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Wim Wenders’s Anselm



Anselm, Germany 2023. Directed by Wim Wenders.

Lichtburg Essen, Row F, Seats 20+21. 70mm analog projector, Volfoni Edge 1.2 active 3D glasses, original version.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

The dimensions of Anselm Kiefer’s studios are so vast, his artwork so colossal in size, and the movie’s 3D resolution so incredibly detailed that I was time and again caught up in flashbacks to neo-gothic space operas and their unfathomably titanic spaceships, the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and recurring “wait, this background is real and not an elaborate matte painting that tricks the eye?” epiphanies. Add to that Leonard Küßner’s post-romantic score (set to poems by Paul Celan, mostly) and ambient music, and Franz Lustig’s cinematography dominated by cool or rainy or adumbral lighting throughout, and it was indeed like being whisked away to another world.

It’s hard to pin down the category this movie falls into. It’s neither a typical biopic nor a typical documentary; there are no interviews or voice-overs or other ingredients you would expect. There’s the artist with his studios and his work at the center, accompanied by vintage television footage from bygone reports and interviews; vintage sound recordings of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann (plus whispered recitations of their work as ambient sounds); and staged flashbacks of Anselm Kiefer as a young boy and younger man performed by actors.

So should you expect explanations and interpretations and archival minutiae, you will be disappointed. Wim Wenders’s movie is a work of art about works of art and the artist at work inside his larger works of art, an experience that feels less like a three-dimensional movie and more like visiting a four-dimensional museum.

As to Wenders’s movies in general, I remember very well how The State of Things, the first Wim Wenders movie I ever saw eons ago, knocked my socks off and put me in an existential limbo for months.

As an aside, Anselm’s German title is Anselm: Das Rauschen der Zeit—because attaching vapid explanatory labels to book and movie titles is a cultivated art form in this country.

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