Wings of Desire travels between both the immortal and the human. Through two angels, an image of the people whose city they inhabit is presented to us as is the city itself. We are given a world of angels, specifically two angels named Damiel and Cassiel, portrayed by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander, who populate Berlin and move through it and above it, listening to the thoughts of a whole variety of Berliners – a people who appear in the film isolated and sort of apart from anybody and anything else, despite living together in a large city.
The film cleverly cuts from black-and-white to colour, as a way of making clear the shift from the angels’ points of view, and the human world. As the angels roam, as they have seemingly done since before the world was even populated with humans, they encounter many different people and situations. They sit and listen to the thoughts of a pregnant woman, of an artist struggling for ideas, of a broken man in a failing relationship. The thoughts of these people are heard over each scene, while the angels simply watch, invisible. They seem to offer something to the humans, despite the fact that each person is oblivious of their presence. It is in this way that a picture of a city, but more than that, of a people and human life as it is, can be built and slowly developed throughout the story.
At one point, they enter a great library, and a thousand thoughts can be heard, intertwined and completely incomprehensible. The thoughts of those reading in their heads, from the books contained within. In the library, one person they come across is an old man named Homer, the aged poet. Unlike the Homer of Greek legend, he anticipates an epic of peace. Through his thoughts, he leaves the two angels and the viewer with the question, ‘what is so wrong with peace that its inspiration does not endure?’
Wings of Desire also consists of a number of other subplots which carry the whole concept into a range of different places. Every so often, it shifts to a fictional American filmmaker, Peter Falk, who has journeyed to Berlin to make a film circulating around the city’s Nazi past. As his story unfolds, the truth of his history, his existence and his humanity start to appear. At other times, the film focuses in on a drifting trapeze artist named Marion, played by Solveig Dommartin, who one of the angels, Damiel, begins to fall in love with. His growing obsession with her, leads to a growing obsession with humanity, the pleasures that come with living, with feeling and with tasting. His whole immortality is brought into question. At the same, Cassiel is faced with a young man on the verge of suicide.
The whole film feels purely poetic, like it was somehow lifted off an old page and placed in a different form. With a minimal script, mainly made up of a kind of poetic narrative, it mainly sets about to capture a mood and say something about people, about a city, about existence and about desire through the use of mood, much like a poem, or a song. In fact, Wim Wenders has stated that the film was actually greatly inspired by the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, whose poetry, he believes, carries angels in some form or another. It is a film about human physicality and the sensations that come with human life. Through Wender’s angels we are reminded of the fact that maybe a life lived in a spiritual world, and that alone, can never be enough.
Wings of Desire at IMDb
Wings of Desire at Rotten Tomatoes
Wings of Desire at Wikipedia
Wings of Desire at wim-wenders.com
Wim Wenders official website at wim-wenders.com
Reiner Maria Rilke at poetryfoundation.org
Faraway, So Close! by Wim Wenders at Unsung Films
Search Unsung Films for “Wim Wenders”