Wim Wenders’ 1987 masterpiece has a lot to say about Berlin, humanity, life and death. Unexpectedly meta and deeply romantic – Wings of Desire remains a European contemporary classic; something of a youngest child to the German New Wave movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Bruno Ganz play Damiel, one of the many angels who watches over the citizens of Berlin. Along with his fellow angels he attempts to bring comfort to the humans he looks over. Spending lots of his time looking over mankind from tall buildings, sitting with individuals in public places and comforting them in life’s most crucial moments. Damiel longs to be human. He describes the innocence, freedom and naivety of childhood in deeply moving and reoccurring monologues which resonate with us, the audience, on a personal level. Peter Falk features as himself, working on a film but sharing with us his inner thoughts; he’s one of the individuals Damiel follows around. Damiel’s desire to be human is enhanced dramatically when he falls in love with a trapeze artist who’s going through her own emotional turmoil. At its heart, Wings of Desire celebrates the joyous and complex finer details that make us human. Damiel longs to drink coffee, rub his hands together to encourage warmth and feel his weight and imprint on the leather seat of a car. Damiel is stuck in a black and white world – longing to feel the same emotions and complex contradictions we humans bring upon one another and ourselves.
Two key components make Wings of Desire a masterpiece – the dilemma of masculinity and romance and the barriers and margins put it place by Wenders throughout the film. The angels live in a world of black and white. Colour consumes the movie when we cross over the rainbow into the human realm. Along with the oppositions of colour, Wenders also incorporates German politics into his story and aesthetic. The Berlin Wall, which fell less than two years after the film’s completion, runs through many of the film’s scenes. Perhaps East and West Berlin represent heaven and earth – whether or not this is correct, it’s hard to imagine Wings of Desire being the same if it’d been filmed in another European city or country. Berlin is integral to Wings of Desire, a lively backdrop for an unconventional love story. Damiel is in agony, a pain only increased by his love for Marion. Romantic love is rarely told from a male point of view this sincerely. Ganz is magnificent and Falk’s involvement compliments Ganz, bringing a humorous, meta quality to an otherwise deeply philosophical movie about love, turmoil and first and foremost desire – in its purest form. Wenders masters spirituality, vulnerable masculinity and complex humanity in a movie that may be just a little bit too long but which is certainly brimming with deep truths about the human condition.
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