By MIKA ROSS-SOUTHALL
“Hello. Lovely to see you. Yes you. I’m this building here, the Berlin Philharmonic. I’m fifty years old . . . .” We’re on top of a stegosaurus-like roof – or, rather, the camera is – and the building is speaking to us in a female voice with a German accent: “Buildings have more influence on the world than you let yourself think . . . ”. This is the first of six short films in Cathedrals of Culture, the most recent 3D-film project by Wim Wenders, which had its UK premiere at the Barbican last week.
Wenders and five other filmmakers have each chosen a landmark building (the Berlin Philharmonic; the National Library of Russia; Halden Prison, Norway; the Salk Institute, California; Oslo Opera House; and Centre Pompidou, Paris) and use film to uncover their “soul”; exploring what the buildings are like behind the scenes, after hours, why and how they were built, and their impact on people and cities.
It puts architecture, and 3D-filmmaking, centre stage. According to Wenders, the viewer is immersed “like never before into a place” and the buildings “speak for themselves”. In fact, it’s not such a new device – it reminded me of Old English poetry, where you’re hard pressed to find a text that doesn’t give a voice to an inanimate object.