The Wrong Move

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The Wrong Move
Wrong move.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Wim Wenders
Written by Peter Handke
Starring Rüdiger Vogler
Hanna Schygulla
Marianne Hoppe
Nastassja Kinski
Hans Christian Blech
Peter Kern
Ivan Desny
Lisa Kreuzer
Cinematography Robby Müller
Edited by Peter Przygodda
Distributed by Axiom Films (UK and Ireland)
Release dates
Country West Germany
Language German

The Wrong Move (UK) or Wrong Movement (USA video title) (German: Falsche Bewegung) is a 1975 German road movie directed by Wim Wenders. This was the second part of Wenders' "Road Movie trilogy" which included Alice in the Cities (1974) and Kings of the Road (1976).

With long carefully composed shots characteristic of Wenders' work, the story follows the wanderings of an aspiring young writer, Wilhelm Meister, as he explores his native country, encounters its people and starts defining his vocation. His thoughts are occasionally presented in voice-over. The work is a rough adaption of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship,[1] an early example of the Bildungsroman[2] or novel of initiation.


Aiming to be a writer, Wilhelm leaves mother and girlfriend in his home town of Glückstadt in the flat far north of Germany and sets out for Bonn. Changing trains at Hamburg, he is struck by a beautiful actress, Therese, and obtains her phone number. In his compartment are an older man Laertes, who mostly communicates by blowing a mouth organ, and a young female acrobat called Mignon, who is mute. The pair have no money, so Wilhelm pays their fare and puts them up in his cheap hotel, where Therese joins them. Bernhard, an awkward Austrian who wants to be a poet, befriends the four. He says he has a rich uncle with a castle on a peak overlooking the Rhine, but when the five turn up it is the wrong place. The owner welcomes them however, because their arrival stopped him shooting himself, and says they can stay as long as they like.

But tensions grow, for Wilhelm is not giving Therese the affection she wants, while Mignon signals her availability to him. Laertes, feeling guilt but not repentant, disgusts Wilhelm by revealing some of his role in the Holocaust. Then the owner of castle hangs himself, upon which the five leave hastily. Bernhard goes off while Therese takes the other three to her small flat in Frankfurt, where the tensions grow worse. Leaving on his own, Wilhelm completes his symbolic journey by reaching one of the most southerly, highest and emptiest points in Germany, the summit of the Zugspitze.


According to Wenders, although Wrong Move is based on Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, screenwriter Peter Handke did not use any of the book’s dialogue and incorporated a minimal amount of its action, mainly borrowing its concept of a young man "on a journey of self-realization."[2] Wenders also toyed with the idea of whether such a journey would be a mistake, and hence Handke and Wenders made the film as a refutation of Goethe's novel and German Romanticism, in which their character suffers because of his travels.[2] Wenders also stated Wrong Move is about "how to be able to grasp the world through language."[3]

Following The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (1972), Wrong Move was Wenders' second film collaboration with his friend Handke, who was already a respected author. Handke wrote the screenplay two years after his mother had killed herself, which had deeply affected him and influenced the story's dark tone.[2]

The film was shot over four weeks, including from a helicopter over the Elbe River.[2] Landscape shots in the film were inspired by the 18th century paintings of German artist Caspar David Friedrich.[4]

The film marks the debut of Nastassja Kinski, who Wenders' wife discovered in a disco in Munich.[5] She appeared topless in Wrong Move and was 12 years old at the time of filming.[5] Later, she played one of the leading roles in Wenders' film Paris, Texas (1984), as well as appearing in his Faraway, So Close (1993).


In 2008, Chris Petit of The Guardian said initial reaction to Wrong Move was that "it felt talky and clotted, but now looks among the best of the work and much more considered than the popular Wings of Desire (1987)."[6] Critic Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker that Wrong Move is one of Wenders' best films, calling it "a virtual documentary of West German sights and moods."[1] Dave Kehr, writing for the Chicago Reader, states "It's Wenders's most dour film, and the grim tone takes its toll. There is, though, a solid and disturbing talent at work here."[7] Jonathan Romney calls it "a film dense with philosophizing and speechifying, and the most thoroughly literary of all Wenders’s films."[3] TV Guide states that Wrong Move is "engaging" because of Wenders' direction, in spite of its emotional distance and unsympathetic characters.[8]

However, Time Out states that Wrong Move was unusual for Wenders' filmography, finding fault in Handke's screenplay.[9] Evaluating how it fit the "Road Movie trilogy," The A.V. Club asserts "it’s unlikely that anyone saw Wenders’ next film, Wrong Move, as any sort of sequel to Alice, spiritual or otherwise." However, the A.V. Club goes on to suggest that in being "far uglier and more depressive than the trilogy’s bookends," it "perhaps serves as a necessary corrective to the other two films, suggesting as it does that there’s no escaping one’s own inner nature."[10]

The film won awards for best director, script, editing, music, ensemble performance and cinematography at the 1975 German Film Awards.[11]



  1. ^ a b Richard Brody, "Wrong Move," The New Yorker, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e James Robison, "Wrong Move: Utter Detachment, Utter Truth," The Criterion Collection, 1 June 2016, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b Jonathan Romney, "Film of the Week: Wrong Move," Film Comment, 15 April 2016, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  4. ^ "The Wrong Move," Toronto International Film Festival, URL accessed 10 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b David Jenkins, "Nastassja Kinski interview: 'I've had such low self-esteem'," The Telegraph, 6 February 2015, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  6. ^ Chris Petit, "King of the road," The Guardian, 5 January 2008, URL accessed 10 July 2016.
  7. ^ Dave Kehr, "The Wrong Move," Chicago Reader, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Wrong Move," TV Guide, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Wrong Movement," Time Out, URL accessed 9 June 2016.
  10. ^ Mike D'Angelo, "Criterion offers a loose trilogy from Wim Wenders, king of the road movie," The A.V. Club, 28 May 2016, URL accessed 10 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Deutscher Filmpreis, 1975," Deutscher Filmpreis, URL accessed 9 June 2016.

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