Movie Review: Wings of Desire

I appreciate when an interesting film is suggested, especially when the person mentions that the movie had a great impact. Heather, one of my Instagram connections, made such a mention several days ago. She included a still from the movie Wings of Desire and posted that she saw this film as a teen and it altered her life.

I was intrigued, and inspired. Those words created a powerful draw for me. This afternoon, as I allowed my knee to continue to recover by resting it, a movie seemed to be the perfect quiet activity. I rented this 1987 release online, via Amazon Video, and watched it on my iPhone.

Wings of Desire is a German film, with English subtitles, starring Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, Solveig Dommartin, Curt Bois and Peter Falk. This fantasy drama was written and directed by Wim Wenders and carries a PG-13 rating. The film has a run time of 2 hours and 8 minutes.

In Berlin, angels Damiel (Ganz) and Cassiel (Sander) wander about the city, watching the residents as they live their lives. Invisible to all except for children and other angels, these beings are more than guardians, they are witnesses. They can hear the thoughts of humans, like thousands of radio programs playing at once. And although they cannot interfere with humans, or be heard if they speak, the angels often have a calming or encouraging effect on the troubled or depressed.

Cassiel is following an older man named Homer (Bois), who longs for peace. He is a storyteller. If he stops telling his stories, who will tell them, he wonders? When he stumbles, or feels winded, Cassiel steadies him and calms him with a light touch on the shoulder or back. Not every human responds to the help offered. Atop a building, Cassiel crouches near a suicidal man, laying his head on the man’s shoulder, willing him to stay. The man jumps anyway. Cassiel cries out in agony.

Damiel seems particularly fond of children, smiling at them as he walks the streets or perches high above the city. He stops to soothe a man hit by a car, and brings hope and a surge of courage to a despondent man riding the bus. Cassiel and Damiel meet daily to share stories from their journals. They communicate without speaking.

Peter Falk, as himself, arrives in Berlin to play a detective in a new film. Damiel is fascinated by the actor, as Peter senses the angel’s presence and speaks to him.

At a nearby, seedy circus a young trapeze artist, Marion (Dommartin) works to bring joy to customers through her art. The circus is shutting down early in the season though, the owners unable to pay their bills. There is only one performance left. Although she lives a life of creativity and freedom, Marion’s thoughts take her into fear about her future.

Damiel is most drawn to this young woman. He attends her performances, an invisible spectator in the crowd. In her trailer, he listens to her thoughts, hears her fearful questions, feels her determination to be who she wants to be. Marion’s grappling with life, and her journey of joys and sorrows, creates a longing in Damiel to be human, and to experience all that they do, including mortality.

This movie, filmed primarily in black and white, was achingly beautiful. The only time color was introduced was when we saw from a human’s perspective. As most of the story is told through Damiel, most of the movie is in black and white. I liked that cinematic decision. The angels spoke very little, although their thoughts were shared. Much was told by way of facial expressions and body language, and through the incessant thoughts of the humans around them. The lack of color played well in creating a starkness and sense of isolation among the humans.

And the humans were very isolated from each other. It was brilliant, hearing their thoughts. Although many of the people had carefully blank faces, their thoughts were a swirl of fears, anxieties, complaints and hopelessness. Sadly, how true this depiction is. How controlled by our thoughts we humans are. How fearful we are.

There is help, a world behind this world. I believe this with all my soul. I know it to be true. This powerful film not only reveals the extreme isolation that most people live with, it beautifully depicts that we are not actually alone. Unseen may be the witnesses to our lives, unless we have the believing hearts of children, but they are there, whispering hope in our ears, laying comforting hands on our shoulders. Our intuition alerts us that they are there. We get goosebumps. We feel a tingle of energy across our scalps. We feel courage.

There were so many things to love about this unusual movie. And if it seems familiar, the US film, City of Angels, was based on Wings of Desire. Watch this earlier one for the truths embedded in it.

“Time heals all, but what if time itself is the disease? Damiel

Watch it to feel compassion for humanity’s frailties and sufferings, and to feel hope for peace. Watch it to be encouraged that even when we appear to be struggling, alone and unseen, the Divine is surrounding us with witnesses who walk alongside, whether they are acknowledged, or not, thanked or not, believed in…or not.

Wings of Desire. I am grateful that this thought provoking movie came into my awareness.