I first encountered Wim Wenders when I saw ‘Wings of Desire’ at the cinema some years ago. This film was later remade and entitled ‘City of Angels’ which you might remember. Whilst I enjoyed the latter, it didn’t come close to the poetic imagery of Wenders original which I found utterly beautiful.
A few months ago I was searching for movies in Portuguese and stumbled upon ‘A Lisbon Story’. As soon as I saw that it was written and directed by Wenders I knew I was in for a treat: my favourite city through the eyes of one of my favourite directors!
Getting a copy of the dvd however proved harder than anticipated. It wasn’t available on Amazon UK and I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere else. Undaunted however I plumped for buying a Polish edition from a seller on Ebay, ignoring the fact that there were no English subtitles. It turned out to be a good decision.
Our hero Phillip Winter (played by Rüdiger Vogler) is a German sound man who is called urgently to Lisbon on a postcard from his friend and movie maker Friedrich Monroe. English Friedrich is having great problems finishing the film he is making about Lisbon and needs Winter there with him.
I quickly discovered that a lack of English subtitles wasn’t going to be a problem. Whilst there is a reasonable amount of dialogue in German from Phillip, a great deal of the film concentrates on sound and visual impact. This echoes the obsessions of the two main characters. Simply watching Winter’s hilarious journey to Portugal at the beginning was enough to make me realise that much of the story was going to be told through means other than speech. Vogler is an incredibly expressive actor capable of strong drama and comedy at the flick of a switch.
When Winter finally arrives in Portugal he finds Friedrichs home empty. He does however discover the reels of film his friend has been shooting and decides to start recording the sound for the images he has found. Soon after, he encounters the beautiful Teresa from Madredeus. It turns out they are staying in the same building and he begins to fall in love with her when he hears her singing ‘Ainda’
This was the point that had me in tears as the song is so haunting and encapsulates Portuguese ‘saudade’. I think anyone would fall in love with her after hearing that song!
So ensues an gentle exploration of Lisbon through sound and vision, the intrigue of the mysterious boy who seems to be following Winter, a quiet love story and comic sketches that will have you laughing out loud. All leading to a surreal and thought provoking denoument that questions the very nature of film and proposes the idea of ‘the unseen image’.
I honestly cannot fault this film. Perfectly acted, beautiful cast, glorious images of Lisbon, thought provoking, wonderful music, delightfully funny. I’ve already watched it three times and could easily watch it again.
Last but not least the soundtrack was released by Madredeus under the title ‘Ainda’ which I also highly recommend.
If you love Lisbon, if you love great movies, then this one is for you. One hour and forty minutes of bliss.