in Germany. The last movie house owner has closed her theater, waiting for a change in the industry, but at least no longer complacent and willing to exhibit whatever she is given.