Wim Wenders’s early films include the allegorical murder drama Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, 1972) and the equally cerebral Alice in den Städten (Alice in the Cities, 1974), about an epic case of writer’s block. He later collaborated with Nicholas Ray on Lightning Over Water (1980) before coming to America to direct Hammett (begun in 1980, completed in 1982) for Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios; Coppola eventually took over production and reshot part of it, which ultimately satisfied no one. Wenders’s next American film, however, Paris, Texas (1984), was a commercial and critical hit, after which Wenders returned to Germany for the triumphal Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire, 1987), in which a group of angels look after the destiny of a man in postwar Berlin.
The film is shot in gorgeously saturated black-and-white and color by Henri Alekan, who, among many other projects, had also shot Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast in 1946.
Wenders’s remarkable documentary Chambre 666 (Room 666, 1982) stems from placing a camera in a room during the 1982 Cannes Film Festival and then asking a wide range of directors, including Steven Spielberg, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Chantal Akerman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard, Yilmaz Güney, Susan Seidelman, Paul Morrissey, and others to speculate on the future of cinema.
Spielberg delivers an earnest monologue, while Godard, after delivering a few pointed observations, gets up and turns off the camera. Wenders edits the material ruthlessly, giving an enlightening view of the cinema in a period of cultural and stylistic transition. Wenders has since directed the feature Am Ende der Gewalt (The End of Violence, 1997), an examination of brutality in the Hollywood cinema; the documentary Buena Vista Social Club (1999); one of the videos for the rock documentary U2: The Best of 1990-2002 (2002); the fatalistic drama Land of Plenty (2004); and a omnibus, multipart film, 8 (2007), which he co-directed with Jane Campion, Jan Kounen, and Gaspar Noé.