I was hooked right from the get go when the typewriter letters started hitting the screen as the intro credits started over the soundtrack to David Bowie’s “Heroes“. Lush black and white photography panning out around an apartment flat going from room to room. Radio On is a British road movie looking like a German art house film. It’s no accident it looks that way as the camera work is done by Martin Schäfery and associate produced by Wim Wenders (Paris Texas) and even stars Wim’s girlfriend at the time Lisa Kreuzer . It’s seems the production was a joint venture between the UK and West Germany.
Adding to this UK and German connection are a few other things, the soundtrack with Kraftwerk, features very heavily throughout and there’s this curious handwritten message. At the beginning the camera focuses onto a bedroom wall filled with posters and memorabilia and centers on this mysterious note. . That’s got to be on the back of a Kraftwerk LP cover hasn’t it?
We are the children of Fritz Lang and Werner Von Braun. We are the link between the Twenties and the Eighties. All change in society passes through a sympathetic collaboration with tape recorders, synthesizers and telephones. Our reality is an electronic reality.
The film is directed by Christopher Petit and set in 1970s. Our “hero” Robert, played by David Beames, finds out his brother has died and takes to his Rover P4. Travelling from Ilford, London to Bristol listening to music as he takes in the somber road trip meeting a series of odd people along the way.
The movie is a series of moody long lingering shots of broken landscapes of high rise flats and council estates, panned out shots of the car driving and then transports you into the back of the car looking out the windscreen, watching the motorway falling beneath whilst music plays on the radio.
Wim Wenders – “One of those true pioneering films… Chris Petit reinvented the road movie for England”
Radio, of the title, is featured constantly during the runtime of the film. Robert is a radio disc jockey for a local broadcaster. Slices of news reports filter in alongside mundane tones of the football scores. Car stereos and cassette tapes, a chance meeting with a musician. Music and radio waves are a strong part of this independent feature.
As are moody, bleak and quiet thoughtful gazing into the void! Contemplating, mourning and more staring, out of a window, in a pub with a pint, on a bridge or just sat in a car.
It does all sound so depressing and to be honest it is but it also quite brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. What surprised me the most is how modern it all looks. It’s 1979 but it really could be now! I believe it’s down to the black and white print but also it could be down to the fashions. Nobody wears anything too stuck to the era, apart from when Robert goes out on the town with his teddy boy jacket.
For some eye candy and maybe some much needed light relief you get a chance meeting with a girl called Ingrid played by Lisa Kreuzer. Getting a few lifts in Robert’s car and sitting chatting about her daughter and life.
Here is that car, The Rover P4 a 50’s mid-size luxury saloon. I have to say it looked beautiful. Here’s a few pictures of it.
I loved this film, it hit all the right notes for me. One of those rare little gems that when you unearth them you can’t stop thinking about. If you think this one might be for you I hope you can track it down for a viewing. Plus if you like music it’s like an big music video, featuring artists like Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Devo, Robert Fripp and Ian Dury.
Fun Fact – Another case of German influence was in the form of graffiti on a wall stating to “Free Astrid Proll” Intrigued by this name I have found out she was an imprisoned member of the Red Army Faction or Baader-Meinhof Gang. Check her story it’s really interesting. Link at bottom of page.
Happy viewing and thanks for reading….. Mikey Wolfman
Further Reading Links