Wrong Move Review

The road-movie is a fairly well established cinematic construction, one that allows characters to interact and do a lot of soul-searching over the course of their journey of self-discovery. For a couple of decades – at least up to, but certainly not including Until The End Of The World - Wim Wenders was the undisputed king of the road-movie, exploring personality, character with almost expressionistic use of landscapes in an unconventional manner that certainly did not follow the standard character arc towards redemption or self-realisation.

Wrong Move from 1975, is one of Wenders best movies of this kind. Based on Goethe’s “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship”, and written by Peter Handke, who scripted several of Wenders best films (The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty, Wings of Desire), in essence the film explores the nature of what it means to be a writer and to express one’s innermost thoughts in a truthful and meaningful way. In the context of the political climate of West Germany at the time, the film has further resonance on whether it is the duty and responsibility of the writer to express political views towards the public, and the difficulty of finding an absolute truth in this area.

The would-be writer in Wrong Move is Wilhelm (Rüdiger Vogler). Depressed, listless and uncommunicative, living with his mother (Marianne Hoppe), Wilhelm takes a train journey to Bonn for a break of six days to try to find and master his means of expression. Along the way he meets various characters who help him gain a better understanding of the world around him – lowly street entertainers like Laertes (Hans Christian Blech) and his mute daughter Mignon (Nastassja Kinski), an aspiring poet (Peter Kern), a failed industrialist (Ivan Desny) and a beautiful actress, Therese (Hanna Schygulla). Following a kind of dream logic, these characters cling to Wilhelm on his journey, haunting his imagination as the writer grapples to understand them and learn something from them. At once they could be seen to be aspects of his own personality, represent a cross section of the German public and their differing outlooks on their situation, as well as symbolise the process that a writer must go through in his struggle to write, to express, to entertain and to educate.

As a road-movie of sorts, much is also conveyed through the landscape and Robby Müller’s cinematography. Filmed largely and significantly as the characters follow the Rhine through the heartland of Germany, the river often prominent in the background, the landscape is used to draw out further resonance and meaning from the conversations between Wilhelm and the other characters, the two often combining in a marvellous poetic flow that considers the power of music, poetry and dreams, what it means to be alive and to be inspired by others towards understanding the world around you.

Wrong Move is released in the UK by Anchor Bay. The DVD is only available as part of their 10-disc Wim Wenders Collection boxset. The film is presented on a single-layer disc in PAL format and is encoded for Region 2.

The transfer of the film is strikingly good, vividly clear and sharp, exhibiting prefect colours and pitch blacks that are solid and stable. There is not a mark or scratch on the print. As with several of the other titles in the Wim Wenders Collection, the only problem, and it is a very minor one, is some minor aliasing, the occasional brief flicker and some evidence of macroblocking. All are contained well within the transfer and will scarcely register when the image otherwise looks as good as it does here.

The same choices of the original German Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix are included. The 5.1 remix is pointless, working like a Pro Logic mix and only serving to squeeze the main sound through the centre channel. The 2.0 mix is much better, with a wider dispersal of sound. It’s also perfectly clear with no issues to speak of – no distortion or analogue background noise – capturing the nuances of tone in dialogue and ambient sounds.

English subtitles are optional. They are in a white font, using a thin typeface which is mostly adequate, but it shimmers slightly and perhaps could have been given a stronger border to help distinguish it from brighter or cluttered backgrounds.

There are no extra features on the disc.

Perhaps not everyone will appreciate the rather dry and serious tone employed throughout Wrong Move, with its rather poetic ruminations on abstract concepts that seem to have little of anything resembling realism in characterisation or story development. There are however some fascinating ideas put forward for the viewer to puzzle over, as well as some interesting open and ambiguous characters to decipher and interpret – not just on the nature of writing or the political situation in Germany during the 1970s, but in the wider arena of human expression and communication. Most delightfully is the manner in which Wim Wenders, with the assistance of Peter Handke and Robby Müller, depicts such abstract concepts on the screen. Again, the lack of any kind of extra feature on the disc is disappointing, but the transfer of this strong film is most impressive.

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