Kings of the Road

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Kings of the Road
Directed byWim Wenders
Written byWim Wenders
StarringRüdiger Vogler
Hanns Zischler
CinematographyRobby Müller
Edited byPeter Przygodda
Distributed byAxiom Films (UK and Ireland)
Release date
  • 1976 (1976)
Running time
175 minutes[1]
CountryWest Germany

Kings of the Road (German: Im Lauf der Zeit, "In The Course of Time"[2]) is a 1976 German road movie directed by Wim Wenders. It was the third part of Wenders' "Road Movie trilogy" which included Alice in the Cities (1974) and The Wrong Move (1975). It was the unanimous winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.[3]


The film is about a projection-equipment repair mechanic named Bruno Winter (Rüdiger Vogler), who meets the depressed Robert Lander (Hanns Zischler), who has just been through a break-up with his wife, after he drives his car into a river in a half-hearted suicide attempt. Bruno allows Robert to ride with him while his clothes dry, rarely speaking while Bruno drives along the Western side of the East German border in a repair truck, visiting worn-out movie theaters.

While out on the road, Bruno and Robert encounter several people in various states of despair, including a man whose wife has committed suicide by driving her car into a tree. Robert also drops in on his elderly father to berate him for disrespecting Robert's mother. After Bruno and Robert have a minor brawl after a conversation about Robert and his wife, Robert finally leaves Bruno, though Bruno later spots him riding a train. Bruno continues his visits to theatres, including one that no longer screens films because the owner regards modern films as exploitative.



The film contains many long shots without dialogue, including an outdoor defecation scene, and it was filmed in black and white by long-time Wenders collaborator Robby Müller.[4]

Kings of the Road was shot in black and white, wide-screen (5:3) format, which is explicitly mentioned in the titles. Only the first scene of the film where Winter and Lander meet was scripted; everything else was improvised by the actors.[5] Wim Wenders shot 49,000 m (161,000 ft) of film and the final cut was 4,760 m (15,620 ft). The camera used was an ARRI 35 BL. The negative material from Kodak (Plus-X and Four-X) copied to ORWO positive.[6]

The songs that are played in Bruno's portable single-disc player are: "The More I See You" by Chris Montez, "Just Like Eddie" by Heinz, and "King of the Road" by Roger Miller.

The cost of production was DM 730,800 (then equivalent to US$315,000). The film was financed with a screenplay premium of the Federal Ministry of the Interior of DM 250,000.[6]

In his documentary, White Walls director Mike Schlömer shot footage along the inner-German border between Lüneburg and Hof, where Wim Wenders shot footage.[7]

It was the first film Wenders made through his new production company Road Movies Produktion. He shot it in black and white because he thought that it was much more realistic and natural than color.[8]


In Germany, the Lexicon of International Film wrote that "Wim Wenders' film combines the captivating clarity and epic serenity of a classic Bildungsroman with the mythic qualities of American genre film… Directed in a craftmansly, impeccable style, space itself allows for the unfolding of characters, thoughts and landscapes".[9] Wolf Donner of Die Zeit said that "motions, sequences of confusingly beautiful and suggestive shots, highly poetic compositions and technical perfection make up the particular charm of this three-hour-long black-and-white film. [...] Scenes shot in a nocturnal mist, in the half-glow of the evening and morning, a profound depth of field, a variety of lenses, iridescent effects in the interaction of filters, natural and artificial light, long shots where entire landscapes seem illuminated: these formal qualities always simultaneously bring out the dual meaning of this itinerancy, the nowhereness of this trip, the between-space outside of ordinary reference to reality. The artisanly virtuosity of Kings of the Road will get cinephiles hooked".[10]

Film Critic Derek Malcolm ranked Kings of the Road 89 on his list of his 100 favourite movies. Malcolm says that Wenders "achieves a palpable sense of time, place and atmosphere, and of how everybody is affected by their tiny spot in history".[4] It has been compared to Easy Rider and Two-Lane Blacktop and called the ultimate road movie.[11] Richard Combs wrote that "alienation is not really Wenders subject, although his lonely, self-obsessed heroes might suggest as much".[12]

The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival[3] and the Gold Hugo grand prize at the Chicago International Film Festival.[13]

Home video[edit]

Kings of the Road was released in 2008 as a region 2 DVD with English subtitles.[14] It was released in 1987 as a VHS tape.[15] In 2016, The Criterion Collection released the film in Region 1 on DVD and Blu-ray, along with Alice in the Cities and Wrong Move, as Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy.[16]


  1. ^ "Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road - Films". Janus Films. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  2. ^ Brody, Richard (4 September 2015). "Where Wim Wenders Went Wrong". The New Yorker – via
  3. ^ a b "Festival de Cannes: Kings of the Road". Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  4. ^ a b Malcolm, Derek (26 October 2000). "Wim Wenders: Kings of the Road". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road - Trivia". Janus Films. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b Fritz Müller-Scherz (Hrsg.): Im Lauf der Zeit, Frankfurt a.M.: Zweitausendeins, 1976 (Der komplette Film in 1256 Standbildern)
  7. ^ Mario Schrader Kleine Kinos ganz groß. Ein Streifzug durch 100 Jahre Kinogeschichte im Landkreis Helmstedt. BoD, 2009, S. 136 ff. ISBN 978-3839113950
  8. ^ Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2, 1945-1985. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. p. 1171.
  9. ^ "Zweitausendeins. Filmlexikon FILME von A-Z - Im Lauf der Zeit".
  10. ^ Wolf Donner in Die Zeit, March 5, 1976
  11. ^ Wakeman. p. 1171.
  12. ^ Wakeman. 1172.
  13. ^ Nick Harkin and Carly Leviton, "50 YEARS OF MEMORIES: HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HISTORY OF THE CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL", Chicago International Film Festival, URL accessed 10 July 2016.
  14. ^ Kings of the Road (DVD (region 2)). 2008. OCLC 276647247. German with English subtitles.
  15. ^ Kings of the Road (VHS). 1987. OCLC 276647247. German language with English subtitles.
  16. ^ Peter Sobczynski, "ON THE ROAD AGAIN: WIM WENDERS: THE ROAD TRILOGY COMES TO CRITERION BLU-RAY",, 1 June 2016, URL accessed 9 June 2016.

External links[edit]