Kings of the Road (1976) – Wim Wenders


The next road movie following my viewing of Easy Rider for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is this German road film. It definitely falls into the road movie category, but there is a somberness to it, that doesn’t seem to be reflected in its North American counterparts, no matter what their subject matter.

Two drifters, one, Bruno (Rudiger Volger) travels Germany, going from town to town, effecting repairs on cinema projectors and sometimes standing in for projectionists. Along the way, he encounters, Robert (Hanns Zischler), a depressed man, who after a failed suicide attempt, joins Bruno in his wanderings.

Both of them, are desperately alone, carrying the scars all of us carry of family problems, inability to love, inability to find someone who makes them feel alive. They’ve wandered through life, their conciousness saturated with American-isms, unable to be a part of the rest of the world, because it doesn’t fit them, or they do not fit it.

As they travel, moving from small town to small town, they both confront their pasts, whether directly or through recall, and try to deal with it, and each other. Their relationship is uneasy at best, thrown together by circumstances, they decide to travel together to stave off their own loneliness.

Shot in black and white, it’s an interesting look at the life of the German loner, before the reunification of the country.


It’s a quiet, contemplative, and as mentioned, a bit of a somber film. Also of interest is the fact that the film in its entirety, barring it’s opening sequence, is improvised by the lead actors, working with the director.

I personally liked how all of it, no matter what town Bruno and Robert find themselves in, centres around a cinema, and how those flickering lights on the screen can draw us in, as we sit in the dark, and push away that loneliness for an hour or two.

The film has a documentary feel to, brought on by the black and white, and the improvised nature of the film. Well, that, and the fact that when someone goes to the bathroom in this film, they are actually going to the bathroom… forewarned is forearmed.

One of the things that seems to symbolize the North American road movie, is the use of music, something that is sadly lacking in this film. There are a few moments when songs are used, especially at the end of the film, but for the most part, it is just a quiet film.

It may not be what one expects when settling in for a road flick, but none the less it is an interesting drama, with a small cast, that explores our loneliness, and our need for social interaction.

(I also thought it was rather humorous that in the opening of the film, they are talking about the film I’m going to be reviewing shortly!)

What’s your favorite road film?






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