LIGHTNING OVER WATER is a film about the last months in the life of American director Nicholas Ray, who is probably best known for his cult film “Rebel Without a Cause”. Wenders and Ray got to know each other at the set of “The American Friend” and became friends. “Lightning Over Water” was made in just a few weeks at a time when Wenders was free from his studio film HAMMETT.
“Nick told me about his cancer. He knew he was terminally ill. He wanted to die working. Our collective film was a try to counter the cancer with something, a form of terminal care, which also resulted in a film. But all of us who made this last journey together with Nick whould also have done this without film in the camera,” says Wenders.
For the first time Wenders and Ray also used Video for filming. (Ray had already experimented with all perceivable forms filming in “We Can’t Go Home Again”.) “But it was devastating to see how much more merciless and in the end more truthful these ugly and shaky VHS images showed the truth as opposed to our well lit 35mm shots.”
The film finishes after Nick’s death. A Chinese junk sails on the Hudson river towards the open sea. On board is an urn with Nick’s ashes and an old Moviola with waving film. Below deck, the film crew says goodbye to Nick. In the tradition of an Irish wake, stories about the deceased are being told and everybody gets drunk.