Wim Wenders was born on August 14, 1945 in Düsseldorf, Germany
. Born was Ernst Wilhelm Wenders
, his parents weren't allowed to name him "Wim" on the grounds that it wasn't a proper name, however, it did later become the name he was known by.
After he graduated from high school, he began to study medicine and philosophy in Munich, Freiburg, and Düsseldorf. He left school to move to Paris in October of 1966 to study painting and work as an engraver in an ateilier in Montmartre. He also began attending the Cinematheque Francaise frequently.
In 1967, he went back to Germany and worked for awhile at the Düsseldorf office of United Artists and entered the recently founded Hochschule für Fernsehen and Film (Graduate School of Television and Film) in Munich. For the next three years, he contributed to Film Kritik, the film review and to Munich's daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Also during this period, he made several short films and while he was making Polizeifilm in 1969, he was arrested during a demonstration for protesting against the assault on Rudi Dutschke. He was given a six and a half month suspended sentence for resisting arrest.
He graduated after making Summer in the City, he first feature length film, but his career really began to take off in 1971 with the release of The Goalkeepers Fear of the Penalty Kick, based on Peter Handke's book.
Filmverlag der Autoren, a production and distribution company, was founded by Wenders and twelve other filmmakers in 1971. In 1974, he founded Wim Wenders Produktion in Munich, which was later relocated to Berlin four years later. In 1976, he began Road Movies Filmproduktion in Berlin. It was been run by Wenders and his producer Chris Sievernich exclusively since 1984. The two of them had also founded Gray City, Inc. in New York City in 1981. These various production companies would help to establish Wenders as one of the central figures in German cinema.
After finishing The American Friend in 1977, he attracted the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola invited him to come and shoot Hammett in 1978 which started him working on a series of projects that would occupy him for the next four years; during the filming, Wenders was also working on Lightning over Water with director Nicholas Ray. Afterward, he made The State of Things. Hammett, the film he did with Coppola, was a terrible experience for him. He chronicled aspects of it in The State of Things.
After his work during that period, he finally returned to Europe in 1982 and directed his first play, and produced Über die Dörfer with Peter Handke for The Salzburger Festpiele. Also in 1982, Wenders won the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival for The State of Things, which would be his first of many awards. By this time, he had accumulated a significant cult following, gaining more attention from the public.
After releasing Paris, Texas, Wenders broke with Filmverlag der Autoren, ending his partnership and becoming a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin.
He made Der Himmel über Berlin in 1987, which won him Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Also, he published his first book Written in the West, which is a photographical collection about his interest in the western region of the United States. He would go on to write many collections of essays as well as companion books to his films and photography and art books. In 1989, Wenders was given an honorary doctorate title from Sorbonne University in Paris.
In 1991, he finished Until the End of the World, which was something he had worked on for a long time. In the same year, he won the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Award in Bielefeld. He then made a documentary on Yohji Yamamoto, the fashion designer. From 1991 to 1996 was given the chair of the European Film Academy and was later elected its president. Since 1993, he has been teaching as a professor at the Hochschule für Fernsehen in Munich. In 1995, he was given another honorary doctorate degree in divinity from the University Freiburg Switzerland.
Since the mid-90s, he has mostly worked in the United States and done his films in English. Most notably was the award winning music documentary Buena Vista Social Club. He now lives in Los Angeles with Donata, his wife; he was married previously to Ronee Blakley from 1979 to 1981, Edda Köchl from 1968 to 1974, and dated both Lisa Kreuzer and Solveig Dommartin.
The Films of Wim Wenders
One of the most central themes in Wenders' early work is the Americanization of the postwar culture of Germany. His characters were often rootless, reflecting the philosophical concerns he wished to convey through his films. Perhaps one of the better examples of this is in his film Paris, Texas. In it, Travis, the main character, stumbles into civilization unable to remember anything about his past. The only thing he has is a battered photograph of his birthplace and a dream of a beautiful life.
Travis fights with this vision throughout the film, piecing together his past a bit at a time, and only able to construct a shadow of his dream; it resembles little of his real, present life and situation. He attempts to reunite with the mother of his son, Jane; communication between them is fragmented and lost. Barriers aren't easily broken.
One of his other central projects was Until the End of the World. The absolutely amazing ideas contained in this film were envisioned by both Wenders and Solveig Dommartin, whom he dated for some time. Dommartin also plays the film's lead, Claire. The film also stars Sam Niell and William Hurt. It is a vision of the future that explores the influence that imagery has on the mind; in the film, it is possible to view one's own memories and dreams. This ability consumes these people, who become tied to an obsessive addiction to their own consciousness. There are several dream sequences in the film which use image manipulation to create absolutely stunning visual effects. The complexity of the film left Wenders having to cut a lot of the footage out in order to bring it down to a reasonable length.
Wenders' commitment to the exploration of images and their role in human beings' lives is groundbreaking. His work with the problems of identity and what it means to communicate and interact with other people are also enlightening. Watching his films, time slips by unnoticed, and have truly spoiled me in terms of quality. Expect to have your standards challenged, as well as your world view. His films don't leave you.
*Noder's Note: There has been a question regarding how Wenders' titles are listed. I have listed them by original title, as opposed to the title which it might be better known by. This is because, as we all know, a lot is lost in translation, and I also would find it hilarious to translate to English Wenders' German titles when one of his best known themes is the Americanization of European culture. If there's an issue with this, let me know; I'll place all of the various versions of the titles in the filmographies if it is desired by the community. /msg RainDropUp