Tag Archives: Wim Wenders

Cathedrals of Culture (2014)

Of course, buildings cannot have souls. We are cannot even install them in computers. But a new 3D film by six directors, which began life as a TV series, sets out to demonstrate the improbable.

You have to admit these are personable buildings. The roving cameras are accompanied by first person voiceovers which bring us into the action as effectively as our stereoscopic specs.

It should be noted, this film got a really bad review in the Guardian, where architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright found it “sickly sweet . . . syrupy schmaltz”.

And while it is true that some of these buildings come off better than others, and that the results are an immersive advertisement for each given destination, there’s plenty of visual jouissance.

The star of the show, the leading architectural cast member, is Halden Prison in Norway. Here the film captures all the humanity you could ever hope for from one of these institutions.

Sun shines on the basketball court, marital quarters are tastefully decked out, the prison shop is well stocked, even the isolation cells look cool and, despite the dirty protest, somewhat inviting.

Wenders himself films the Berlin Philharmonic, a crazy structure based on overlapping pentagons. Yes, the praise is gushing. But this is a real life sonic cathedral, so what’s not to love?

Perhaps for those already familiar with, say, the National Library of Russia or the Salk Institute, this film is a bit of a yawn. Director Robert Redford maybe overdoes the time lapse photography.

Indeed, the thirty or so minutes spent in the company of the Centre Pompidou in Paris were none too interesting. Having spent a few days riding those escalators, something more was hoped for.

And yet the film which gave the least info was also the most dynamic. Director Margreth Olin chose to focus on the performers who use the Oslo Opera House, allowing the building itself to also dance.

At 165 minutes, this cathedral service is a lengthy one. It drags at times. But why should action movies have the monopoly on 3D? Architecture, no matter how sugar coated, is surely as exciting.

Cathedrals of Culture was screened at the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton, on 30 December 2014.