Glückstadt, in Northern Germany; Bonn; a palace along the Rhine; a housing project on the outskirts of Frankfurt; and finally the Zugspitze—these are the stations of the journey that the young Wilhelm Meister (Rüdiger Vogler) hopes will save him from the gloomy irritability and despondency that plague him in his hometown. In unfamiliar places, he thinks that he will be able to do what he has always had an uncontrollable drive to do—to write. He wants to become an author. With the journey, which his mother (Marianne Hoppe) gives him permission to make, he hopes to broaden his horizons and, above all, to find himself. In Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, which provided the source material for Peter Handke’s script, a journey of this kind was still a “genuine movement.” In the literature of the nineteenth century, particularly the German bildungsroman, the topos of the journey is always linked to lasting significant changes and experiences. Traveling is synonymous with the successful search for one’s own identity. But the Wilhelm of Wrong Move must arrive at the painful recognition that today a journey alone no longer leads to the desired goal. His path leads him into an unbroken series of failures, through his own fault and that of all the people he meets on his way: the street singer Laertes (Hans Christian Blech), struggling with his Nazi past; the mute girl Mignon (Nastassja Kinski, in her first role); the poet (Peter Kern); and the actress Therese (Hanna Schygulla).
Join Janus Films in 2018 as we celebrate the centennial of the Swedish director’s birth with a traveling retrospective of all of his theatrical films!