Wim Wenders

Date/place of birth

August 14, 1945, Düsseldorf

Wim Wenders - Written in the West
Wim Wenders - Written in the West

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Wim Wenders biography

Wim Wenders is the poster child of German cinema and one of the few German directors on the international scene, writing film history with his melancholy masterpieces Paris, Texas, and Der Himmel über Berlin (Sky Over Berlin).

Wim Wenders – Detour to the art of film

Wim Wenders was born Wilhelm Ernst Wenders on 14 August 1945 in Düsseldorf – the German authorities having refused to accept his intended Dutch forename of Wim. The son of a surgeon, he grew up in a conservative catholic house and enjoyed a good education. He was interested in popular music from an early age and was impelled to discard his briefly cherished idea of becoming a priest once confronted by rock ‘n’ roll. One after the other, he studied medicine, philosophy and sociology, but never got further than the second term, also making attempts as a watercolour painter and engraver in the studio of, amongst others, the German artist Johnny Friedlaender in Montparnasse. In the cold months, he fled his small, unheated student flat in Paris to the Cinémathèque française, watching up to five films a day. He was so excited by the medium of film that he started an apprenticeship at United Artists in Düsseldorf. However, he was shocked by way that film was viewed as a simple consumer commodity there rather than an artwork, resulting in the essay Verachten, was verkauft wird (Despise what is sold).

Early film successes open the doors to Hollywood

Wim Wenders was admitted to the University of Film and Television in Munich in 1967, founded the previous year, and wrote film reviews for Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung alongside his studies. In 1970, he shot his graduation film Summer in the City with the Dutch cameraman Robby Müller: at two and a half hours long, shot in black and white, the film was Wenders’ first feature-length work. Wenders placed great importance on music even in this gloomy early work, but as the recorded titles were not licensed, the release of the film has been prevented to this day, and can only be shown at festivals. In 1972, he achieved his first respectable success with the Peter Handke adaption of Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalkeeper's Fear at the Penalty), which won a prize at the Venice International Film Festival that same year. His next literary adaption, Der scharlachrote Buchstabe (The Scarlett Letter) by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was less successful, and one which Wenders himself considered a failure in retrospect. The film version of Patricia Highsmith’s The American Friend brought Wim Wenders fame in the USA and earned him the directorship of the Francis Ford Coppola produced crime film Hammett, which was not shown in cinemas until 1982 due to various disputes. 

A filmmaker with the eye of a photo artist

Like many children of the post-war generation, Wim Wenders was troubled by his German heritage, and transferred his geographical focus for the next few years to the USA. There he celebrated great successes with films such as the drama Paris, Texas, based on a story by Sam Shephard, which was awarded the Golden Palm at the International Film Festival in Cannes in 1984. The musical documentary film Buena Vista Social Club was nominated for an Oscar and distinguished with the European Film Prize, whilst delighting the whole world with the music style of Son Cubano. As a director of highly successful feature and documentary films, he was always open to technical innovation: the documentary Pina, dedicated to the choreographer Pina Bausch, as well as the drama Every Thing Will Be Fine, were produced using modern digital 3D recording technology. Wim Wenders’ films are often impressive for the poetic quality of their images – the director has the eye of a photographer and has also succeeded as such.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz

Wim Wenders Prices

Wim WendersWritten in the West€16.740
Wim WendersThe Old Drive-In Theatre, Coober Pedy, Australien€7.000
Wim WendersView of Havanna€3.224
Wim Wenders"Ave Dollars", Gila Bend Arizona€1.428

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