PSA: Wings Of Desire (1987), or WOW! This Is Kinda Like City Of Angels!

13 06 2009

Thanks to Goregirl for reminding me about this great picture! I’ll be watching more of your recommendations soon!

Oh, the burdens and treasures of immortality. Long has man wrestled with the double-edged blade of eternal life. Humans, more than anything on this earth, desire to stave off death’s inevitable chilling advance once and for all, so that they might stay the constant fear in their hearts. It is a tempting ideal, that of never-ending love, friendship, and family, the ideal of our pleasurable memories stretching far into the horizon of the unforeseeable future. It’s the main reason, perhaps, that religion grips the world in its thick and terrible shadow, with its promise of a death that is only the beginning of a journey hereafter more amazing than is possibly imaginable by a mind aged less than millennia. But the thinking person will tell you, though their mind is young yet, that eternity is perhaps not the great boon we imagine it to be. If one hundred years seems like enough time to do everything one has ever wanted to accomplish, imagine having a hundred of those hundred years to while away. Imagine love meaning nothing if one has all the time in the world to be with a beloved. Imagine the ennui of a life without purpose or consequence. It doesn’t seem all it’s cracked up to be, and today’s movie takes us on an imagined journey through lives much longer than our own, the lives of angels. It’s an emotional, beautiful, charming, and intellectual film beautifully directed by a German cinema great, Wim Winders, and it has a lot to say despite its roots in Christendom.

Very simple story. Two angels are roaming the streets of Berlin circa 1987. They have lived in Berlin long before this, longer than before there were even people there. They exist to “assemble, testify, preserve” our reality, so they wander the city and watch the humans and their many stories. Their names are Damiel and Cassiel, and they drift through the town completely invisible to all but children. Damiel comes across two people one day who change his life forever. One is Peter Falk (!!!), who is really an angel(!!!!) who gave up his immortality to experience life as a human (Heaven must have been where he came up with the glorious idea for Columbo). The other is a trapeze artist named Marion, a beautiful young woman who he has fallen deeply in love with. He could never be with her as an angel, but perhaps if he gives it all up and becomes human, she could see him and they could be together. Is love worth all the pains and aches of humanity? Is it worth giving up the privilege of being a divine instrument of “God”?

This was a pretty powerful movie. So simple, but it has the ability to devastate emotionally. The main characters are just so likable, and since we follow them around for most of the movie, we find ourselves attached to them rather than the humans. The humans have finite time but infinite freedom to love and have fun, while the angels are trapped in a lonely dimension for as long as the earth remains to observe and testify on the actions of others, unable to truly be themselves. Living a life of pure good sure has its advantages, huh?

The acting is top-notch. Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander play Damiel and Cassiel respectively, and I especially enjoyed their rapport. They seemed like something more than friends at times; like they are of the same heart, a powerful statement from two relatively young actors. When I first watched this, I felt like there might have been some relationship going on between the two, but looking at it now, I don’t think that was the intention. It’s more of just a very deep platonic friendship, although Plato would be aghast to know that he was in a review referencing even the notion of JUST ONE god. Peter Falk is my favorite character here, just because I like the idea that he is playing himself here, and he is alleging that he was once an angel. I wonder if that part of his life was in his memoirs…

I gotta say that the music doesn’t age very well. With the exception of some of the Nick Cave songs that Marion dances to, I was shocked at how poorly some of the music sounds. I know that this was the age of the synthesizer, but it just cheapened the feel of some of the scenes, and it left a sticky 80s residue on parts of the movie.

Wim Wenders was one of the more influential directors to come out of the New German Cinema scene of the 70s, and this might be one of his crowning achievements here. He finds the most evocative ways to place the camera. In a club, on the street, in a close-up, he’s there trying to come up with an angle nobody’s covered before. He’s definitely a technical man’s director. I also love the use of black and white in the eyes of the angels compared to the world of the humans, which is all in color. It represents well the worlds they each inhabit, and the point of view that they each exhibit.

It’s a great movie with great visuals. I enjoyed it very much, even more my second time around. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s by no means overwhelming or dense. Much like the angels, the film stands between two worlds; that of the emotional, and that of the intellectual. It straddles these two planes very well, and although one does overtake the other by the end of the movie, it remains very satisfying throughout. I give Wings of Desire 9 Lieutenant Columbo angels out 10. Check it out!

Keep checking the site today for my other PSA of The Spirit! In fact, keep checking once every 15 minutes for maximum hits on this website!!!

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One response

13 06 2009
goregirl

It’s been a while since I seen “wings”. Reading your review reminds me I should check out some of Wenders other titles. I have to admit I have only seen ONE other Wenders film and he has quite the list! Friends over the years have recommended The American Friend and Paris, Texas to me. I think I will have to make an effort to see both soon!

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