Wim Wenders Retrospective: An Integrated Encounter By Josefina Sartora

in 25th Torino Film Festival

by Josefina Sartora

Although the Torino Film Festival is considered the festival of young new cinemas, one of its high points is always its retrospectives. In this, its 25th year, the festival’s retrospectives were dedicated to John Cassavetes and Wim Wenders, both icons of independent cinema. Wenders, the director from Düsseldorf, is currently working on his film Palermo Shooting in Palermo, Sicily, and was at the Festival. This was an integrated retrospective which consisted not only of his films. There was also a complete catalog, curated by Stefano Francia di Celle, a documentary directed by Marcel Wehn, One Who Set Forth: Wim Wenders’ Early Years (Von einem der auszog, Wim Wenders’ frühe Jahre), about Wenders’ experience with his first films, another documentary by the Iranian director Mahmoud Behraznia, Sie ist ein Teil von mir, about Wenders and his wives and women, and an exhibition of photographs taken by Wenders and his wife Donata.

This may have been the first retrospective that included all his films, not only the long features but also his first short films as well as the episodes that integrated his long collective films, such as Lumière and Company (Lumière et compagnie), his segment Invisible Crimes of Invisibles, and others.

Before every screening there was a short video introduction in which Wenders himself talked about that particular movie, its filming conditions, the actors’ performances, his personal feelings at the moment, and his motivations. On some occasions he also introduced some of the films in person.

It was good to see False Movement (Falsche Bewegung) again. It contains some of Wender’s favorite themes: it is a road movie, his favorite genre at the time, the acting of his fetish actor Rüdiger Vogler, in the early years, the wandering situations, the lack of a logical order, the inner quest of the main character, and his use of color. Wenders: “I am firmly convinced that black and white films are somehow more realistic, while those in color are more fantastic.”

There was also a very interesting encounter between Wenders and Nanni Moretti, the new director of the Torino Festival. It was an intimate talk between two filmmakers and two ways of directing; in a frank way, both compared their personal choices about screenplay, editing, and their relationships with their actors. Wenders revealed that one of his main influences was Anthony Mann. One of the highlights was when Wenders declared that he shot Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit) — one of my favorites — without an actual script:

“The characters weren’t defined, only the situations they were in were indicated. A man drives a truck and he has to follow a certain itinerary and a certain schedule. Another man finds himself at the end of something and is now missing a purpose; the two meet. These were the only directions. The two actors, Rüdiger Vogler and Hanns Zischler, were friends and I trusted them and the fact that they would certainly bring the story somewhere because they would have based their characters on their personal experiences. I would draw from all the actors, I would give them dialogues, but we would go over them together every morning. There wasn’t a real screenplay.”

He referred also to his relationship with Francis Coppola, who asked him to go to the USA after The American Friend (Der amerikanische Freund), and their problems with Hammet. Coppola rewrote the whole film after it was edited, and Wenders had to shoot it all over, a nightmare that made him lose faith in himself. Afterwards he decided to make The State of Things (Der Stand der Dinge) as a personal reflection on cinema and about the difficulties a European director has making a movie in the USA. We all know his love/hate relationship with America.

A curious detail was that we knew that Wenders’ first choice for Peter Falk’s role in Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) was John Cassavetes, with whom, by destiny, he had met in Torino.