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Kings of the Road

Kino Dreams: Wim Wenders Retrospective

Wim Wenders’ Kings of the Road script began with a single scene: a half-hearted suicide attempt by Robert (Hanns Zischler), a depressed recent divorcee, leads to a chance encounter with Bruno (Alice in the Cities’ Rüdiger Vogler), a travelling film projector repair man, who invites Robert to join him on the road. The rest of the film was improvised by the cast and shot in sequence as the production made its way down the Western part of the East/West German border. Wenders then began shaping nearly thirty hours of footage into a three-hour movie.  

"...a person is more interesting and expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world."

It is so palpably (and at times shockingly) real that it exposes 99.9% of cinema for the bag of tricks it is. Normal films speed up time, cut out the boring bits, and thrive on conflict driven narratives that neatly resolve in the final reel. Wenders turns this on its head and develops a structure and style that dares to mimic the pace, rhythms, and messiness of life. 

Spending time with these characters makes us even more invested in them. Wenders understands that a person is more interesting and expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world. Indeed, in this age of superhero movies, Kings of the Road might look even more radical and surprising than it did in 1976. And it might be even more of a tonic.  

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