Wings of Desire (1987) (1987)
October 22, 2018 8:17 PM - Subscribe

Two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, glide through the streets of Berlin, observing the bustling population, providing invisible rays of hope to the distressed but never interacting with them. When Damiel falls in love with lonely trapeze artist Marion, the angel longs to experience life in the physical world, and finds -- with some words of wisdom from actor Peter Falk -- that it might be possible for him to take human form.

A new restoration is in circulation now, taking advantage of the fact that we no longer need to process the film umpteen times to juxtapose black-and-white and color imagery. Just as strange and beautiful as when I saw it as a kid, with Peter Falk providing some much-needed down-to-earth moments.
posted by praemunire (9 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oooh. I hadn't heard about the restoration. I'll have to seek it out.

Such a beautiful movie.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, a fantastic movie. I was really moved.

Wenders made a sequel with the same cast, Far Away, So Close!, which was good but not as amazing as this one.

The film was loosely remade in Hollywood as City of Angels.
posted by ubiquity at 11:27 AM on October 23, 2018

Yeah, this movie's gorgeous.

I find myself a little surprised to see that it was made in 1987, but i think I would have been surprised to see it pinned any given year. It's a weird blend of classic and contemporary sensibilities, such that doesn't feel like it belongs to a particular time or place. It's really something special.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:54 PM on October 23, 2018

Here is finally a place where I can confess the huge crush I got on Bruno Ganz in this movie. I was in high school and an English teacher assigned us to watch it; I adored it. I could not imagine what the point of a remake was, especially not one starring Nicolas Cage, so if it is any good I do not know.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:14 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have an odd form of color blindness which means that I can only see blue and shades of gray, so whenever anyone wants to know what the world looks like to me I point them to this movie.
posted by kyrademon at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

We just got to see this again on a big screen a free months ago at a local art house cinema. I love Wim Wenders just in general but especially Wings of Desire and Until the End of the World. I stumbled upon them in high school and even all my arty farty friends were like "wtf is this boring-ass shit" (they were way more into David Lynch because teenaged dudes and I will never forgive them for dragging me to Wild at Heart). It does kind of confirm to me that I'm not a complete philistine.

(No mention of Nick Cave yet?)
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, no, this movie is super 1987, with the divided Berlin and the Nick Cage and the way the people dress when they're not in circus costumes.

The long sequence in the Berlin library is just so beautiful. I feel like maybe it (meaning the film) went on about 20 minutes too long, but, you know, nitpicking.
posted by praemunire at 1:26 PM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

In grad school a professor rented a 35mm print to show this as an example of non-plot-driven film narration - foregrounding mood and character rather then the standard three acts of Hollywood-style storytelling. Those of us who hadn't seen it before thought it was mystical, amazing, artful - a beautiful puzzle to figure out. Then we were told to reconvene on a Saturday to watch it again, because the first time reels had been mislabeled and our projectionist had assembled the print out of order. It made more sense of course, and we were kind of disappointed that our attempts to interpret it were based on this error. Somehow though the feeling of wonder persisted.

Something to watch for: Wenders' camera moves seem to have specific narrative implications, different than the conventional uses Hollywood has accustomed us to. Watch scene transitions carefully and you'll realize many shots and edits reflect the POV of the angels. Also note how he uses long tracking shots in non-standard ways - the approach to the motorcycle crash victim seems to be Damiel's pov, and then he walks into the shot; the sweeping pans back and forth in the no-man's-land between the walls with Cassiel just before Damiel's transition. This film was so rewarding to analyze carefully - it was like looking closely at the fine brush work, and then stepping back to see the full effect again.

I love love this movie.

But I find the Nick Cave sequences jarring, even unpleasant.
posted by conscious matter at 2:08 PM on October 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

Wild to me that both this and Octopussy hinge on an apparent mania for the circus in West Berlin in the 80s.
posted by COBRA! at 6:58 AM on August 31, 2020

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