Bloch (Arthur Brauss) is a goalkeeper with a German team who has enjoyed a fairly successful career, and now has plenty of experience in this profession. Maybe a little too much: when he is caught out by a player who scores a goal which he believes is offside, he gets into a heated argument with the referee and a shoving match with the scorer as they believe the goal was legitimate. No surprises, he is sent off, and leaves the pitch to return to the dressing room and puts on his clothes, then commences a wander around the town to find something else to do instead. When he visits the local cinema, the cashier, Gloria (Erika Pluhar), catches his eye, and he wonders if she is free...
The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, also known as the Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty or originally Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter in German, was the first feature directed by Wim Wenders when he was fresh out of film school and unsure of what to do with his accumulated knowledge in his mid-twenties. As it turned out, he would become one of the creatives at the forefront of the New German Cinema of the nineteen-seventies, a movement that were not interested in delivering populist entertainment and were quickly adopted by the arthouse as some of the most intriguing moviemakers around, maybe even more than the American equivalent.
That was a matter of taste, but it was accurate to observe if you wanted some existential angst in your life but were unsure of the best quality experiences, you could do a lot worse than dip into Wenders' oeuvre, and this was his throat-clearing debut in that regard, announcing himself almost coyly as someone who did not reject the past, exactly, but had plenty to say about the present and the future. According to that latter state, there was no guarantee things to come were going to be in any way appetising, as the impression you had from this was there may well be no point to any of this life we were living, things just happened, and the consequences were of no consequence.
What the goalie does when he goes off on his own, pondering if he has been in this sport for too long and if he should try something else, should have been tumultuous, shocking, shattering, all those kind of emotions, yet was presented with an unnerving shrug in the hands of Wenders and his screenwriter pal (also author of the source novel) Peter Handke. Poor old Gloria thinks she may be onto a good thing with Bloch, he seems to have a sense of humour and is interested in her, then after they have spent the night together they are lounging around in her apartment, he has his hands on her throat, and before you know it he has choked her to death. No dramatic camera angles, no crashing music, nothing tense or suspenseful, one moment she is alive, the next she is lying on the bed, murdered.
Wenders almost perversely went against every convention that you might have seen out of Hollywood or any other nation's populist film industry: this was not a thriller, there was no mystery, and most uneasy of all, the crime we have witnessed Bloch commit with no guilt, no feelings, was not at the centre of manhunt. Sure, we see him poring over the newspapers for any updates on the investigation, but he does so with the same dispassionate quality as he did news of his sending off in the football match. By all rights he should be an alienated figure, yet how alienated can he be when everyone we see is labouring under the same, barely articulated remove from any sense of society? Shit happens, there's nothing you can do, and there's no point in looking for love to soothe that anxiety because when you get down to it, when nobody really cares they're capable of appalling acts that they can easily get away with. There was little quite like this, even in Wenders' later efforts, not amusing in any way, but strangely magnetic in its horrible fashion. Music by Jürgen Knieper.
[Those features on the AX1 Blu-ray: NEW RESTORED 4K DIGITAL TRANSFER commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by director Wim Wenders; Introduction by Wim Wenders; "Restoring Time" documentary; Exclusive limited edition booklet. It should be noted some of the music has been rerecorded, but faithfully, and you'd never notice the difference.]
German director and writer and one of modern cinema's most important European filmmakers. Wenders films tend to blend social commentary with genre material - thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy. It was his acclaimed "road movies" of the mid-seventies - Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move and the epic Kings of the Road that first brought him international attention. 1977's The American Friend was a post-modern thriller starring Bruno Ganz, and although the making of Hammett was a difficult experience, he won his greatest acclaim for the moving drama Paris, Texas, written by Sam Shepherd.
1987's Wings of Desire was another triumph, and if he's yet to equal those classics, subsequent work has at least been a series of fascinating failures. Until the End of the World was an ambitious sci-fi piece, Faraway, So Close sequalised Wings of Desire, while The End of Violence, Million Dollar Hotel and Land of Plenty were dark, offbeat dramas. Wenders' film Don't Come Knocking was written by and starring Sam Shepherd, while Submergence was a globetrotting romance based on a bestselling novel. His best recent work have in fact been documentaries, including the The Soul of a Man for Martin Scorsese's Blues series and the Oscar-nominated Buena Vista Social Club.