Wim Wenders


Director, Screenwriter
Wim Wenders

About

Also Known As
Wilhelm Ernst Wenders
Birth Place
Germany
Born
August 14, 1945

Biography

One of the more successful and prolific filmmakers to emerge from the New German Cinema movement, iconoclastic director Wim Wenders continually walked the line between art house aesthetic and commercial appeal with his vast body of work. Stark early efforts, such as the nihilistic "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" (1972) and road movies like "Alice in the Cities" (1974), led to ...

Family & Companions

Edda Koechl
Wife
Married in 1968; divorced in 1974.
Ronee Blakley
Wife
Actor. Married 1979, divorced 1981; wrote and performed "Lightning Over Water" song for Wenders' film of the same name; also appeared in picture.
Donata Schmidt
Wife
Married in 1979; divorced in 1981.
Solveig Dommartin
Companion
Actor, editor. Has acted in a number of Wenders' films, including "Wings of Desire" (1987) and "Until the End of the World" (1991).

Bibliography

"My Time with Antonioni"
Wim Wenders, Faber and Faber (2000)
"The Act of Seeing"
Wim Wenders (1997)

Biography

One of the more successful and prolific filmmakers to emerge from the New German Cinema movement, iconoclastic director Wim Wenders continually walked the line between art house aesthetic and commercial appeal with his vast body of work. Stark early efforts, such as the nihilistic "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" (1972) and road movies like "Alice in the Cities" (1974), led to more focused works along the lines of "The American Friend" (1977). Having gained international notoriety, Wenders indulged his fascination with Americana in the acclaimed "Paris, Texas" (1984) then returned to Berlin for his beloved fantasy-drama "Wings of Desire" (1987). He also broadened the scope of his artistic pursuits with forays into music video and television commercial directing, photographic exhibitions, authoring several essay collections and more. While later dramatic indulgences along the lines of "Until the End of the World" (1991) and "Faraway, So Close!" (1993), were viewed as less cogent works, the filmmaker nonetheless displayed his remarkable acumen with music documentaries like "Buena Vista Social Club" (1999). With "Don't Come Knocking" (2005) he returned to the well for another American road movie with "Paris, Texas" collaborator Sam Shepard, while the audacious 3-D dance documentary "Pina" (2011) proved the director still capable of pushing boundaries. Boasting a career that spanned more than 40 years and included over 50 highly personal, yet largely accessible films, Wenders was easily one of his generation's most appreciated independent filmmakers.

Born Ernst Wilhelm Wenders on Aug. 14, 1945 in Düsseldorf, Germany, he was the son of Heinrich Wenders, a prominent surgeon. Raised Catholic, Wenders briefly entertained the idea of entering the priesthood until his fascination with photography and Americana - in particular, B-movies and rock-n-roll - pulled him in a more earthly direction. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at schools in Freiberg, Munich and back to Dusseldorf, where he dabbled with studies in medicine, philosophy and sociology, before dropping out of school entirely in 1966. That year, Wenders made the move to Paris, France, where he attempted to enroll in art and film schools. Rejected by two separate institutions, he settled on an apprenticeship as an engraver at a Montparnasse studio and spent his evenings immersing himself in film after film at a nearby cinémathèque. The following year, he returned to Düsseldorf for an internship at the German offices of United Artists, an experience Wenders found more than a little disillusioning. In 1967 he entered the newly founded University of Television and Film Munich, at which time his career as a filmmaker began in earnest.

During his time in Munich, Wenders - greatly influenced by the experimental "New American Underground" movement - made several carefully composed, visually arresting student films, culminating in his final year project "Summer in the City" (1970), which also marked his first feature-length production. Dedicated to the Kinks, the film began associations with director of photography Robby Müller and editor Peter Przygodda, key players in Wenders' future development as a filmmaker. Both were present for his first professional feature, "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" (1972). A bleak, existential tale bearing similarities to Albert Camus' The Stranger, it was based on a story by Peter Handke about an alienated soccer goalie who, after losing a match, embarks on an aimless, self-destructive odyssey. Although not all of it was positive, it and his next film - an adaptation of Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" (1973) - did manage to bring Wenders to the attention of film critics outside of Germany.

Next for Wenders came a trilogy of "road movies," inspired largely by such American films as "Easy Rider" (1969) and starring frequent collaborator Rüdiger Vogler. "Alice in the Cities" (1974) - Wenders' first film partially shot in the U.S. - "Wrong Move" (1975) and "Kings of the Road" (1976) all act as explorations of rootlessness and disenfranchisement in the post-WWII era. His first English language feature film, "The American Friend" (1977), based on Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game, won Wenders international attention. Featuring appearances by several other filmmakers (including cameos by Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray, two of the directors most admired by Wenders), the atmospheric thriller recounts the unlikely and accidental friendship between Jonathan (frequent Wenders' player Bruno Ganz), a terminally-ill picture restorer and frame maker, and Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), an American underworld figure who manipulates Jonathan into committing a series of murders. Well received by critics - and, after a second viewing, approved by the notoriously hard to please Highsmith herself - the neo-noir officially put Wenders on the radar of the international film community.

One person impressed by Wenders' most recent offering was American auteur Francis Ford Coppola, who enlisted the young German director to helm a fictional tale about pulp crime novelist Dashiell Hammett for his newly formed Zoetrope Studios. Although he initially viewed it as the opportunity of a lifetime, Wenders' experience on the production was ultimately one marked with frustration. Repeated disagreements with Coppola on the film resulted in its release being delayed by years. In the meantime, Wenders kept himself busy with work on German television and the documentary "Lightning Over Water" (1980), a collaboration with Nicholas Ray that intimately chronicled that final days of Ray's life as he succumbed to terminal cancer. When the film "Hammett" (1982) was at last released, the result was an uneven homage to the pulp novelist and the film noir genre he inspired. Apparently at an impasse with Wenders, Coppola reportedly reshot almost the entire film, leaving a mere 30 percent of Wenders' footage intact, as well as his largely superfluous credit as director.

The project, which cost Wenders nearly four years of creative energy, was briefly addressed in "Reverse Angle" (1982), a documentary short covering the filmmakers' disputes with Coppola during the tumultuous and protracted editing of "Hammett." Less literal in its deconstruction of the experience was "The State of Things" (1983), filmed, almost by happenstance, during a long hiatus in the troubled shooting of the detective picture. "Paris, Texas" (1984), based on a script by actor-playwright-musician Sam Shepard, told the story of a speechless amnesiac (Harry Dean Stanton), who, after being discovered wandering in the desert, is aided by his estranged brother (Dean Stockwell) on an odyssey to reconnect with his past and the family (Nastassja Kinski and Hunter Carson) he left behind. Benefitting greatly from the forward movement of Shepard's uniquely American story, the editing prowess of Przygodda, and the breathtaking cinematography of Müller, the film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1984. Over the years, "Paris, Texas" would be cited as a major influence by such artists as the rock band U2 and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, who hailed it as his favorite film of all time.

Wenders then returned to Berlin to make "Wings of Desire" (1987), a lyrical, mostly black-and-white fantasia (remade as "City of Angels" in 1998) starring Ganz as an angel wandering the divided city, yearning for a physical, human existence. Many of the best moments of the film had no particular dramatic purpose, other than to simply reveal what it is like to forever be an observer. A modest commercial success for an independently made foreign drama, the film earned Wenders the Best Director award at Cannes in 1987. It was a heady time for the filmmaker, who published his first book of photography, Written in the West that same year, and was given an honorary doctorate from Paris' Sorbonne University in 1989. By far his most ambitious and expensive project was the epic science fiction road movie "Until the End of the World" (1991), a metaphysical detective romp of global dimensions, boasting a massive cast that included William Hurt, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow and Solveig Dommartin. After being forced to cut the film's original running time from an astonishing 280 minutes to 158 for U.S. distribution, the disappointed German filmmaker vowed to eventually release a restored "director's cut" even as the movie met with mixed-to-poor reviews and a dismal theatrical run.

Two years later, Wenders released "Faraway, So Close!" (1993), a sequel to "Wings of Desire" which once again found Ganz's angel and others wistfully overseeing the humanity of a newly unified Berlin. Next came "Lisbon Story" (1994), a partial-sequel to "The State of Things," followed by a collaboration with the great Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni on "Beyond the Clouds" (1995). Wenders returned to America for the first time since filming "Paris, Texas" for "The End of Violence" (1997), a film that also marked his first foray into shooting in Cinemascope. Although it captured signature Los Angeles locales in a decadent beauty not seen in years, the film, a confusing meditation on the threat of violence and alienation due to increased technology, met with indifference critically and commercially. Faring much better was Wenders' moving Cuban music documentary "Buena Vista Social Club" (1999), which introduced audiences to a nearly forgotten generation of Havana musicians brought together by frequent Wenders musical collaborator Ry Cooder to record a CD and perform together in concert in the U.S.

Wenders was drawn back once more to Los Angeles, where he filmed "The Million Dollar Hotel" (2000), a patchy mystery-romance-comedy, based on an original story by U2 front man Bono. Featuring Jeremy Davies and Milla Jovovich as denizens of the titular run-down tenement and Mel Gibson (who also co-produced) as an intimidating FBI agent, the movie proved to be one of Wenders' less-cohesive efforts. "The Soul of a Man' (2003) was another music documentary, this time focusing on the careers of three classic blues musicians. Wenders and star Michelle Williams examined the social disparities of post-9/11 Los Angeles in the digitally-shot drama "Land of Plenty" (2004), before reteaming with Sam Shepard (who acted as well as wrote) for the comedy-drama "Don't Come Knocking" (2005). Another road movie, albeit one of Wenders' more successful in recent years, it featured Shepard as an hard-living, self-loathing movie star seeking out a woman (Jessica Lange) and a past he left behind long ago. After a number of smaller projects, the director delivered the full-length "Pina" (2011), a 3-D documentary about acclaimed Tanztheater pioneer, teacher and choreographer Pina Bausch, who died unexpectedly just prior to production of the film Wenders dedicated in her honor.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Submergence (2018)
Director
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)
Director
Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015)
Director
The Salt of the Earth (2014)
Director
Pina (2011)
Director
Palermo Shooting (2009)
Director
Invisibles (2007)
Director
Chacun son cinema (2007)
Director
Don't Come Knocking (2005)
Director
The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
Director
Buena Vista Social Club (1998)
Director
A Trick of the Light (1996)
Director
Lumiere Et Compagnie (1996)
Director
Lisbon Story (1995)
Director
Faraway, So Close (1993)
Director
Until the End of the World (1991)
Director
Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Director
Wings of Desire (1987)
Director
Tokyo-Ga (1985)
Director
Room 666 (1984)
Director
Paris, Texas (1984)
Director
Quand je m'eveille (1982)
Director
Hammett (1982)
Director
The State of Things (1982)
Director
Lightning Over Water (1980)
Director
The American Friend (1977)
Director
Kings of the Road (1976)
Director
Wrong Move (1975)
Director
Falsche Bewegung (1975)
Director
The From the Family of Reptiles/Island (1974)
Director
Alice in the Cities (1974)
Director
The Scarlet Letter (1973)
Director
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Salt of the Earth (2014)
A Fuller Life (2013)
Himself
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013)
Himself
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2013)
Self
Mondo Lux: The Visual Worlds of Werner Schroeter (2011)
Auge in Auge (2008)
Je T'aime...Moi Non Plus (2007)
Dennis Hopper: The Decisive Moments (2004)
Words In Progress (2004)
Himself
Berlin-Cinema (Titre Provisoire) (1999)
Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory (1999)
Himself
The Night of the Film-Makers (1995)
Himself
Motion and Emotion (1990)
Himself
Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Narration
Helsinki Napoli All Night Long (1988)
I Played It For You (1985)
King Kongs Faust (1985)
Film Director
Room 666 (1984)
Himself
Lightning Over Water (1980)
Long Shot (1978)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Cinematographer

Writer (Feature Film)

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)
Writer
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)
Screenplay
The Salt of the Earth (2014)
Writer
Pina (2011)
Screenplay
Palermo Shooting (2009)
Screenplay
Invisibles (2007)
Screenplay
Don't Come Knocking (2005)
Story By
City of Angels (1998)
From Story
City of Angels (1998)
Story By
City of Angels (1998)
Screenplay
A Trick of the Light (1996)
Screenwriter
Lisbon Story (1995)
Screenplay
Beyond the Clouds (1995)
Screenwriter
Faraway, So Close (1993)
Screenplay
Faraway, So Close (1993)
From Story
Until the End of the World (1991)
Screenplay
Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Screenwriter
Wings of Desire (1987)
Screenwriter
Wings of Desire (1987)
Dialogue
Tokyo-Ga (1985)
Screenplay
The State of Things (1982)
Screenplay
Quand je m'eveille (1982)
Screenwriter
Lightning Over Water (1980)
Screenplay
The American Friend (1977)
Screenplay
Kings of the Road (1976)
Screenwriter
Alice in the Cities (1974)
Screenplay
The Scarlet Letter (1973)
Screenwriter
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971)
Screenwriter
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971)
Dialogue

Producer (Feature Film)

Submergence (2018)
Coproducer
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)
Producer
Waiting for the Miracle to Come (2015)
Executive Producer
Pina (2011)
Producer
Au Revoir Taipei (2010)
Producer
Palermo Shooting (2009)
Producer
The Open Road (2009)
Executive Producer
The Clone Returns to the Homeland (2009)
Executive Producer
The House is Burning (2006)
Executive Producer
Don't Come Knocking (2005)
Executive Producer
Egoshooter (2004)
Producer
Voodoo, Mounted by the Gods (2004)
Producer
Fools (2003)
Producer
Half the Rent (2002)
Producer
June Moon (2002)
Producer
The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
Producer
Go for Gold (1997)
Producer
A Trick of the Light (1996)
Producer
Beyond the Clouds (1995)
Executive Producer
Faraway, So Close (1993)
Producer
The Absence (1993)
Co-Producer
Yer demir, gok bakir (1987)
Producer
Wings of Desire (1987)
Producer
Als Diesel Geboren (1982)
Executive Producer
Radio On (1979)
Associate Producer
The Left-Handed Woman (1977)
Producer
Kings of the Road (1976)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

Tokyo-Ga (1985)
Editor

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

I Played It For You (1985)
Photography
Quand je m'eveille (1982)
Photography

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

The Open Road (2009)
Consultant
Nina Hagen = Punk + Glory (1999)
Other
The Night of the Film-Makers (1995)
Other
Until the End of the World (1991)
Other
Motion and Emotion (1990)
Other
Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989)
Dp/Cinematographer
Room 666 (1984)
Other

Director (Special)

Red, Hot & Blue (1990)
Segment Director

Cast (Special)

The Fine Art of Separating People From Their Money (1999)

Life Events

1966

Began, but did not complete, application to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris (to Wenders' dislike, program required a preliminary course in life drawing), studied privately with Johnny Friedlander; frequented the Cinematheque Francaise; applied to IDHEC but was not accepted

1966

First short film as director, "Schauplatze/Locations" (16mm, 10 mins), no longer extant

1969

First collaboration with writer Peter Handke on the independent short "3 American LPs" (16mm, 15 mins), Wenders and Handke appear in the film driving a car

1970

Feature film directing, producing and writing debut, "Summer in the City"; made as graduation project; first collaboration with editor Peter Przygodda; film is "dedicated to the Kinks"

1970

Along with 11 other filmmakers, formed Filmverlag der Autoren/The Filmmaker's Company to insure the distribution of their films

1971

Professional feature directing and co-writing (with Peter Handke) debut, "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick"; first of nine collaborations (to date) with actor Rudiger Vogler

1974

First of three "road movies" with Vogler, "Alice in the Cities"

1975

Second movie of trilogy, "Wrong Move"

1976

Established his own production company, Road Movies Produktion

1976

Completed trilogy with "Kings of the Road"

1977

Won international attention for "The American Friend", starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz

1979

Co-directed (with Nicholas Ray) "Lightning Over Water", detailing Ray's fight to finish his life at work while battling cancer

1982

Indirectly documented his difficulities making first US feature "Hammett" in "The State of Things", a self-referrential film that contrasts American and European filmmaking styles

1984

Directed "Paris, Texas", an English-language film with screenplay by Sam Shepard; guitarist Ry Cooder supplied the haunting, plaintive score

1985

First collaboration with editor Solveig Dommartin, the documentary "Tokyo-Ga"

1987

Made "Wings of Desire", starring Ganz as an angel who wanders Berlin, yearning for a physical, human existence

1991

Became chair of the newly founded European Film Academy

1991

Expressed disappointment with the 2 1/2 cut of "Until the End of the World" that was released; alternate version (more than twice as long), though still problematic, revealed what the director had been after

1995

Participated in the "Lumiere and Company" project, shooting a scene with the original hand-cranking camera

1995

Collaborated with Michelangelo Antonioni on "Beyond the Clouds", writing and directing the "frames" between the segments helmed by the Italian master; hired as an insurance policy in case Antonioni's health prevented him from finishing movie; last collaboration (to date) with Robby Muller as director of photography

1997

Helmed "The End of Violence", scripted by Nicholas Klein; first feature since "Wings of Desire" to secure US distribution; director Sam Fuller portrayed Gabriel Byrne's father

1998

"City of Angels", loosely based on "Wings of Desire" was released

1999

Helmed the documentary "Buena Vista Social Club", focusing on Cuba musicians tracked down by Ry Cooder; film was nominated for a Best Feature Documentary Academy Award

2000

Directed "The Million Dollar Hotel", starring Mel Gibson (Bono who collaborated with Wenders and Klein on the screenplay was originally slated to act in film), Bono had performed on the soundtrack for "The End of Violence"; Wenders has directed music videos for the band; released theatrically in the USA in 2001

2004

Had a Cameo in the Disney live action feature "Around the World in 80 Days"

2006

Directed Sam Shepard as a washed up cowboy actor in the neo-Western "Don't Come Knocking"

2007

Directed the "War and Peace" segment of the French film anthology "Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s'éteint et que le film commence/To Each His Own Cinema"

2008

Directed and co-wrote the drama "Palermo Shooting"

2011

Wrote and directed the documentary "Pina," a musical tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wings Of Desire (1987) - Open, When The Child Was A Child Spoken by Bruno Ganz as an angel called Damiel, composed by screenwriter Peter Handke and director Wim Wenders, the words are original though they suggest 1: Corinthians 13, the otherwise ethereal opening to the international hit Wings Of Desire, 1987, (the German title closer to Heaven Over Berlin), soaring over the then-divided city.
Wings Of Desire (1987) - Less Effort, More Swing Now roaming West Berlin, angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz), who’s expressed broad discontent to a colleague, happens on a circus where Marion (Solveig Danmartin) is practicing, her first scene, in director Wim Wenders’ celebrated Wings Of Desire, 1987.
Wings Of Desire (1987) - If Grandma Was Here Cutting from a plane over Berlin, another look at Bruno Ganz as (invisible) angel Damiel, as he sees and hears the thoughts of Peter Falk on board, sort-of playing himself, his narration mostly extemporized, after the shoot, in an L-A sound booth, guided by director Wim Wenders back in Germany, then observes other Berliners, early in Wings Of Desire, 1987.
Alice In The Cities (1974) - Terrible Thing To Waste From the early, solo section of the trip, German freelance author Philip (Rudiger Vogler) making his way from southeast toward New York, where he'll meet the title character, with a visit from Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939, in Wim Wenders' Alice In The Cities, 1974.
Alice In The Cities (1974) - She'll Join Us In Amsterdam Newly acquainted German travelers Philip (Rudiger Vogler) and Alice (Yella Rottlander) in Manhattan en route to meet her mother at the Empire State Building, which doesn't work out, thus launching their European journey, in Wim Wenders' Alice In The Cities, 1974.
Alice In The Cities (1974) - What Does He Want From Us? Wim Wenders directs his protagonist, wandering German author Philip (Rudiger Vogler), to a Manhattan airline office, where he learns that the air traffic control strike back home is a problem, and meets Alice (Yella Rottlander) and Lisa (Elisabeth Kreuzer), in Alice In The Cities, 1974.
American Friend, The (1977) - Let Me Love You For Your Money Wild intersections of personages and events, in New York, with Nick Ray as the forger “Derwatt,” Dennis Hopper as Ripley is not quite observed by Samuel Fuller, introduced here, shooting a porno, taking a call about a hit we’ve just seen committed by terminal patient Jonathan (Bruno Ganz)in Paris, who returns to his wife (Liza Kreuzer) and child in Hamburg, in Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, 1977.
American Friend, The (1977) - What's Wrong With A Cowboy In Hamburg? With notes about the restoration, and calm and clever as can be, writer-director Wim Wenders opens his treatment of the unpublished Patricia Highsmith novel, in which he cast directors and actor-directors as the criminals, with Dennis Hopper as Tom Ripley in New York visiting Nicholas Ray as the forger “Derwatt,” in The American Friend, 1977.
American Friend, The (1977) - The Blue's Not Right Bruno Ganz as the Hamburg picture framer Jonathan, with Winter (the American singer David Blue) bidding, and Dennis Hopper quietly as the forgery purveyor (Patricia Highsmith’s “Tom Ripley”), Rudolf Schündler the owner of the house, Stefan Lennert the auctioneer and Lisa Kreuzer as the clerk, Jonathan’s wife, a finely wrought scene from Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, 1977.
American Friend, The (1977) - My German Is Terrible Dennis Hopper in Hamburg as forgery dealer Tom Ripley (the character from a then-unpublished Patricia Highsmith novel) has grown interested in terminally-ill highly-regarded picture framer Jonathan (Bruno Ganz), after an unpleasant first encounter, Gerty Molzen the customer, in Wim Wender’s The American Friend, 1977.

Trailer

Family

Heinrich Wenders
Father
Surgeon.

Companions

Edda Koechl
Wife
Married in 1968; divorced in 1974.
Ronee Blakley
Wife
Actor. Married 1979, divorced 1981; wrote and performed "Lightning Over Water" song for Wenders' film of the same name; also appeared in picture.
Donata Schmidt
Wife
Married in 1979; divorced in 1981.
Solveig Dommartin
Companion
Actor, editor. Has acted in a number of Wenders' films, including "Wings of Desire" (1987) and "Until the End of the World" (1991).

Bibliography

"My Time with Antonioni"
Wim Wenders, Faber and Faber (2000)
"The Act of Seeing"
Wim Wenders (1997)