Home   Contact   Publisher 

"kings of the road"

Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders
Director of photography:
Robby Müller
Peter Przygodda
Rüdiger Vogler, Hanns Zischler, Lisa Kreuzer, Marquard Bohm, Rudolf Schündler, Dieter Traier, Franziska Stömmer, Peter Kaiser, Patrick Kreuzer

”Kings Of The Road” is a quiet, almost lyrical film that disdains psychological motivation, suspense and dramatic tension. In that sense, it reflects Wenders’s admiration for the films of Yasujiro Ozu.” (Baseline’s Encyclopedia of Film)
The film is primarily about the relationship between two men. One, the itinerant Bruno, wanders from town to town repairing film projectors. The other, Robert, has just left his wife and is suicidal. They meet, and begin a long journey in a truck on dirty roads through the dying and forgotten border region between the two Germanys. ”Under the dark summer clouds of August 1975, the landscape looks like Monument Valley, swept up in the music of Improved Sound Limited,” (Willi Winkler, ”Süddeutsche Zeitung”, 9 May 2001). Both men are lonely and introverted, longing for female companionship but apparently incapable of living with, or without, women.
But this is not the only theme of the film, which also deals with the problems of interpersonal communication and – typical for Wenders – American cultural imperialism in Germany. It’s no happenstance that one of the ”kings of the road” says, when he can’t get a pop song out of his head, ”the Americans have colonialized our subconsciousness.”
Bernd Schulz writes in ”The Road Movie Encyclopedia”: ”The film is the most exact and the most German of all postwar motion pictures, from the most American of all German directors...the ”Easy Rider” of the German cinema.”
”Kings Of The Road” also contains a bit of theater about the theater, or rather film in film. Wenders, of course, is most concerned about the state of his chosen art form. It bothers him to see movie houses in small towns closing if they don’t show the standard fare of the major distributors. He lets a cinema owner of the old school philosophize about film as ”the art of seeing”. She says, ”the way it’s going now, it’s better to have no cinema than to have cinema as it is now.” All that still lights up on the marquee of a cinema called ”Weiße Wand” are the letters ”e”, ”n”, ”d”.

Critics celebrated ”Kings Of The Road” as a ”masterpiece of the new German film” (Munzinger”). Richard Roud titled his report in ”Arts Guardian” (9 March 1976) on the Rotterdam Film Festival ”Golden Wenders”, and wrote, ”the film has just those qualities that Wenders admires so much in John Ford. And the two actors, Rüdiger Vogler and Hanns Zischler, have that admirable presence of Ford’s actors, and this carries the film triumphantly along its long road.” Wolf Donner in the weekly ”Die Zeit” predicted, ”cineastes will become addicted to the filmaker’s craft in ‚Kings Of The Road‘.”

Praise was also heaped on the music. Inge Bongers writes in an article titled ”Tramps without Vamps” of a film ”for everyone with the patience to closely watch and follow a story which is fantastically well put together, from the basic idea and the photography to the music of Improved Sound Limited.” Uwe Künzel summarizes in ”Wim Wenders – Ein Filmbuch”, ”The music of Improved Sound Limited contributed greatly to the atmosphere of ”Kings Of The Road”. Movements of almost epic breadth don’t just copy the calm of the camerawork, they move the pictures ahead at a leisurely pace, sliding along. The same is done by Ry
Cooder’s guitar in ‚Paris, Texas‘.”
For F.J. Bröder (”Nürnberger Nachrichten”, 2 April 1976), ”‘Kings Of The Road‘ requires a different sense of time and a different way of viewing. In the course of nearly three hours, you have to get used to an unaccustomed rhythm of time. You must adjust to and empathise with these tranquil, barely moving black and white pictures of a similarly tranquil, almost forgotten landscape. Leave everything to the camera, which follows the endless drives, pans across the curving, gleaming asphalt roads. And you must adapt to the sparse dialogue of the two men, with their trivial yet meaningful sentences, and to the wonderful, floating and absolutely unsentimental score of the Nürnberg band Improved Sound Limited.”

[Nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, 1976, FIPRESCI Prize, Cannes 1976, Golden Hugo in Chicago, 1976]