Sunday, July 06, 2008

Der Himmel über Berlin / Wings of Desire

Wim Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire / Der Himmel über Berlin ("The Sky Over Berlin"), features beautiful cinematography, a primal story line and a memorable soundtrack. As in silent films, the viewer is given plenty of room to absorb profiles of faces, body language, and details of setting.

We follow two recording angels (Bruno Ganz, Damiel; Otto Sander, Cassiel) as they roam above and in the streets of Berlin, observing people's thoughts. All shots from the angels' perspective are in black and white; mortals' points of view come alive with color: a very effective and humbling technique. The angels mostly take notes, but they are often moved to provide moments of spiritual solace to people in despair, simply by hovering invisibly near.

There are apparently a lot of angels around, but Wings of Desire focuses only on Damiel and Cassiel and another angel who took mortal form in the 1960s. There is a subplot involving Peter Falk as himself (more or less), there are time bending glimpses into Berlin on fire and in ruins in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, there are stunning shots of the Berlin Wall, and scenes with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There's also a trapeze artist, Marion, played evocatively by Solveig Dommartin.

Eventually, Damiel decides to "go mortal" to experience humanity and to hook up with Marion.

Pictured here: Otto Sander and Nick Cave. The soundtrack features Bad Seeds songs, including "The Carny," and a lot of other atmospheric music.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have a new album out in 2008: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! Wenders has a new movie coming out soon: The Palermo Shoot. Bruno Ganz is near perfect playing Adolf Hitler in Downfall (2004). Finally, I hadn't seen Wings of Desire in nearly fifteen years until yesterday, so was sad to discover that Solveig Dommartin died last year at age 45 -- of a heart attack. Hopefully she's among the angels now.

Today's Rune: Strength.


Charles Gramlich said...

There have been quite a few movies and or books about angels taking on mortality, or having it forced upon them. Strangely, I was just watching Constantine last night where that happened.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Charles,

Thanks for the comment! I didn't mention the very cool interior library shots with ethereal music, nor the poet character Homer who wanders around Berlin.

To me, this beats all the other angel stories -- at least the ones I've come across to date. It's a very beautiful film.

Beth said...

Wings of Desire is one of my ten fave flicks. Bruno Ganz is lovely in the movie.