Wings of Desire [Der Himmel über Berlin]

(Germany 1988)

Wings of Desire is Wim Wenders’s take on being human, immortality, love, passion, and maybe even destiny (or lack thereof). Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander play two ageless and voyeristic angels, Damiel and Cassiel, who watch over Berlin, eavesdropping on ordinary citizens’ most personal thoughts. Sometimes they try to help out the mortals; sometimes they don’t. No one can see them except children, and they don’t have any real interaction with anyone. All is well and good until Damiel falls for trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin)– then things get dicey.

Wings of Desire is a beautiful looking film that closely resembles the midcentury Italian and French neorealist films I’ve seen of late: haunting and gorgeous black and white shots of the city, a cast of mostly everyday characters (except the angels, of course), a hazy plot, and heavy existential themes. Poetic and dreamlike, it’s slow and very German but well worth sticking with to the end. Seeing the Wall, which stood until 1989, as just another part of the landscape adds a cool historical note. Peter Falk as Der Filmstar (a.k.a. himself) and a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert as the setting for one of the last scenes are both nice touches– they provide playfulness in what otherwise would be an overly somber film.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

https://www.criterion.com/films/200-wings-of-desire

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