Wim Wenders Biography
Wim Wenders ranks among the important directors of world cinema and is one of the leading representatives of “ New German Film.” Undeterred by fleeting trends and big studio offers he has stuck to his guns and kept his eagerness to experiment.
Born in Düsseldorf on 14 August 1945, he started taking photographs at the age of 7, owned his own darkroom at 12 and at 17 his first Leica. He studied medicine and philosophy before settling in 1966 as a painter and engraver in Montparnasse, Paris. In his spare time, he watched all the movies that were showing at the Cinémathèque, including many German classics. He laid the foundation for his career as a filmmaker in 1967, when he enrolled at the newly founded “Academy of Film and Television” in Munich. In the late 60s he made several short films, which were influenced by the so-called “New American Underground” in the style of Warhol: long scenes, uneventful and with an open narrative. His feature film debut was in 1970 with his graduation film, the black and white film SUMMER IN THE CITY.
Wim Wenders was one of the 15 directors and writers who in 1971 founded the Film Verlag der Autoren to handle production, rights and distribution of their films, both together and independently. His professional career as a director began that year with the film adaptation of Peter Handke’s novel THE GOALKEEPER’S FEAR OF THE PENALTY for which he was awarded the Prize of the International Film Critics in Venice.
In ALICE IN THE CITIES (1973), THE WRONG MOVE (1974) and KINGS OF THE ROAD (1975) Wim Wenders turns to characters who have to deal with their lack of roots in post-war Germany and is awarded several German and international film prizes. These three films, as well as the thriller THE AMERICAN FRIEND (1977, by Patricia Highsmith) with Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz in the lead roles, grappled with the rapid change of his own country. Wim Wenders ‘extraordinary love for the cinema and rock n ‘ roll, coupled with the affectionate curiosity of the observer to the world that surrounds us, runs to this day through the entirety of his work. THE AMERICAN FRIEND makes him known in the U.S., resulting in his next project with Francis Ford Coppola who in 1978 invited Wenders to the U.S. He started to work on HAMMETT for Zoetrope Studios. The movie was meant to be a tribute to the American crime writer Dashiell Hammett, but the lengthy artistic disputes meant that the film was not finished until 1982. The conflicts that Wim Wenders had to endure during the difficult production process, he worked out in STATE OF THINGS (1982), a somber reflection on filmmaking. For this film Wenders receives the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival.
Together with Sam Shepard he discovered his next story in the Texas desert: a speechless man, apparently without memory, searches for a link to his past. With the road movie PARIS, TEXAS (with Nastassja Kinski and Harry Dean Stanton), the director won, amongst others, the 1984 Golden Palm at Cannes and the Best Director award of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
In the divided Berlin, in 1987, the angels of the city gave him the film WINGS OF DESIRE. The cinematic fairytale with Bruno Ganz as an angel, who for the love of a woman gives up his immortality, continues his previous worldwide success. In Cannes, he won the award for Best Director, as well as the European Film Award and the German Film Prize. In 1990 Wenders realizes his ambitious science fiction project, which had been in planning for 12 years: UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD. The film cost well over $ 20 million and was filmed around the world on four continents. But forced by distribution contracts, Wenders has to release the film in a shortened version. His own “Director’s Cut” will not be released for another 12 years.
With Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, Peter Falk and other stars, in 1993 Wenders filmed in reunified Berlin the continuation of his angel story: FARAWAY, SO CLOSE! This was followed by a second long stay in America, which began in 1996 with THE END OF VIOLENCE. In 2000 Wenders directed in Los Angeles a tragic-comic story by U2 singer Bono. With THE MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL Wenders created a story of friendship, betrayal and the overwhelming power of unconditional love. At the Berlinale he was honored with the Silver Bear.
Throughout his career Wenders shot a number of unconventional documentaries, including LIGHTNING OVER WATER (1980), a moving portrayal about and with Nicholas Ray, followed by TOKYO-GA (1985), a tribute to the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu whose film “Tokyo Story” has had a lasting influence on Wenders, and NOTEBOOK ON CITIES AND CLOTHES (1989), an exploration of the work of the avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. He also directed several music videos and the concert film WILLIE NELSON AT TEATRO (1998).
Without doubt, his best-known observation of music and musicians is the documentary BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (1999). In this loving portrait Ry Cooder rediscovers Cuban musicians, among them Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzales and Company Segundo. The film even received an Oscar nomination. THE SOUL OF A MAN, a film about his blues heroes Blind Willie Johnson, JB Lenoir and Skip James, followed. In 2002 Wenders made a film about his friend Wolfgang Niedecken and his Cologne band ODE TO COLOGNE – A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FILM. The long-standing friendship with the Düsseldorf band “Die Toten Hosen” eventually leads to the feature film PALERMO SHOOTING, with Campino and Dennis Hopper in the lead roles. In 2008 he is with this film in competition for the ninth time at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 1987 he published his first book, “Written in the West”, with photographs from the American West. To date, numerous other books followed, including essays, photo books and accompanying publications for his films and exhibitions, including the book “Pictures from the Surface of the Earth”. Museums and galleries around the world have shown his photographs in solo exhibitions.
In the 1990s Wim Wenders became first chairman and later president of the European Film Academy. Since 2003 he teaches as a professor at the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg. He received honorary doctorates from the Faculté des Arts et des Lettres of Sorbonne, Paris; the theological faculty of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland; the Université Catholique de Louvain in France; and the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Catania. In 2006, Wenders was the first filmmaker of the Order “Pour le Mérite”. He lives with his wife, photographer Donata Wenders, in Berlin and has his own production company “Neue Road Movies “.