Wim Wenders’s ‘Wrong Move,’ in Its First U.S. Release, Is the Right Movie for Itinerant Existentialists


Wrong Move (1975) stands as the artsiest anti-movie of Wim Wenders’s road trilogy from the Seventies, back when he was a premier post-Antonionian using aimless road travel as a metaphor for film time, kicking up an existentialist storm of wheel-spinning hipster coolness.

This dyspeptic amble — made between Alice in the Cities (1974) and Kings of the Road (1976) and never before theatrically released in the U.S. — is adapted (by novelist Peter Handke) from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, and though it conscientiously evokes the book’s self-actualizing Romantic fever, the film itself is as un-Romantic as a train ride to nowhere.

Wenders regular Rüdiger Volger is Wilhelm, a moody, alienated would-be writer who whimsically leaves home and travels across Germany (and vertically, from the Rhine to the Zugspitze mountain peak), idly searching for a moment when he might “become.” He never comes close, instead falling in with an actress (Hanna Schygulla), an itinerant father and daughter (Hans Christian Blech and an occasionally nude fourteen-year-old Nastassja Kinski), and a portly poet wannabe (Peter Kern). The five wander, dawdle, drive, encounter a suicidal industrialist, bore each other with recounted dreams, and end up back in the city, their collective “journey” — the aim of which was never articulated — dissolving into stasis and separation.

A bitter, deadpan parody of all things Romantic, Wenders’s film is also so ironic about its own emptiness that it ends up being something pure: a pop dirge about how never sitting still may be the only answer to meaninglessness.

Wrong Move
Directed by Wim Wenders
Janus Films
Opens April 15, IFC Center