Wings of Desire
A beautiful, thoughtful, meandering film, Wings of Desire doesn't so much tell a story as it does carry you along on a half whimsical, half sobering tour of humanity.Wings of Desire (1987) just oozes with the affectations of capital-A "art," from the moody, black and white cinematography to the unsteady, gritty realism of the scenes. But while you wait for it to collapse under the weight of its own self-importance, it ends up sucking you in. It makes you cock your head to one side in wonder.
The movie, which was the inspiration for the decidedly uninspired City of Angels (1998), primarily follows an angel (Bruno Ganz) who has literally seen it all and desperately yearns to experience firsthand the ups and downs of the unremarkable human lives he observes and manipulates every day. He finally takes the plunge after drifting into the run-down life of Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a trapeze artist whose traveling circus is shutting down.
Wings of Desire moves forward primarily via poetic, flowery voice-overs that follow assorted characters around divided Berlin. Some of the characters barely connect with the already vague storyline. But while sometimes distracting, the words and images are often captivating the mix most effectively used as we quietly listen in on the internal monologues of dozens of city dwellers. This is what our angel hears every waking moment. It's no wonder he might yearn for the solitary silence of mortality.
Most notably, Peter Falk plays himself in the movie, in all his worn Columbo glory. And it is his eventual revelation that snaps much of the movie's wispy threads into focus. Even more remarkable, then, is the fact that his role wasn't even in the original script, and pretty much improvised on the spot.
There's no real conclusion to the movie: no climax, no final triumph. We're only given a fragment of a longer storyline, and the closing scene and Marion's one barely coherent soliloquy might leave you scratching your head.
But, deliciously, the ideas that Wings of Desire stirs up linger in your mind, and keep you thinking and smiling knowingly for days.
I'm not quite sure what director Wim Wenders was trying to say, and a platoon of movie critics and philosophy professors have been similarly perplexed. But whatever his message, I'm thankful to have received it, and you will be too.
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© 1997-2008 Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org · Created: 23 February 2004 · Last Modified: 14 January 2008