The screening on Thursday 13 October is introduced by Joanne Leal (Birkbeck).
An unsettling encounter between two strangers opens this epic road movie, one of cinema’s most fascinating portraits of male friendship.
A car races along a road, ending up in a shallow pond. Its distraught driver emerges, soaking wet. Robert (Hanns Zischler) is picked up by cinema projection engineer Bruno (Rüdiger Vogler). They initially travel together in order for Robert’s clothes to dry out, but an unspoken bond is formed between the two and some friendly help transforms into something deeper.
Wenders’ film works on various levels. It is a visually striking portrait of Germany – both its countryside, and the towns and cities the two men travel through. It is a rumination on the state of cinema, of a transformation from a classic era through to a modern, more divisive style. And it is a study of purely platonic friendship between two men. The ease Bruno and Robert quickly feel in each other’s company is a rare sight in cinema. But Wenders asks of this relationship, like so many other elements in his film, how long can such a situation last before progress forces it to move forward or come to an end? With its unhurried pace – yet moving swiftly through the three-hour running time – Kings of the Road is now regarded as one of the essential European films of the 1970s and a one of the great German films of the last 50 years. It is also a key film in Wim Wenders’ accomplished body of work.
Rüdiger Vogler, Hanns Zischler