Dir.: Wim Wenders; Cast: Arthur Brauss, Kai Fischer, Erika Pluhar, Libgart Schwarz, Marie Bardischewski, Rudiger Vogler; FRG/Austria 1971, 101 min.
Based on the novella by German playwright Peter Handke, who would be his collaborator on Falsche Bewegung, Wenders’ debut The Goalie’s Anxiety is a portrait of alienation, where meaningful communication has ground to a halt.
The story kicks off when anti-hero and professional footballer Joseph Bloch (Brauss) is given the red card for protesting against a goal scored (in his opinion) from an off-side position. In the aftermath, he wanders around Vienna losing the will to live until his first casual sexual encounter with Marie (Bardischeewski). Next on the list is Gloria (Pluhar), a cinema cashier who sells him a ticket for Howard Hawks’ Red Line 7000. After spending the night in her flat near the airport, Bloch strangles her without any apparent motive and sets off for Bierbaum, a small border village near Hungary. There he falls out with his old friend and innkeeper Hertha (Fischer), after trying to flirt with her and barmaid Anna (Schwarz), without really showing any real commitment to either. He then bores a salesman rigid with his stories about penalties, as the two watch the game.
Wenders’ regular DoP Robby Muller keeps his camerawork mostly static, reflecting the intransigent mood of the main protagonist. Bloch is unconcerned about being pursued by the Poice, even when he sees a composite drawing of his mug in the newspaper he stays put. His nonchalant reaction to the murder suggests sociopathy, he’s possibly a serial-killer, so bored with himself and everyone else that the act of killing leaves him unimpressed and catatonic.
After a recent visit to the States, Bloch (like Wenders) is obsessed with America, and gadgetry of all kinds (a latter-day substitute for his mobile ‘phone?). The Wurlitzer juke box in the bar gets all his attention. His talk is flat and casual – a dead fish at the best of times. Vogler plays a village idiot and would go on to play the many ‘broken’ male heroes in Wenders’ films. Strangely, he seems to be the only one who cares for others.
As spare and striking as a noir-feature in colour, The Goalie’s Anxiety is a brilliant study of chronic introspection seen through the eyes of an individual who can only express himself through violence. Desolate and disenchanted, he is caught in a trap of his own making, an island off an archipelago of sorrow. A triste portrait of psychotic gloom. AS
Having remained commercially unavailable for over three decades due to music licensing, Wim Wenders’ 1972 classic THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK returns to UK cinemas in Summer 2018, restored and remastered in stunning 4K. Also available on Blu-ray and DVD