The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (Wim Wenders / Austria-West Germany, 1972):
(Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter)

The sports metaphor is stated in Night Moves ("One side is just losing slower than the other"), Wim Wenders opens and closes on the damp greens of the soccer field. The existential athlete (Arthur Brauss) is introduced adjusting his socks while the ball zips into the net he’s guarding, he strolls off the stadium after a row with the referee, end of the game and beginning of the voyage or vice-versa. His idle wandering around Vienna leads him to the kino cashier (Erika Pluhar), they ride the elevator at night into a neon-bathed hotel room in a brief Magritte effect. She recounts a dream the following morning, "sometimes a fire-extinguisher is a flamethrower," he strangles her with neither reason nor malice. In contrast to Fassbinder’s concurrent crackup (Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?), the rupture here is at once murky and sunlit, a most gently slipping rationality. The aftermath of the murder unfolds in bucolic terrain, a villa near the border run by a former lover (Kai Fischer), less a sanctuary than a tranquil place to wait for the inevitable. "Who gets lost these days?" Clogged with implosive angst, Wenders’ Teutonic Meursault is not out of joint with the world but very much an unnervingly blank part of it, emotional dislocation keeps his frenzy masked until a jukebox earful of Van Morrison’s "Gloria" brings it back. Reality is a videotaped replay on a grainy telly, sprinklings of surrealism (ants in the teapot, flies under the pillow), a mute schoolboy drowned in the woods embodies the state of communication. The anti-suspense builds to a flicker of light behind the protagonist’s numb visage, the human condition as the unlucky goalie "in the wrong corner, sitting in a puddle." The alliance with Hawks’ Red Line 7000 is explicitly acknowledged, Kitano offers a baseball-gangland retelling in Boiling Point. With Libgart Schwarz, Marie Bardischewski, Rosl Dorena, Rüdiger Vogler, and Michael Toost.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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