English Title: Wings of Desire
Original Title: Der Himmel über Berlin
Country: West Germany, France
Language: German, English, French
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Director: Wim Wenders
Writers: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke
Music: Jürgen Knieper
Cinematography: Henri Alekan
Invisible (or occasionally visible only to children’s beady eyes) angels are wandering among us, telepathic to our inarticulate thoughts, but ocularly, lives in a black-and-white realm, sometimes hovering above with a God’s eye-view, sometimes passing us by like an apparition, sometimes contemplating our misery with utter poignancy, but they are unable to interact with neither a mortal’s live nor the physical world, all they can do is observing, listening, extending a conciliatory but discarnate hand when empathy hits hard, in Wim Wenders’ WINGS OF DESIRE, that is the price for a bystander’s infinite existence.
In West Berlin, just a few years before the demolition of that infamous wall, two angels Damien (Ganz) and Cassiel (Sander), dwelling in Berlin State Library, among others, confer about their philosophy, their year-round observance and their mission on earth, and divergence starts to crystallize when Damien gets particularly attached to a trapeze performer Marion (Dommartin, in her film debut), submerged entirely in her lonesomeness. Before her circus disbands, and encouraged by an erstwhile angel, the actor Peter Falk, COLUMBO himself, who forsook immortality 30 years ago, Damien decides to follow suit in pursuit of fulfilling his providential encounter with Marion; meanwhile a stolid Cassiel, closely follows an old man Homer (the swan song of the octogenarian Curt Bois, for an extraordinary career spanning over seven decades), sauntering around the city for the remnant of his war-ravaged past, becomes increasingly distressed after witnessing a young man’s suicide and refuses Peter’s overtures, remains his angelic form against the inexpressible torment as his deathless burden.
Wenders’ humanistic inclination melds fittingly with Peter Handke’s poetic text, namely, the seminal and recurring poem SONG OF CHILDHOOD, monologized from Damien’s perspective. It is not a fluke that he was crowned BEST DIRECTOR in Cannes, Wenders takes a great leap of faith in furnishing viewers with those sublime aerial craning shots and meditative dolly sequences, to say nothing of presenting Marion’s nail-biting acrobatic performance, and the dichotomy between Angel’s sepia-inflected monochrome and a varicolored human world totally nails the tonal shift that lends the film a timeless luster of cinematic appeal, which is not solely on the eye level, but plunges deep into one’s psyche, to cogitate on humanity through a purely existential ground.
Bruno Ganz is singularly expressive with his soul-reaching gazes and as a newly born human, he manifests a touching impression of elation and amazement that almost becomes mesmeric to behold; also, a supple Solveig Dommartin, gallantly conquers both senses of garish and ethereal while kills it on the trapeze, whereas Peter Falk relishes in his meta-presence with gusto and geniality. Gingered up with live rendition from Simon Bonney’s Crime & The City Solution and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, WINGS OF DESIRE holds dear in its heart the most elemental sensation of being alive, and at the same time, formulates a lucid message to mankind’s inescapable pathos, a knockout, through and through.
companion pieces: Wenders’ PARIS, TEXAS (1984, 8.4/10), THE AMERICAN FRIEND (1977, 7.8/10).