Robert Redford & Wim Wenders, Cathedrals of Culture

By Blaney, Martin | Screen International, February 11, 2014 | Go to article overview

Robert Redford & Wim Wenders, Cathedrals of Culture


Blaney, Martin, Screen International


3D project receives its world premiere on Feb 12 in the Berlinale Special sidebar.

Three years ago, Wim Wenders presented his homage to the legendary choreographer Pina Bausch in the 3D feature documentary Pina as an out of competition screening in the Berlinale Competition.

He is now back at the Berlinale with another 3D project, Cathedrals of Culture, in the Berlinale Special sidebar (world premiere on Feb 12), in collaboration with five other film-makers who all pose the question: "If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?"

While Wenders did not have far to go to portray the Berlin Philharmonic in his film, Austria's Michael Glawogger travelled to St Petersburg for the Russian National Library and Denmark's Michael Madsen picked the ground-breaking Halden Prison in Norway.

The Salk Institute in California's La Jolla came under the spotlight of actor-director-producer Robert Redford, while Norwegian film-maker Margreth Olin chose the Opera House in Oslo and Brazil's Karim Ainouz - in this year's Competition with his latest feature Praia do Futuro - followed a day in the life of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

As Wenders explains in an exclusive interview with Screen, the choice of directors was made by the producers Gian-Piero Ringel and Erwin M. Schmidt at Neue Road Movies and the editorial line for the six films was defined by a 3D video installation, If Buildings Could Talk, he had made for the Architecture Biennale in Venice.

Buildings speak for themselves

"With Cathedrals of Culture, we wanted to reverse the traditional narrative perspective of architecture films and develop a new access to these amazing buildings by letting them speak for themselves," he says. "We wanted to explore their soul, not architectural facts."

"One of the main goals of the project was to explore 3D as a visual language, and to allow a group of different filmmakers to make use of this medium in their very own way. If there were any particular challenges, then mostly the conceptual difficulty to create six different films by six directors about six different buildings, and still let them share a basic idea and belong together and form a unity."

Deciding on the Berlin Philharmonic for his episode was "a short and sweet process," he recalls. "I wanted to cover a building in Berlin. And I wanted to have an emotional access to it. I wanted to do justice to the building. But the more I got to know it, the more complex it became to me. Every day, I saw new aspects of it, and in the end, after five days of shooting, I felt I had only scratched the surface."

"A lot of buildings are exciting for a while, and then they lose some of their attraction, because they are very much a product of their time, after all," Wenders continues.

"That goes for the Berlin Philharmonic as well, partly - it was built in the early Sixties - but it managed to capture something timeless as well. Maybe because its architect had to wait for so long to turn his vision into reality- he was considered a "degenerate artist" during the Nazi regime - but also because as its very core it contained a truly groundbreaking concept: to put the orchestra into the middle of the room! …

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