Wings of Desire

I was in a pretty awful mood today, and I lazed around the house reading Ann Rule (uh, yes I am currently paying back my loans for my English literature major, why do you ask?) instead of watching my film. I finally got myself to sit down and watch it, and I'm so glad I did. I watched Wings Of Desire (the German title is The Sky over Berlin), directed in 1987 by Wim Wenders. I didn't really do anything other than mash buttons on my remote before watching it, so I had no idea what it was about going into it. I'm sort of glad that I didn't, personally - the plot, what little there was, was borrowed from heavily for the Hollywood film City of Angels. Yunno, with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan or something. I didn't see it, and  it makes me feel tired to even think about it. Since Wings of Desire is slow and moody, there isn't much plot, so all plot summaries sound like City of Angels. Please do not confuses these movies and see what I presume is a bad Nic Cage film instead.
Wings of Desire made my mood...better. It was pensive and rambling enough to fit my state of mind, but somehow optimistic and uplifting enough to make me feel better. It really worked for me, and I felt...touched by it, I guess. I loved everything, from the vague plot to the striking cinematography - but most of all I loved the dialogue, which was, in essence, simply poetry spoken by the characters. It also had Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This movie was made for me to love, apparently.

The film follows, as you might have guessed, two angels, Cassiel and Damiel. They often perch on high places, but other than that, they don't look like "angels" as American pop culture portrays them. They were long black coats and scarves, and silently observe life on Earth. Ebert, who knows more about religion than I do, writes, "They are a reflection of the solitude of God, who created everything and then had no one to witness what he had done; the role of the angels is to see" (The Great Movies, 487). They can hear the thoughts of humans, and muse over them with each other, sharing their observations and memories. Cassiel follows Homer, an aging poet, who yearns to write an epic of peace. Cassiel also witnesses tradegdy, and is torn and haunted by it. Damiel follows people as well, notably Peter Falk (played by Peter Falk), who is directing a Holocaust film. More importantly to the story,  Damiel discovers a trapeze artist, Marion, who lives alone and captivates him. He falls in love - and then is left to ponder if he should give up his immortality to be with her.

There are many other small moments in the film that are captivating, but to just explain them is dull - you need to see the film for yourself to experience it. I just felt...deeply moved and enthralled with these little characters and moments. I loved Homer, and his musings were powerful. As he walks through the library in Berlin, he thinks to himself, "What is wrong with peace that its inspiration doesn't endure?" Do you ever read beautiful poetry and feel an almost physical reaction to it? That's what I felt watching this movie, listening to the flowing, perfect dialogue. I know that this sounds stupid, I can't help it. I really just was in awe of the dialogue. It felt so believable for the characters to speak this way that I never really thought about it twice - I just listened. I could keep quoting the film and rambling about why I love it, but I won't bore you.

The cinematography was done by Henri Alekan, who also was the cinematographer for Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. Everything concerning the angels is shot in black and white, while the human world is in color. I didn't know that going into it. After a long time of the monochrome palette, I actually let out a tiny gasp when the film suddenly switched into vibrant colors. I really liked this idea, and it worked really well for me. There was a moment when Cassiel pauses in front of a winged statue, and he stands so that the wings are his own. I smiled when I saw that - it was sort of charming. Ebert writes about the motion of his camera, saying, "His camera seems liberated from gravity; it floats over the city, or glides down the aisle of an airplane. It does not intrude; it observes. When the angel follows the trapeze artist into a rock club, it doesn't fall into faster cutting rhythms; it remains detached" (The Great Movies, 489-490). I really loved the movement of the camera, as well.

I really just adore this movie. It's for sure not for everyone, since it is a more boring and esoteric, with not so much plot.  I just fell in love with the dialogue, the tone, the acting - everything. It just worked really well for me, although I understand that most people I know might not feel the same way. Anthony came home to listen to me rave about it nonstop, but I have a feeling he would fall asleep five minutes into it, were I to put it on right now. It's that sort of thing - it doesn't make you anything to like or not like the film. I just happen to really have been blown away by it. :)
I'll leave you with Ebert's final thoughts on the film, because I agree, so much: "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?"" (The Great Movies, 491).

Have any of you seen Wings of Desire? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Wings of Desire

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