In outline, the documentary essay Berlin - Cinéma is quite simple. It is a film about Berlin from the perspective of celebrated film director Wim Wenders and documentary maker Samira Gloor-Fadel, Wenders in front of camera, Gloor-Fadel behind it. Jean-Luc Godard utters a few phrases and architect Jean Nouvel comments on future buildings in the capital. In treatment, this is a film of the greatest subtlety, with a multi-layering of texture and meaning: it is as much about cinema exploring its own language as it is about a capital city.
The complex structure is established in the opening sequences. In stunning black and white, the city of Berlin is slowly revealed. A static frame captures an overhead tram, a bus, a man on a bike. Off screen we hear: "I love it when the camera doesn't move and things go out of shot. Trains, cars, people.... I love that." It's the voice of Wim Wenders watching the images that we have just seen. But he is not the only commentator in Berlin - Cinéma. Gloor-Fadel artfully weaves other voices into the mix. Off-screen we hear Jean-Luc Godard and Rudiger Vogler reads snippets from other German texts.
Along with these intimate conversations come telling dense travelling shots of landscape and cityscape, amplifying, reinforcing, reflecting what is being said: old and new buildings, a Jewish cemetery, empty spaces, a Turkish cafe: visual evocations of memory and forgetfulness, emptiness and space.
Wenders says to Jean Nouvel, "I learnt something when you read, it isn't the line of words which are interesting. It's the blanks ... I've always had this idea about film, that it's interesting when there's nothing there between the images. The less there is, the more people can read."
Berlin - Cinéma, with a labyrinth of images and meditations, film extracts, pieces of writing and music continually probes and leaves space for questions to be unanswered.