Monday, November 7, 2016

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #152 – Wings Of Desire (1987, dir. Wim Wenders)

Damiel: 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 not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn't life under the sun just a dream? Isn't what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn't before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?

Wings of Desire is Wim Wenders’ gorgeous, philosophical, poetic love note to humanity. When I first stumbled upon this film I was in a very strange place in my life, trying to find my footing and direction, and working toward a somewhat unknown goal of the future. The tone, tenor and the inquisitive yet hopeful nature of this film resonated with me on an unforeseen level. The beauty of human kind is that we all have a story, and that the journey, filled with good, bad, and everything in between, is what makes life worth living. The preceding lofty statement is what Wenders successfully attempts to encapsulate in this beautiful and timeless piece.

The narrative follows Damiel, an angel constantly in love with humanity and engaging in the intense mental battle of whether to fall and become a human to create his own narrative. Damiel is accompanied on his journey through Berlin (during the tumultuous time before the fall of the wall) by another angel named Cassiel. Both of the angels are tasked with observing and cataloging the day-to-day lives of humankind as they walk unseen among them, listening to each person’s every thought. They spend time discussing the simplest, seemingly mundane activities with an infectious adoration. The film follows the angels as they observe a number of interesting characters. There is Homer, “The Aged Poet,” who wanders pondering the great mysteries of life and what lies ahead for him as he nears the end of his life; Peter Falk (playing himself) is an actor shooting a film set in WWII Nazi Germany and questioning the nature of art and his place in the world; and finally there is Marion, the beautiful trapeze artist who steals Damiel’s heart through her poetic ruminations on life and love.

The film, which was shot by Henri Alekan, strikingly moves in between stunning black and white representing the world of the angels and luscious color representing the world of mankind. This creates an amazing dynamic that mirrors the idea that Damiel, Cassiel, and the rest of the angels are merely there to observe and cannot affect the work around them, or fully experience or appreciate human life/existence. This visual cue/metaphor is incredibly effective in creating that divide, which is key to the motivations of Damiel.

With a film that is so philosophical, where the majority of the dialog is in thought, the actors are truly put to the test. Being able to convey certain emotions without actually speaking any line (except that of the mental voiceover) can be difficult to do without falling into the trap of overacting. This is yet another facet where this film shines. Bruno Ganz, as Damiel, and Otto Sander, as Cassiel, are perfect in the roles as the pensive but lovingly optimistic angels. Curt Bois brilliantly plays the aged poet with reserve and subtlety; Peter Falk brings some well-placed levity to the story; and Solveig Dommartin is perfectly seductive as the melancholic yet hopeful goth-rocking trapeze artist. There is true depth to the acting talent in this film.

To recap, this is quite possibly one of the most poignant and poetic cinematic love letters to human kind. It’s beautifully shot and acted, the narrative is brilliant but pensive, and if you need any more of a push to check out this film there is an awesome cameo from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It’s hard for me to fully express how much this film means to me, but I would just honestly love to turn you on to this movie, so please check it out!

-         Edward Hill

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