Wim Wender’s 1976 definitive 3 hour epic road movie is a wonderfully uplifting and life affirming cinematic experience, and shows a filmmaker at the peak of his creative powers before he became just another director who’s recent work in no way lives up to the brilliance of films like ‘Wings of Desire’ and ‘An American Friend’. Mysteriously still unavailable on DVD in the UK, ‘Kings of the Road’ is a film that uses the genre of the road movie, a deeply American genre and one that Wenders has returned to many times, to explore the oldest male quest; existentialism.
Beautifully shot in black and white by long time Wenders collaborator, Robby Muller, one of the great European cinematographers, and using a loose, episodic narrative time frame, ‘Kings of the Road’ is about a travelling projectionist mechanic, Bruno Winter (Rudiger Vogler) and a hitchhiker, Robert Lander (Hanns Zischler), who journey through rural Germany encountering a projection of their own lived histories and meeting an assortment of memorable and quirky characters. The imagery is close to aesthetic perfection and is accompanied by a wacky electric guitar soundtrack that seems to punctuate the character's gradual awakening as they are made to face up to their own individual limitations and failures as men within a new German society.
Like the best road movies, Wenders film is a meditation on a number of personal and social themes like the disappearance of cinema exhibition within rural German communities, the difficulty with communication and male loneliness, but what makes this such a memorable entry in the road movie genre is it's love of the journey, and how making a journey is far more important than the unknown destination to which they are travelling. Unmissable and essential viewing.