- Directed by
- Wim Wenders, Michael Glawogger, Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz
If famous buildings could talk, what would they say? That odd question is the basis of Cathedrals of Culture, a six-part, six-director film that takes us on 3-D tours of the Berlin Philharmonic building, a Norwegian prison, Russia's National Library, the Oslo Opera House, California's Salk Institute and Paris's Centre Pompidou, as voiceover narrators provide each structure's imagined secret thoughts.
The most revealing 3-D work is in Wim Wenders's film about the 50-year-old Berlin Philharmonic building, with its circus-tent roof and orchestra-in-the-middle design.
Also strong is Robert Redford's film, which captures the hushed dignity of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., one of the triumphs of architect Louis I. Kahn's career, accompanied by multiple voices of scientists and a meditative score from Moby.
Other experiments are less graceful: It takes a while to realize that the disconnected commentary accompanying Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger's look at the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg, has been gleaned from the Russian literature in the collection.
Danish director Michael Madsen's portrait of a humane jail (no bars, lots of green space) is narrated by the prison's psychologist Benedikte Westin, though her insights might be clearer if she weren't pretending to be a building.
At various spots the voiceovers range from childlike ("When I was new, people stopped in shock") to alarming ("More than 50 million people have entered me").
When it comes to talking buildings, sometimes the words to the old Alison Krauss hit should be kept in mind: "You say it best when you say nothing at all."