Wim Wenders Creates Ads to Sell Beer (Stella Artois), Pasta (Barilla), and More Beer (Carling)

Few would call Wim Wen­ders, the auteur behind Paris, TexasWings of Desire, The Bue­na Vista Social Club, and last year’s doc­u­men­tary Pina, a “com­mer­cial” direc­tor. Yet he has, now and again, put in time as a direc­tor of com­mer­cials — adver­tise­ments, that is, for beer, food, and cam­eras. His per­son­al hymn to Leica’s crafts­man­ship aside (“As a boy,” he nar­rates, “I looked at my father’s Leica like a sacred object”), these spots don’t imme­di­ate­ly betray the iden­ti­ty of the man at the helm. Even if you’ve seen many of Wen­ders’ fea­ture films, you might not guess that he made these com­mer­cials if you just hap­pened upon them; you would, though, feel their dif­fer­ence in sen­si­bil­i­ty from the ads sur­round­ing them. The Stel­la Artois clip above includes sev­er­al atten­tion-draw­ing tele­vi­sion tropes like a pic­turesque Euro­pean coast, fast cars and motor­cy­cles, vin­tage musi­cal instru­ments, alco­hol, and fem­i­nin­i­ty, but it approach­es them in a non­stan­dard way — one that, con­se­quen­tial­ly, actu­al­ly stands a chance of draw­ing your atten­tion.

“There’s a cer­tain amount of objects that men like a lot,” says Wen­ders in a short doc­u­men­tary on the mak­ing of the com­mer­cial, “and they like them so much that they give them their girl­friends’ names.” We see first a motor­cy­cle named Sophie, then a con­vert­ible named Vic­to­ria, then a gui­tar named Valerie, then a beer — Stel­la. We nev­er see any actu­al women, or, for that mat­ter, any men; just places and things. Wen­ders imbues the sequence with human­i­ty through the cam­er­a’s gaze, and the behind-the-scenes footage shows it as no easy task, requir­ing take after pre­cise­ly lit take shot with cam­eras mount­ed on elab­o­rate mechan­i­cal arms that look more expen­sive than the trea­sured objects them­selves. (It also requires the direc­tor to issue instruc­tions in no few­er than three lan­guages, though I under­stand that as busi­ness as usu­al on a Wen­ders set.) For an entire­ly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on beer, watch his spot for Car­ling that involves bicy­cling over a water­fall. For a more epic take on the rela­tion­ship between mankind and machin­ery, watch what he put togeth­er for food con­glom­er­ate Bar­il­la’s 125th anniver­sary.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Wes Anderson’s New Com­mer­cials Sell the Hyundai Azera

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Com­mer­cial for Schick

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • jon jost says:

    What an arty pros­ti­tute. A per­fect exam­ple of the empti­ness of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture when this man is passed off as an artist.

  • kara says:

    what a hyp­ocrite. Many of his films direct­ly attack adver­tis­ing. In his film “Alice in the cities,” the main char­ac­ter, Phillip Win­ter, actu­al­ly smash­es a tele­vi­sion because of the com­mer­cials.

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