The gimmicky 3D presentation doesn’t cover-up the fact that this is a documentary that is only truly interesting for fans of modern art.


Release Date: December 22, 2023
Runtime: 01:33
Anselm Kiefer is one of the greatest contemporary artists. His past and present diffuse the line between film and painting, thus giving a unique cinematic experience that dives deep into an artist’s work and reveals his life path.

Wim Wenders uses 3D to document the work of German artist Kiefer in Anselm. Over his career of more than five decades, Anselm Kiefer has become known for his large-scale paintings and sculptures, many of which provide commentary on Germany's dark past. With the help of archival interviews and reenactments, featuring Wim Wenders' young great-nephew Anton Wenders and Kiefer's adult son Daniel Kiefer playing younger versions of the artist, Anselm's impact on the art world is explored.

Anselm Synopsis

More than a decade after using it for his 2011 documentary Pina, German auteur Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas, Buena Vista Social Club) returns to 3D filmmaking with Anselm. The 3D photography is emphasized early in the film, showcasing titular artist Anselm Kiefer's sculptures of plaster wedding dresses and a shot of the artist riding on a bicycle through his larger-than-life studio. Anselm is shown working with various materials for his large-scale paintings, ranging from hay burned with a flamethrower to meticulously pouring molten metal.

The work of Anselm Kiefer is inspired by poetry, particularly that of Jewish Romanian poet Paul Celan whose parents died in a concentration camp. Having been born towards the end of World War II, Anselm's early art was a direct commentary on Germany's Nazi past. This includes a series of photos of Anselm doing a mock Nazi salute.

My Thoughts on Anselm

As the 3D movie trend peaked in the early 2010s, even documentary filmmakers began to experiment with the format. In addition to Wim Wender's film Pina, about late German choreographer Pina Bausch, 3D also played a major part in Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams from 2010 and 2012's Storm Surfers 3D, among others. However, it can be argued that 3D documentaries are relegated to that period from a decade ago and it's puzzling why Wim Wenders would return to 3D for Anselm.

The 3D in Anselm is primarily used for depth and is best used in the opening moments of the film. However, as the film utilizes much archival footage, which is post-converted, it becomes easy to forget that the film is supposed to be in 3D. As a result, the use of 3D in Anselm can be written off as an unneeded gimmick.

It also doesn't help much that unless you are a serious fan of modern art, Anselm isn't particularly that interesting a film. While it is somewhat intriguing that Anselm's art is so large-scale that he sets up his studios in decommissioned factories, much of the film just focuses on the menial task of putting the art together. Anselm is almost something that can be played alongside an exhibition of Anselm Kiefer's works, rather than a documentary to be watched on its own.

Trailer for Anselm

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.