"Dedicated to all the former angels but especially to Yasujiro, Francois and Andrei..."
German director Wim Wenders Wings of Desire is one of the most spiritual and poetic films ever made. When watching the hypnotic beauty of the film it quickly gets you seduced under it's spell and you become entranced by its visual beauty and meditating power. The angels in the film are not only guardian angels who were put on our planet to watch over human inhabitants, but are also observers that have seen the mistakes and atrocities that humans have committed since the beginning of mankind. In Wings of Desire the angels move invisibly throughout the city of Berlin, watching, listening, and comparing notes with each other. Young children are able to see them because of their purity and innocence, and the angels usually watch in high places like on tall buildings and over heroic statues. The angels do not directly change the events of the humans they observe and in one instance while an angel is trying to comfort a man contemplating suicide, the man decides to jump and kills himself. Wings of Desire is a visually poetic film which is beautifully photographed by the legendary cinematographer Henri Alekan, who made the characters float weightlessly in Cocteau's enchanting masterpiece Beauty and the Beast. Much of Wings of Desire brings a mood of calm medication as we the audience observe the people and the world they inhabit just as the angels do. The story unfolds slowly and the plot doesn't really start taking shape until an hour and a half in the film. The story is very simple and yet profound as we follow two angels named Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander). They comfort and listen to the thoughts of several humans, including a painter struggling to find inspiration, a broken man who thinks his girlfriend no longer loves him, an old Holocaust victim struggling with the horrors of the past, parents worried about their son who seems angry and distant, a mother going in labor and being rushed to a hospital, and several different passengers on a plane, trams and people in the streets; which is greatly similar to the turning of a dial on a radio program. [fsbProduct product_id='840' size='200' align='right']The two main angels comfort several of these people and make notes on them, including a hooker who hopes to earn enough money to leave and go south, and of a circus trapeze artist who fears that she will fall because it is the night of a full moon, and in many ways the angels in the film are witnesses and documentarians who observe the ways of life which is similar to the idea of cinema. We watch films to be brought into the personal lives of several characters and bear witness to their sorrow, pain, fear, humor and happiness; and in many ways we are just like the angels; observing the observers. And then the unthinkable happens, and suddenly Damiel decides that he wants to become human because he has fallen in love with a human being, and wants to experience human pleasures. The film is shot in both a rich, sepia-toned black-and-white and color, with the former being used to represent the world as experienced by the angels. Damiel's explanation on why he feels the need to become human is simple that any warm-hearted human being could deeply understand his reasoning: "I don't want to always hover above. I'd rather feel a weight within casting off this boundless freedom and tying me to the earth. At every step...every gust of wind, I'd like to be able to say, 'Now'... No longer 'forever' and 'for eternity.'
"When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging. It wanted the stream to be a river, the river a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea. When the child was a child, it didn't know it was a child. Everything was full of life and all life was one. When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, no habits. It often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and didn't make faces when photographed." The opening shot of the film is the skies and the close-up of an eye as the camera sours over the city of West Berlin.
You see an angel with wings standing above a tall clock tower watching the people of the city as some young children can see him from above. Set in contemporary West Berlin which at the time was still enclosed by the Berlin Wall, Wings of Desire follows two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, as they roam the city, unseen and unheard by its human inhabitants, observing and listening to the diverse thoughts of Berliners fears, anger, sadness and pleasures. One of the people is an American actor Peter Falk (Playing himself) flying to Germany for the production on a World War II film.
The camera weightlessly floats through the thoughts on these inhabitants through German apartments with a woman struggling to find inspiration when painting her apartment and into an apartment of an angry young man who is blasting his music to shut out his parents. The camera then leaves the young mans room as it enters the living room where his father cannot seem to understand his son's angry behavior and the camera than pans to the kitchen where the mother is also worried about her son.
"When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions: Why am I me and why not you? Why am I here and why no there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn't life under the sun just a dream? Isn't what I see and hear and smell just an illusion of a world in front of the world? Does evil actually exist, and people who are really evil? How can it be that this 'me' that I am wasn't 'me' before I existed, and that someday this 'me' that I am will no longer be 'me'?"
A woman is being rushed to a hospital with her husband in an ambulance because she is going in labor as Damiel puts his hand on her stomach to comfort her and the child inside her. She is thinking to herself, "I can't wait to see you," as her husband is at her side thinking, "if only I could suffer in her place." Damiel later is sitting in a convertible inside a car lot with Cassiel. They both compare notes on the people they are watching over and go over any new updates on their behavior. Damiel however is tired of being an angel and feels the need to want more.
It's wonderful to live as spirit and testify for all eternity to only what is spiritual in people's minds. But sometimes I get fed up with this spiritual existence. I don't want to always hover above. I'd rather feel a weight within casting off this boundless freedom and tying me to the earth. At every step...every gust of wind, I'd like to be able to say, "Now...and now and now. No longer 'forever' and 'for eternity.' I don't have to father a child or plant a tree but it would be nice to come home after a long day and feed the cat-like Philip Marlowe...or to have a fever or get your fingers black from the newspaper. To be excited not just by the mind, but by a meal...the curve of a neck...an ear. To lie! Through one's teeth! To feel your bones as you walk along. For once just to guess instead of always knowing. To be able to say 'Ah' and 'Oh!' and 'Ouch!'...instead of 'Yes' and 'amen.'"
"Yeah, to be able, once in a while, to enthuse for evil. To draw all the demons of the earth from passers-by and to chase them out into the world. To be a savage."
"Or at last to feel how it is to take off shoes under a table and wriggle your toes barefoot, like that."
"Stay alone! Let things happen! Keep serious! We can only be savages in as much as we keep serious. Do no more than look! Assemble, testify, preserve! Remain spirit! Keep your distance. Keep your word."
In a large library, Damiel and Cassiel walk in as they see other angels there watching over others as well. The camera glides goes through the library as other angels look up and greet Damiel and Cassiel. Among the Berliners they encounter in their wanderings is an old man named Homer, who, unlike the Greek poet of war Homer, dreams of an "epic of peace." Homer is at the library going over the horrors of the holocaust as the film flashes to newsreel footage and pictures of several dead babies and children that were some of the victims of the war. Homer then slowly gets up and starts to walk up the library stairs in which he has to sit and rest to catch his breath.
Cassiel follows Homer out of the library as Homer looks for the then-demolished Potsdamer Platz in an open field, and finds only the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall. One depressed individual seems to think more positively when Damiel comforts him by putting his hand on his shoulder. Damiel then goes to see a woman named Marion who he seems to be quite taken with. Marion is a lonely circus trapeze artist and Damiel enjoys watching her practicing her act. When Marion hears from her circus companions that they will have to close the circus act down she is hurt because she does not want to go back and waitress again. "Hey, an angel is walking by," shouts one of the performers to Marion at first shocking Damiel thinking they meant him.
Marion goes inside her caravan and puts on a record of Crime and the City Solution as Damiel walks around the room and looks at photos of her and even takes a stone on one of her mantles as a sort of souvenir of her. When she undresses and takes off her top Damiel tenderly touches her skin admiring her beauty. Although Damiel and Cassiel are pure observers, visible only to children, and incapable of any physical interaction with our world, Damiel begins to slowly fall in love with Marion. The black and white then turns into color for a short moment when Marion is thinking, "Longing. Longing for a wave of love that would stir in me. That's what makes me clumsy. The absence of pleasure. Desire for love...Desire to love..."
Damiel later on comforts a man who is hurt after a serious bicycle accident laying into the street almost bleeding to death until a pedestrian comes by to help. Another subplot of the film follows the great American actor Peter Falk (playing himself), who has arrived in Berlin to make a film about Berlin's Nazi past. While arriving on the set of the film, Peter is trying on different outfits and hats that would be perfect for the character he is playing. In one scene Peter decides to sketch an extra on the set, thinking to himself, "What a dear face! Interesting. What a nostril. A dramatic nostril. These people are extras. Extra people. Extras are so patient. They just sit. Extras. These humans are extras. Extra humans. Yellow star means death. Why did they pick yellow...? Sunflowers. Van Gogh killed himself."
While Damiel is watching this, Cassiel arrives and Damiel says to him, "come. I'll show you something else." They both watch a circus performance on stage from Marion and her troupe as she entertains several children in the audience. Damiel says to Cassiel, "I've been on the outside long enough...absent long enough. I've stood outside the world long enough. I want to enter into the History of the World, or even just hold an apple in my hand."
In a tragic and yet honest scene a man is contemplating suicide by jumping off a building while others are shouting for him to get down. Cassiel arrives to try to comfort him but it doesn't seem to work and the man jumps.
Damiel, who now seems to love Marion follows her to a dance club as he watches her dance being entranced by her beauty thinking, "Where did time end and where does space begin?" Later that night while Marion is in bed she has a beautiful surreal like dream sequence where she is being visited by Damiel as it portrays a flutter of wings from an angel. Peter Falk is out on the street and there is a funny moment where he walks past some young men who when passing him say to one another, "Isn't that Columbo? Don't think so. Not with that shabby coat."
Peter stops at a small coffee stand and when Damiel walks up to him Peter can sense his presence saying, "I can't see you but I know your here. I feel it. I wish I could see your face. I wish you could talk to me, because...I'm a friend." There are several moments with Peter talking out loud to angels he can feel which makes the living people around him weirded out since it looks like he is talking to himself.
Later when Cassiel and Damiel are walking together, Damiel explains to him what he'd do when he is human, saying, "First I'll take a bath. Then I'll get a shave, from a Turkish barber, if possible, who'll also massage me down to the fingertips. Then I'll buy a newspaper and read it from headlines to horoscope. If someone trips over my legs, he'll apologize profusely. I'll get a table in a packed restaurant. The mayor's own car will stop and give me a lift. I'll be familiar to everyone and suspect to no one. I won't say a word, but I'll understand every language. That will be my first day."
Cassiel doesn't believe it and smiles and says, "and none of it will be true." Suddenly without any explanation Damiel turns into color as Cassiel notices Damiel has made footprints in the mud. You then hear Damiel say, "I'll take her in my arms and she'll take me in hers," as Damiel suddenly wakes up after he shed his immortal existence, and now can experience life for the first time as a human. Now the film is in lush color as Damiel sees children watching him laying in the street believing him to be a drunk. When walking away Damiel notices blood and tastes it for the first time which greatly excites him.
He also sees colors for the first time as he asks a stranger what the colors are on everything around them like an excited young boy. (the movie up to this point is filmed in a sepia-toned monochrome, except for brief moments when the angels are not present or looking.) The stranger gives Damiel some change and Damiel goes to get a cup of warm coffee. He also sells a suit of armor he found when first waking up to his new human existence and the money he received he uses to buy a new pair of clothes. He then walks towards the world war II movie set but isn't let in.
He luckily catches Peter behind the gates of the set and Peter recognizes him immediately. Peter tells Damiel that he expected Damiel to be a much taller man. Peter then reveals to Damiel that he was once an angel, who, having grown tired of always observing and never experiencing, renounced his immortality to become a participant in the world. Peter tells him, "Oh yey, there's lots of us. Your not the only one." When Peter asks Damiel what he is planning to do with his new existence Damiel says that he is going to find the girl of his dreams.
Damiel sets off to find Marion and when arriving to Marion's lot where earlier her and the troupe were once staying, he realizes they all broke up and left leaving Marion in the city all by herself. That evening at a coffee stand Marion confronts Peter and tells him how she wants to find a man, how she is looking for him and yet doesn't know exactly who he is. Marion attends a concert one evening (and the band playing is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.)
When Damiel arrives they both meet each other at a bar and they greet each other with familiarity as if they had long known each other for a long time. Damiel offers her a drink and she says to him, "it must finally become serious. I've often been alone but I've never lived alone. When I was with someone, I was often happy, but at the same time it all seemed left to chance. I don't know if there's such a thing as destiny, but there is such a thing as deciding. Decide! You and I are now time itself. Last night I dreamed of a stranger...of my man. Only with him could I be lonesome...open up to him, open wholly, wholly for him...welcome him wholly into me...surround him with the labyrinth of shared bliss. I know...it's you."
In the end, Damiel is united with the woman he has desired for so long and supports her with her trapeze lifestyle while Cassiel watches the both of them still as an angel as Damiel says, "I know...now...what...no...angel...knows..." The film ends with the message: 'To be continued. Wings of Desire was followed by a sequel, Faraway, So Close!, in 1993 which was a complete disappointment and isn't necessary to watch. Wings of Desire is a film that stands alone, outside of time and space and exists within its own universe.
In the closing titles of the film it says: "Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrei."
NEW GERMAN CINEMA
The legendary director Werner Herzog was one of the major director's who contributed in the New German Cinema movement which lasted throughout the late 1960's to the 1980's. This movement was a sudden emergence of new generation German director's who produced a number of small low budget avantgarde films that caught the attention of art house audiences and enabled these directors into better financed productions which were even backed by the US studios. Such directors involved in the New German Cinema movement besides Werner Herzog were Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, VolkerSchlondorff, and Wim Wenders; as these young set of filmmakers sparked a renaissance in German cinema and their success encouraged other German filmmakers to make such quality stories. The New German Cinema was influenced by other earlier film movements like the French New Wave, British Kitchen Sink realism, and Italian Neorealism with references to the well-established genres of The Hollywood cinema. These films mostly contained low budget stories that represented contemporary German life as several of these filmmakers were specifically concerned with asking questions about national identity, German history, and the gritty and bleak experiences of modern struggles.
As a reaction to the artistic and economic stagnation of German cinema, these group of young German film-makers issued the Oberhausen Manifesto on 28 February 1962, which was a group that provocatively and confidently declared that "The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema". The Oberhausen Manifesto was a rejection of the existing German film industry and their determination to build a new industry founded on artistic excellence rather than commercial dictates; most famously with Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul and Wim Wender's Wings of Desire.
If ever there was a European art film that could be all things to all people, it’s Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire (1987). Marking Wenders’s career midpoint like a lightning strike cutting across tree rings, the movie is at once audience-seductive and demanding, holistic and aestheticized. It has beguiled the Wenders aficionado as reliably as it’s absorbed the spiritually hungry civilian, the rogue filmhead, the bookish square, and the nondenominational seeker. It seemed upon its release closer to the effervescent fantasias of Michael Powell, Maya Deren, Georges Méliès, and Jean Vigo, as well as Victorian postcards, than to Wenders’s earlier New German Cinema existentialism, or to the troubled legacy of German cinema as a whole. Even after the two-decades-plus of global exploration that has followed for the filmmaker, it appears to be sui generis, born from its own shadowy nitrate soup.
So, let’s think subjectively, you and I, about possible ways to look at the movie, and if none suit you, others are not hard to find. In thumbnail, Wings of Desire belongs to a trafficked subgenre, the angel-on-earth ballade (Victorian, modern-comedic, or otherwise, and usually trifling), but it’s clear we’re a world away from Raoul Walsh’s goofy 1945 Jack Benny comedy The Horn Blows at Midnight (though perhaps closer, in the first half, to the sylphlike angel presences chaperoning the sermonic fables in Lois Weber’s 1915 dream film Hypocrites). There’s little doubt as to the originality of the experience from the very first airborne camera patrols of autumnal cold-war Berlin. In Wenders’s silvery black-and-white view, this is the paradigmatic city wasteland of its age, still war-torn and withstanding a historicized physical and political schizophrenia like no other, symbolized, like the elephant in the parlor, by the wall itself, snaking through the urban spaces covered with graffiti, obliterating your view, wherever you stand, of the city’s other half. This cognitively dissonant urban experiment had frequently been the grim arena for sixties spy noir, but never had we seen Berlin become Berlin so clearly, so eloquently before. (The more sober and evocative German title translates as The Sky over Berlin.) Of course the city is haunted.
Haunted by angels, that is, like Bruno Ganz’s questing hero Damiel, saturnine but benevolent men and women in black coats occupying the thick of human flow, but in a quantum way, in between molecules, present but unseen, and always listening. The details of Wenders’s concept are everything: the fact that the angels’ eavesdropping is both empathetic and voyeuristic, the precise way the angels exude patience and sympathy (not, say, the detachment of analysts observing human folly), the manner in which they slowly lean in and gently place mollifying hands on human shoulders, the unpredictable weft of languages and ethnicities they meet, the fact that most of what the angels hear from their earthling subjects is worry, worry, worry. Arguing, silent recriminations, trauma, doubt, an ambulance in which the pregnant mother addresses her unborn baby (“I can’t wait to see you”) as the husband focuses on the wife (“If only I could suffer in her place”), a public library crowded with angels listening to the hum of learning and inquiry, the occasional child who sees the angels outright but only smiles—this all constitutes a genuine vision of humanity, one that at its heart comes bearing a moral idea. Ironically, given the iconography, it’s a passionately humanist film, suggesting by its very texture and rhythm a prescriptive notion of how we should regard our compatriot Homo sapiens, and how we should seize the mundane moments as they catapult by. It’s a soaring anthem for everydayness, as Buddhist as it is Christlike, but defined by its own metaphysics.
Still, it’s not a pedagogical work but a poetic one, filthy with Keats’s “negative capability.” The film’s revelation of a heaven and earth infrastructure does not absolve mysteries but compounds them. Nevertheless, despite this spirituality, the film’s mysteries turn out to be largely cinematic. Wenders has always been a quintessential Euro movie-lover of the New Wave generation, and Wings of Desire has a rich vein of cinephilic self-reflexivity running through it. After all, although the angels we see can subtly affect human behavior (Damiel steers a suicidal subway rider toward the future, and calms a dying bicyclist after an accident), they, like the moviegoer, are mostly observers.
To watch is to love, as we see in the scene where Damiel, having fallen for Solveig Dommartin’s trapeze artist, Marion, loiters in her trailer, and is galvanized when she begins undressing. He tries to touch her but cannot. Like James Stewart in Rear Window, the angel can only watch, and he is as much defined by his helpless voyeurism as we are in the audience. On one level, the angels are pure-hearted documentarians, bearing witness to life (cinema began as documentary, after all), yet their work is not action but attention. Is there a culpability inherent in the distance of being an observer? (Michael Haneke, among others, has clearly thought so.) Damiel is an idealized surrogate for us and our role, hypnotized and passive and all too human; and if Hitchcock’s film was about the anxiety of viewing, then Wenders’s is about its melancholy, its beauty, its final limitations.
The allegorization of our experience as viewers is bedizened by the spectatorship of the traveling circus (which is regularly breached by the chaos of the active participation of children, something Damiel experiences as rapturous), the film history references (Damiel explains his desire to mix in by saying he wants to be like Philip Marlowe and “come home to a cat”), the news footage of postwar Berlin’s rubble and ruin, and of course the film being shot within the film, some kind of dire concentration camp thriller starring Peter Falk, who senses the angels because, as he explains, he converted to humanity himself “thirty years ago” (and 1957 was indeed when Falk made his first appearance on American television). But Damiel ultimately becomes dissatisfied with his role, and his position as an observer begins to dissolve once he sits beside the costumed Nazi-victim extras, who are “living” in multiple time periods at once, self-observing ruminators as well as subjects, for the film-in-the-film’s cameras, for the angels, for Wenders, and of course for us.
As the angels haunt Berlin, Wings of Desire also has its haunters—the audience, observing the observers. As it dawns that we, at least in the viewing moment, might be closer to the ineffectual angels than to the people they hover over, Damiel edges nearer to surrendering his angelic immortality and omnipotence for a short life of love, books, coffee, wind, children, and urban messiness—in effect, exiting his own private movie house and entering the throng of unaestheticized life. He desires, in a sense, to leave the movie he’s in and join us on our way home. Is the plot arc of Wings of Desire a cry against cinema, even as it equates watching with love? Or does it suggest, to the choir, only a more engaged participation for us, the give-and-take of art film as opposed to the utterly passive experience of Hollywood dross, the Godardian sense that cinema is not an escape from life but life itself? Once Damiel goes human, awakening in the no-man’s-land between the east and west sections of the wall, we as viewers may have an experience akin to Greta Garbo’s after she’d seen the Beast in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast transform into the clean-shaven Jean Marais: “Give me back my Beast.”
But confronting the prosaic Damiel (in color, dressed like a thrift shop retiree, and as penniless as an illegal alien) is part of the strategy, the engagement, the awakening away from the dream of cinema and toward contact. Who said watching movies was a simple or responsibility-free act? When Damiel and Marion meet in a nightclub bar (where, onstage, the angel played by Otto Sander listens in to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but hears nothing), they launch into a notorious, full-frontal logorrheic climax (a Wenders trademark) that effectively leaves us in the dust. But they’re building a mythos outside of the parameters of cinema, and by that point it’s not about us, the audience, any longer, or Wenders. It’s life, carrying on.
The great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke partially inspired the movie Wings of Desire and Wenders claimed angels seemed to dwell in Rilke's poetry which gave the film a sort of magical and hypnotic spell. The director also employed Peter Handke, who wrote much of the dialogue, the poetic narrations, and the film's recurring poem "Song of Childhood." The movie was made with a minimalist script; which became more of a mood piece exploring people, the city, and a concept: a longing for and love of life, existence, reality. In addition to the story of two angels, the film is also a meditation on Berlin's past, present, and future.
Damiel and Cassiel have always existed as angels; they existed in Berlin before it was a city, and before there were even any humans. Peter Falk wasn't meant to be a sketch artist until Wenders discovered Falk's talent and used it to be part of the film. Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander were cast because they were old friends, who had known each other for decades. Solveig Dommartin was Wenders' actress girlfriend at the time; although the circus part required extensive and risky acrobatics, she was able to learn the trapeze and rope moves in only eight weeks, and did all the work herself, without a net.
The film was shot by the legendary 77 year-old cinematographer Henri Alekan, who had worked on Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. The cinematography represents the angels' point of view in monochrome and switches to color to show the human point of view. During filming, Alekan used a very old and fragile silk stocking that had belonged to his grandmother as a filter for the monochromatic sequences. The shift from monochrome to color, to distinguish the angels' reality from the mortals', was first used in A Matter of Life and Death by Powell and Pressburger in 1946.
As revealed in the DVD, Wings of Desire could have turned out to be a far less serious film. Cut scenes from the beginning of the film had Cassiel humorously mimicking the humans' actions. Other cut scenes were experiments of how to show the angel's invisibility/lack of physical form using double exposure, like for instance when Damiel picking up a persons pen in the library or Marion's stone in her caravan; without actually picking it up physically. There are very few special effects in the film which makes the fantastical elements much more subtle and believable for the audience. There was also a scene taken out of the film of a female angel, appearing only during a pan-shot in the library scene.
The end was much different from the final cut as well as it was originally to have Cassiel turn human as well, and finding Damiel and Marion at the bar where they engage in a pie fight. Wings of Desire received 'Two Thumbs Up' from film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert and Ebert later added it to his 'Great Movies' list. Leslie James of 680 News Toronto claims it is one of the best movies of all time. The film won the award for Best Director at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and was ranked #64 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. Unfortunately in 1998, an American remake called City of Angels was released which was greatly inferior to the original German masterpiece.
There are several themes in Wings of Desire but I believe one of the most interesting ones is the theme of voyeurism and how these angels eavesdrop on humans personal thoughts and are able to watch them or place there hands on their shoulders when they are alone during their most intimate and personal moments. And yet I believe what Wenders is slightly saying in the film is that not only are the angels slightly voyeuristic but so is the movie audience. We watch Damiel who has fallen in love with Marion watch her in her caravan as she begins to undress and he even tries to touch her, but can't. Similar to James Stewart's character in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, the audience is as guilty as Damiel and we quietly watch Damiel become defined by his helpless voyeurism; and at the same time we are as well.
In many ways the angels in the film are witnesses and documentarians who observe the ways of life which is similar to the idea of cinema. We watch films to be brought into the personal lives of several characters and bear witness to there sorrows, pain and happiness. To sum it up we are just like the angels; observing the observers. I also find the contrasts of the real life news footage of postwar Berlin's ruins and photos of the real life victims an interesting contrast to the concentration camp movie thriller that stars Peter Falk that is being filmed. It's interesting to see young men portraying Jewish prisoners and Nazi soldiers, (one young man even admires the Nazi's style of wardrobe) and it's interesting on how the film is being shot within a film.
What makes Wings of Desire so enchanting are its mysteries and how it doesn't feel the need to explain everything but to just accept things as it is. It is never really explained how Damiel became human or how Peter Falk converted to be a human thirty years or so ago. It never goes into detail on how Marion expected to meet Damiel in the bar and it is never really said if she knows who he is or if he was an angel. This film is less about plot details and explanations and is more about the essence of it's mysteries, it's questions on existence and the hopes and dreams of a human being. Critic Roger Ebert says, "For me, the film is like music or a landscape: It clears a space in my mind, and in that space I can consider questions. Some of them are asked in the film: 'Why am I me and why not you? Why am I here and why not there? When did time begin and where does space end?'" Wim Wenders is one of the greatest German directors and he began his career in the late 1960's during the era of The New German Cinema. Wenders is known for creating his so-called 'Road Trilogy' which were three films titled Alice in the Cities, The Wrong Move and Kings of the Road; my favorite of the three being Alice in the Cities. His other masterpiece that is usually placed alongside Wings of Desire is Paris,Texas which tells the story about a man who had walked out on his son and wife several years ago. When being picked up by his brother who has raised his son during those years, the father decides to go on a road trip and reunite his son with his mother. In the closing titles of the film it says: "Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrei." This is a reference to the legendary fellow filmmakers Yasujiro Ozu, François Truffaut, and Andrei Tarkovsky in which Wenders' looked at as a strong inspiration. In many ways I find several parts of this film similar to meditative cinema which is very similar to the pacing and style of Andrei Tarkovsky, Carl Dreyer and Yasujiro Ozu. Wings of Desire is less about plot and story and more about experiencing the environment that was created for you. Poetry is a large part of the film and several of the scenes have extended long philosophical dialog based on the beautiful poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke. Like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alain Resnais Last Year at Marienbad, Ingmar Bergman's Persona and Terrance Malick's The Tree of Life, this is a film for audiences to relax, slow down and engross themselves in a world of complete meditation and observation. Sadly films nowadays are less about observing its characters and engrossing themselves into the environment they find themselves in, which unfortunately causes most people to grow inpatient and bored unless something exciting or action packed is happening on-screen. Wings of Desire is one of the most beautiful spiritual experiences in cinematic history and if this film is trying to say anything it is saying that perhaps we humans are not alone and that the possibility of hope, comfort, love and salvation does exist within the afterlife. Wings of Desire is a wonderous and beautiful art film with glorious visuals and beautiful enchanting characters, and if I didn't believe in angels, this film makes me truly want to.