Saturday, June 16, 2007

1. Falsche Bewegung (The Wrong Move) 1975

Nastassja Kinski's introduction to a film audience is done in a series of very bold and striking shots that immediately show just how powerful a presence she could be. We first see her crouched down in a passenger seat on a train, staring just slightly past the camera. For the next few minutes the camera cuts back and forth between her penetrating gaze and our male protagonist. As the camera cuts to shots of the outside landscape rushing by, through the trains windows, we are struck by just how much this young actress is commanding our attention, and then we realize that she has done so without making a sound.
Wim Wenders was nearing his thirtieth birthday when he began shooting the second of his planned trilogy of 'road pictures' in 1974. The film he had just shot, ALICE IN THE CITIES, had received a lot of attention and had placed Wenders, along with Werner Herzog and Ranier Werner Fassbinder, at the head of the so called New German Cinema movement.
Wenders was a lifelong film buff and had been greatly attracted by the American road film and the idea that a man escaping something to perhaps find himself would be a subject he would greatly like to explore.

THE WRONG MOVE stars Rudiger Vogler, Hans Christian Blech and Fassbinder regular Hanna Schygulla. Adapted from the Goethe novel by acclaimed screenwriter Peter Handke, THE WRONG MOVE is a quintessential film in 1970's German cinema. With its striking Robby Muller photography and minimal, and at times, bracing score by Jurgen Kneiper, Wenders weaves a tale of two characters (Vogler and Schygulla) struggling with the past and future aspects of German culture and their own lives.
Vogler is particularly good in this film as the travelling writer who is constantly reading and searching through his thoughts for a possible middle ground between his past and future. Wenders is remarkable at delivering characters who are stuck in this particular spot between what is just behind them and what might be just ahead.
Schygulla had just completed Fassbinder's incredible EFFI BREST and was just a few years away from reaching worldwide fame with his MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN.
Wenders reportedly found the just 13 year old Nastassja, who was no stranger to travelling and isolation in her own life, dancing in a disco one evening and was totally captivated by her. He would later say, "She was truly beautiful, there was something in her eyes." He would go onto say of her debut performance, "She was magnificent...and it was clear from the first rushes that she was an actress."
Kinski all but steals THE WRONG MOVE from her more experienced costars. As the mute young girl Mignon, Kinski projects everything with just her eyes. It is a remarkable performance that would oddly foreshadow seemingly unconnected future performances, like her juggling in CAT PEOPLE and her staring through a window in TESS. It has always been my thought that many of the directors who later cast Kinski had been entranced by such small moments in THE WRONG MOVE and had kept them in mind for their own films.

Outside of the importance of being her debut it would also be the first of three films that Nastassja would make with the great Wenders. Ten years later she would make her finest film, PARIS TEXAS, with him and then his WINGS OF DESIRE follow up, FARAWAY SO CLOSE in 1993. Wenders admits on the PARIS, TEXAS commentary that he would like nothing more than to work with her again and that, since they were averaging one film every ten years, that they were overdue.
THE WRONG MOVE would present the young Nastassja Kinski as an actress who had the rare capability to project everything with her eyes and face. It was that talent that so many of her later directors would later accentuate and it separated her from most of her contemporaries. It was no coincidence that many of the actresses Nastassja was later compared to, most notably Garbo and Dietrich, had started out in silent film. The ability to tell everything without muttering a sound was an almost completely dead art form by the mid seventies but here in this thirteen year old girl it remained very much alive. Intriguingly it would be a quality that she had, at least partially, inherited from her famed father. One look at any of his greatest works will tell you this man could also communicate everything with just a stare. It isn't surprising to note that one of his most iconic roles was in a remake of a silent film, Werner Herzog's mystically powerful version of NOSFERATU.
THE WRONG MOVE would go on to win seven German Academy awards in 1975, including one for Nastassja. It would prove that ALICE IN THE CITIES was not a fluke for Wenders and it would be the first of many masterpieces that he would produce in the next decade.

For years THE WRONG MOVE could only be found on a blurry and hard to find VHS version and an even harder to find, but not much improved, laserdisc. Thankfully the film is available in Anchor Bay's recent Wim Wenders box set in a fine transfer with a great commentary by the director himself.
Nastassja (billed here as Nastassja Nakszynski) has a relatively small role in THE WRONG MOVE but it is one of her most essential performances and the one that would put her career in a very different direction than most actresses that came out of the seventies. It was a most auspicious beginning for her.


Cinebeats said...

As always, great review Jeremy! I really need to see this. Paris, Texas is a favorite so I'm sure I'd enjoy this film to.

Jeremy Richey said...

It explores some of the same themes as Paris Texas so I think you will enjoy it. The new dvd of it looks really nice and it is well worth searching down.
I appreciate the comments.

Anonymous said...

The new dvd of The Wrong Move has been cropped, especially when compared against the VHS tape. Somewhat surprising. In other words, the version to watch is the VHS tape that is quite difficult to find these days and expensive if one can find it. It would have been preferable to maintain the 1.33:1 aspect ratio as was done with One From the Heart.

danyulengelke said...

Great review!

We're linking to your article for Wim Wenders Friday at

Keep up the good work!