Kings of the Road

Kings of the Road 
 
(Wim Wenders, 1976) 
 
☆☆☆☆
 
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster 
 
Summary: Serene, captivating and darkly beautiful - Wim Wenders’ epic road trip drama Kings of the Road makes for a rewarding cinematic diversion.  
 
Wim Wenders has had a career that seems to alternate glorious detours between wonderful documentary efforts such as Buena Vista Social Club and penetrating existential dramas like Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire. Every once in a while, he converges his talents at a relative centre point. Kings of the Road from back in 1976 is one such classic. 
 
With only one scripted scene during its near three hour runtime, this road trip drama is a movie of natural discovery. Shot in stark monochrome by Robby Müller and fuelled by the improvised performances of co-leads Rüdiger Vogler and Hanns Zischler, Kings of the Road was was the unanimous winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and rightly so. 
 
 
The plot is thus: After driving his car at high speed off a road and into a river, losing all his worldly possessions, Robert Lander (Zischler) hitches a ride with Bruno Winter (Vogler), who travels across Germany’s hinterland repairing projectors in run-down cinemas. Along the way, the two men meet people whose lives are as at odds with the modern world as their own. In attempting to reconcile their past, the two men find themselves increasingly at odds with each other.
 
It’s not much of a narrative in turns of twists and turns but the tension comes from something less obvious than cliffhangers and make cutes. As evidenced with other offbeat 70s road dramas like Two Lane Blacktop, Kings of the Road is a revelatory disciple of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider whereby it’s less about the (often impenetrable) destination and more about the soul-searching journey that blossoms somewhere between points A and B. 
 
 
As such (and due to the run time), this may not be the best place to start for Wenders newbies. It’s also the concluding part in a very loose trilogy of road dramas after Alice in the Cities (1974) and The Wrong Move (1975) but you don’t need to have seen those before this. Acquaint yourself with Paris, Texas first and if it mesmerised you as it did me then this royal excursion will be a rewarding follow-up. 
 
Special features on the new Blu-ray from AX1 Films are: 
 
  • NEW RESTORED 4K DIGITAL TRANSFER commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by director Wim Wenders
  • Wim Wenders on Kings of the Road
  • Outtakes
  • Documentary “Restoring Time”
  • Exclusive limited-edition booklet
  • New English subtitle translation approved by Wenders

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