35 years later: The Wings of Desire

Director: Wim Wenders
With : Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander
Operating time: 128 minutes

During the first fifteen years of his career, Wim Wenders had already developed his unique art of cinema. Wenders’ films have struck a balance between visual art without any neglect of storytelling. Much of that ability should be credited to its resident cinematographer Robby Muller, who provided the lens through which these stories will forever be revisited.

Wenders’ imprint on cinema will always be hailed as original, but, as he has so often asserted, his work is richly inspired by that of Yasujirō Ozu. Two years before the start of wings of desireWenders arrived in Tokyo to shoot what he described as “a diary of a movie”, exploring Ozu’s work while contrasting the modernization of Japanese culture in his observational style. Tokyo Ga was released in 1985 and is, in itself, a show of beauty. Now, looking at his works in chronological order, it makes so much sense that his film on Ozu was followed by wings of desire in 1987; they share so much of the same space in the cinema, letting the little human things do the talking.

wings of desire is a dream image. Our angels, ‘Damiel’ and ‘Cassiel’, are our main characters, guiding us through a dual perspective of mortals and immortals in a divided Berlin. Inaudible and invisible to the human inhabitants, they drift from person to person, taking over the internal dialogue. Although endowed with eternity, Damiel begins to understand the beauty of real life and the humanity he never truly experienced. “I would like, with each step, with each gust of wind, to be able to say ‘now’… and no longer ‘forever’ and ‘for eternity’.” He reflects on the sacrifice to become human.

Wenders and co capture the rounded picture of life; otherness often so difficult to apprehend

With Robby Muller shooting Jarmusch By the law, Wenders made way for new cinematographer Henri Alekan, who shot the film in color and sepia black-and-white, each used to represent the mortal and immortal perspective, respectively. The camera moves with omnipotence; through the brick walls and above the city of West Berlin. Damiel and Cassiel’s plans are grand and fantastic. A vast and transcendent feeling is evoked throughout.

Wenders wasn’t alone in the writing; he employed the Austrian novelist Peter Handke to try to capture a style in which the audience could truly grasp and come to terms with the epic and absurd nature of the plot. Handke did not feel able to contribute fully and succinctly, instead sending ideas as notes, which Wenders and his co-contributor Richard Reitinger then formed into a more cohesive narrative.

wings of desire is a balancing act throughout. Melancholy but full of hope. Epic but intimate. Busy but sparse. Wenders and co capture the rounded picture of life; the otherness which is often so difficult to apprehend in our hectic lives. wings of desire invests power and meaning in all our little stories and tries to help us understand the beauty of being human.

Did you know? It was forbidden to film the real Berlin Wall, so a replica of the wall had to be built twice near the original

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