Wings of Desire
Directed by Wim Wenders.
Starring Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin,Â Otto Sander,Â Curt BoisÂ and Peter Falk.
Angels are a tricky thing in movies. Anything supernatural is, really. But where I can run with demons and devils as just fun monsters to toss into a story, when you start talking about an afterlife that’s pretty much the same as the one we’re living now, except with wings and all the sucky shit taken out, it’s just a bit more than I can take.
So it takes a special sort of movie to get me past that hurdle: It’s a Wonderful Life works, for intance, because of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra’s irresistible humanity. In a way, it’s the same kind of thing that made Wings of Desire work for me, too. On its face, it’s the story of an angel, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), who has become frustrated with the unending task of invisibly chronicling the lives of us humans on Earth â€” specifically 1980’s West Berlin. (Chronicling for whom and why are never really mentioned, and they’re irrelevant.) But like all great stories, it’s about a lot more than just its plot.
The film is shot beautifully in black and white, punctuated by moments of almost fluorescent color representing the humans’ perspective. (A conceit Â borrowed from Powell and Pressburgers’s 1946 film, A Matter of Life and Death.)Â The first hour of the film moved along rather ponderously. It’s at once dizzying and appropriately dull as it depicts Damiel’s job as an angel, pausing occasionallyÂ for a conversation with his fellow angel Cassiel (Otto Sander, whose face is utterly fascinating).
Damiel falls for a trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommamartin) and decides he wants to create his own “story,” one way or another.Â Shortly after the half-way point, Damiel andÂ Peter Falk (playing himself, in town to film a movie), share a pivotal moment, and in that one hilariously brilliant twist, and the film catapults into motion, racing towards its inevitable, sweet conclusion.