The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - THE GOALIE'S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK (1972) | The Movie Waffler


After being sent off during a match, a goalkeeper commits a murder.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Wim Wenders

Starring: Arthur Brauss, Kai Fischer, Erika Pluhar, Libgart Schwarz, Rüdiger Vogler, Marie Bardischewski


Here's a tip for first-time filmmakers: don't spend half your budget on the acquisition of music licensing rights. That's the mistake made by a naive young Wim Wenders on his first commercial feature, 1972's The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick. A huge fan of rock 'n roll, Wenders peppered his film with tracks from such artists as Elvis Presley and Van Morrison, assuming his film wouldn't find an audience outside his native Germany. When the movie proved a hit on the festival circuit however, international distributors came calling, but due to the cost of licensing the film's soundtrack for specific territories, Wenders was asked to replace the tunes with generic numbers. As everything had been recorded on a single mono track, this simply wasn't possible, and as a result, Wenders' debut has remained unseen outside Germany since the '70s.

Modern advances in audio technology have allowed Wenders to return to his first film and remove the musical tracks while keeping Jürgen Knieper's score intact. A rock group was put together with the task of recreating songs that sounded similar to those originally featured, using only the recording techniques and instruments available at the time so as to avoid any musical anachronisms. If you weren't aware of the original audio of Wenders' film, you would have no idea such a trick had been pulled. Can this restoration be considered an accurate representation of Wenders' intent without those original soundtrack selections? Perhaps not, but it's an unfortunately necessary compromise if you now wish to see the German auteur's debut.


Adapted from a novel by Wenders' friend Peter HandkeThe Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick opens during a lower league football match, its gaze focussed on cheekily named goalkeeper Bloch (Arthur Brauss) as he potters about his goalmouth, displaying a lack of interest in the on-field action. After a display of German goalkeeping on a par with Liverpool's Loris Karius in the recent Champions League final, Bloch fails to live up to his name and lets in an easy goal. Arguing with the ref, Bloch is sent off.

Following a sending off in a 2009 match while playing for Stuttgart, temperamental German 'keeper Jens Lehmann was red carded. After an aggressive altercation with a fan, Lehmann stormed out of the stadium, hailed a taxi to the local airport and made his own way to his home town. Perhaps Lehmann was inspired by Wenders' film, as it's a course of action remarkably similar to that taken by Bloch, who ditches his teammates and heads into the centre of Vienna, checking into a scuzzy motel.

Seeking entertainment, Bloch heads to the local cinema (where Howard Hawks' Red Line 7000 is showing). After a failed attempt to chat up the cashier, Bloch follows her home, and to the surprise of the viewer, if not Bloch, is invited in for 'coffee'. The following morning, after some idle chit chat, Bloch decides, seemingly on a whim, to strangle the woman to death. He wipes his fingerprints off the implements he's handled, but leaves an American coin on the table. Will this prove his undoing?

The audience, and Knieper's dramatic sound cue, may be drawn into the intrigue regarding Bloch's capture, but Bloch seems nonchalant about the matter, returning to his home town where he checks into a small hotel and spends a few days hanging out, visiting the cinema, taking in a football match and rekindling an old relationship with a saucy innkeeper. The newspapers feature an identikit likeness of Bloch, who does nothing to disguise his identity, but nobody in the town cottons on to his guilt.


Wenders' film appears to pull from two disparate Gallic sources. Bloch's indifference to both his vile act and any potential punishment mirrors that of Meursault, the anti-hero of Albert Camus' seminal novel 'L'Étranger', while his obsession with American pop culture and 'ladies' man' facade recalls Jean-Paul Belmondo's cop killer in Godard's Breathless.

But it's America, not France, which casts the greatest shadow over Wenders' film, whose hero relates seemingly every conversation back to a movie he saw at some point, while pumping coins into jukeboxes in every pub and inn he finds himself in. If you have a fetish for classic American jukeboxes, Wenders' film is practically pornographic - there are some absolute beauties on display here, and they're as prevalent a symbol of American cultural imperialism as McDonalds or Starbucks today.

The 4K restoration on AX1 Films' new blu-ray really makes the colours pop, and Wenders' film has that primary coloured, pop art elegance that is the trademark of German cinema of the era. It's a film that's aesthetically a lot more interesting than it is as a narrative or a character study however. Unlike the aforementioned Belmondo, Brauss doesn't have the charisma to pull us in to his story, and unlike Hitchcock with his killers in movies like Rope and Psycho, Wenders lacks the ability to make us psychologically root for a protagonist whom we've witnessed commit a terrible act.


Wenders insists his film has no subtext, that's it's commenting on nothing other than its central character, but it's not difficult to surmise the original novel, if not Wenders' adaptation, may have served as a metaphor for Germany's post-war guilt. Modern viewers may take it more literally as a commentary on male entitlement, though I doubt this would have been on Wenders' mind in the early '70s.

Other filmmakers have explored this theme more successfully - see Antonioni's The Passenger or even Anton Corbijn's under-rated George Clooney vehicle The American - making Wenders' film seem a little thematically redundant. It often seems as disinterested in itself as its brooding protagonist, but I'm glad it now exists, if not in an entirely complete state, to showcase the early inclinations of a soon-to-be giant of German cinema.

Wenders introduces the film and discusses the process of sorting out that musical mishap; a documentary on the restoration of Wenders' films; a restoration of Wenders' 1967 short Same Player Shoots Again; and a booklet featuring writing by Wenders, critic Jason Wood and filmmaker Chris Petit.

The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is on blu-ray now from AX1 Films.