by Wim Wenders
In The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penality Kick, based on Peter Handke’s short story of the same name, Wim Wenders’ cinema is there. And, despite the director’s lack of experience behind the camera, the film presaged what would one day become the renowned director from Düsseldorf.
A goalie’s loneliness
The famous German director Wim Wenders and the Austrian writer and Nobel Prize winner for Literature Peter Handke have been friends for many years. Together, the two began collaborating back in 1969, when they made the short film for television 3 American LPs, in which Wenders and Handke themselves appear while discussing American music. And music is one of the central factors also in the second feature film directed by Wenders, based on Handke’s short story of the same name. We are talking about The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penality Kick, made in 1972 and the result of a co-production between Austria and Germany.
Filmed partly in Vienna and partly in Burgenland, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penality Kick did not have an easy life. After its theatrical release in Germany and the Critics’ Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1972, precisely because of the music chosen by Wenders (his favourite music, played on this particular occasion by means of a juke box), the film could not be sold abroad and only remained in cinemas for a short time, since buying the rights to all the music would have been too expensive. For many, many years, therefore, this little gem was practically unfindable. It was only in 2012, however, that it was finally restored thanks to the contribution of the Wim Wenders Stiftung and today we still have the opportunity to watch it.
In The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penality Kick, therefore, we are told the story of the football goalkeeper Josef Bloch (played by Arthur Brauss), who, after being distracted during a match, fails to save a goal and, following his protests, is momentarily suspended. Before the match is over, however, he leaves the stadium and starts wandering aimlessly around Vienna. Here, in a small cinema, he meets the charming cashier Gloria (Erika Pluhar) and, after spending a night with her, strangles her for no apparent reason. Following this event, Josef leaves for Burgenland, in order to join Hertha (Kai Fischer), an acquaintance of his who runs an inn there, in a small village.
“The football striker only shoots the ball in the direction of the goalkeeper, who remains completely calm,” as the protagonist himself explains to a stranger while watching a football match, making the meaning of the title of the film itself (and Handke’s story) clear. Fear or anxiety? It would seem more anxiety that makes the protagonist unable to find a certain inner peace. Josef spends his days with no apparent purpose, wandering aimlessly through Austria. And already in this work, the constant themes of Wenders’ cinema seem clear to us: the journey, a certain reverence for American cinema, but also the profound loneliness of his protagonists.
Similarly, the environments – to which the director always devotes much space – almost act as co-protagonists here and with their deafening silences accompany Josef during his wanderings. Environments that are often squalid, empty, such as a small flat near Schwechat airport, a hotel room in Wieden, a small inn or even open spaces that almost convey a certain sense of agoraphobia. In short, in The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penality Kick, Wim Wenders’ cinema is there. And despite the director’s lack of experience behind the camera, the film foreshadowed what would one day become the renowned director from Düsseldorf.
Original title: Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter
Directed by: Wim Wenders
Country/year: Germany, Austria / 1972
Running time: 101’
Genre: drama, sport
Cast: Arthur Brauss, Kai Fischer, Erika Pluhar, Libgart Schwarz, Marie Bardischewski, Michael Toost, Bert Fortell, Edda Köchl, Mario Kranz, Ernst Meister, Rosl Dorena, Rudi Schippel, Monika Poeschl, Sybille Danzer, Rüdiger Vogler, Karl Krittl, Maria Engelstorfer, Otto Hoch-Fischer, Wim Wenders
Screenplay: Peter Handke, Wim Wenders
Cinematography: Robby Müller
Produced by: Filmverlag der Autoren, Telefilm Wien, WDR