A WINTER’S TALE

Alter egos are not uncommon in cinema. A number of directors have found in one specific actor the traits that allow them time and again to explore different characters in their films. For over twenty years, Scorsese found a connection with Robert De Niro. In film and television David Lynch returned to Kyle MacLachlan. However, few directors have used both the same actor and character in the way that Wim Wenders and Rüdiger Vogler have reprised Philip Winter.

Winter first appeared in Alice in the Cities. Adrift and alone, he was the perfect tool through which to communicate Wenders’ concerns about the state of the world. It was Rüdiger Vogler’s third role for Wenders (he played a small role in The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick and Wenders’ ill fated adaptation of The Scarlet Letter). Although Winter would not appear in film again for another 17 years, it is worth noting the similarity between Vogler’s character in Alice and Bruno Winter, the travelling projectionist, in 1976’s Kings of the Road. Like Alice’s Winter, Bruno is also concerned with the importance of images. (Between these two films, Vogler appeared in Wrong Move, playing Wilhelm, which happens to be Wim Wenders’birthname.)

A WINTER'S TALE

In 1991, Philip Winter returned in the sci-fi epic, Until the End of the World. By now he was a private detective, as he was in Wenders’ 1993 follow-up to Wings of Desire, Faraway, So Close. If further proof were needed of this character’s link to the angst-ridden photographer, his guardian angel was played by Yella Rottländer, no longer the young girl Winter accompanied back from America.

1994’s Lisbon Story rounds off the adventures of Philip Winter so far, with his most substantial appearance in twenty years. Opening with Winter’s road trip from Berlin to Lisbon, Wenders makes overt the links between this film and Winter’s first outing. This time, he is a sound engineer travelling to Portugal at the request of a director friend. When he arrives, the friend has disappeared, so Winter sets about gathering the sounds of the city with his microphone.

Has Winter lost all faith in the image? Is sound a more accurate recording of the world around us?

Winter’s friend returns and is encouraged to complete the film. Its optimistic ending points to the possibility that Winter has, for the moment, found a balance between sound and image, and is the happier for it. His absence from the screen since may also point to a shift in Wenders’ own relationship with the world, and the concerns he raised through Winter have either been concluded, or he has learned to live with them. Which is not to say that we have seen the end of this enigmatic character.

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