A true giant of European cinema, Wim Wenders has, in a career spanning over 50 years, made a plethora of different kinds of films. From features to documentaries, he has made well over 45 movies, nearly averaging a film every year since 1970. He was a founding member of Filmverlag der Autoren, which ended up being the driving force behind the New German Cinema, and he started his production company, Road Movies, in Berlin in 1975. Alongside his work as a film-maker, Wenders is a playwright, an author, and a photographer.
Born in the August of 1945 in Düsseldorf (at the time part of an allied-occupied Germany), Wenders has received some of the most prestigious awards in world cinema, Including the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival in 1984 for Paris, Texas; the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival; and the Best Director award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival for his film Wings of Desire.
He has also been nominated on three separate occasions for an Academy Award, all for his documentary work, for the films Buena Vista Social Club, Pina, and The Salt of the Earth. He has also presided over the European Film Academy in Berlin as president since 1996.
Below we’ll take a look at two of our favourite films of Wenders’ – picking just the 2 from his huge filmography was a difficult task in itself. Let us know in the comments your favourite Wim Wenders films, and if you’ve never seen any, which films you want to see first.
Paris, Texas (1984): The Arrival of Wim Wenders
Written by: L. M. Kit Carson, Sam Shepard
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell
Cinematography: Robby Müller
Unanimous winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Paris, Texas is often considered Wenders’ greatest film. It follows an bedraggled, mysterious amnesiac (played by Harry Dean Stanton) who wanders, barely alive, out of the desert. He then attempts to reintegrate into the world by moving in with his brother and reconnecting with his 7-year-old son. Finally, he must track down his ex-wife who had abandoned the family.
The film also went on the win the BAFTA for Best Director and was nominated for Best Film. It is one of very few films that holds a 100% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Renowned movie critic Roger Ebert said of Paris, Texas that it “is a movie with the kind of passion and willingness to experiment that was more common years ago than it is now. It has more links with films like Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy, than with the slick arcade games that are the box-office winners of the 1980s. It is true, deep, and brilliant.”
Wings of Desire (1987)
Written by: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke, Richard Reitinger
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Wings of Desire, released in 1987, was a radical departure from the heavy realism of Paris, Texas. A romantic fantasy film, it follows the lives of a group of invisible, immortal angels around Berlin, who listen in to the thoughts of various human inhabitants, comforting those in distress. One angel (played by Bruno Ganz) falls in love with a trapeze artist. He chooses to become human so that he can explore sensory pleasures, from eating food to feeling the touch of a loved one, and so that he can experience human love with the trapeze artist.
Like Paris, Texas, the film holds an exemplary score on Rotten Tomatoes, holding a 98% ‘Fresh’ rating. Empire Online describe it as a “precious portrait of a divided Berlin just a few years before the Wall fell and it remains a beautiful, literate and romantic piece of cinema.”