And we, spectators always, everywhere,
looking at, never out of, everything!
—Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Eighth Elegy”
Dear Compañeros, I invite you to fall under the spell of Wings of Desire (1987), Wim Wenders’ visual poem of a scarred, haunted Berlin, of the mortals who inhabit it and the immortal angels who observe and comfort. We follow one observer, Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz) who accepts the ultimate of free will choices, to renounce his immortality and embrace the secular pleasures of the human participant, of the man and lover.
Garbo once famously said, “Give me back my beast,” after a clean-shaven, semi-ordinary Jean Marais emerged from his magical prison in La Belle et La Bête (1946). Once Damiel falls to earth, some may have felt the same. After all, what is a man compared to an angel in armor? But I’m not having it. Give me Bruno Ganz’ deep, ancient smile any day. Give me the messiness and the reality of the human animal over the distant spectator. (Peter Falk knows what’s up!)
2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of this film, and I think it has lost none of its potency, its power to bewitch and enthrall. Is it the melodic beauty of Peter Handke’s poetry and dialogue, Wenders’ virtuosity filming a city, the eternal power of a love story, or the meditation on spirituality that isn’t about religion? Or simply that it’s beautifully shot and wonderfully acted? To paraphrase Peter Falk, you have to figure it out for yourself…that’s the best part!
What you’ll find in this episode: how Wenders managed to create a film about angels that isn’t about god, what Ericca imagines Bruno Ganz’ jaw and Ethan Hawke’s goatee smell like, and why we believe Peter Falk really was an angel.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Wings of Desire on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Before Sunrise.
Cole’s further viewing pick of People on Sunday.
Wim Wenders’ early treatment of Wings of Desire called “An Attempted Description of an Indescribable Film.”
An overview of 5 fascinating films on the world’s urban metropolises and 11 documentaries on cities (which may or may not still be streaming).
RIP Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk, Otto Sander, and Curt Bois.