Friday, 15 November 2013

Wings of Desire (1987)

A German Gem

Wim Wenders’ spiritual odyssey into the joys and heartaches of everyday existence exemplifies the best of European cinema. With monochrome cinematography, a trilingual script, and the metropolitan locations of Cold War Berlin, Wings of Desire has the ingredients of a unique piece of art. Film has never again come so close to painting the world in life-affirming wonder.

A wandering angel (Bruno Ganz) falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin).
Without choosing to become mortal and relinquishing his divinity, the two lonesome hearts can never truly meet.

There is no denying that Wenders has crafted a very strange movie. It depicts a world in which angels are omnipresent, silently watching over their mortal flock and eavesdropping into our thoughts. A serene existence, but one tinged with the curse of eternity. Unable to interfere in worldly events, these holy figures are doomed to witness humanity’s endless tragedies as well as triumphs.

While the script occasionally slips into a Terrence Malick-styled pseudo-philosophical soup, the overall impact of its meditative poetry is one of sublime brilliance, stirring passion and complete awe. The opening act skips between the internal monologues of various strangers, absorbing a comforting sensation of mundane contentment in their lives. A little boy bemoans the lack of decent programming on his television, a tired father despairs of his rebellious son and Peter Falk pensively considers his new role.

Countless scenes scream of an unrivalled aesthetic beauty. In one instance a public library is seen to simultaneously exist as a silent, almost dour environment (our world) alongside that of a bustling hub of scrambled thought-noise (angel world). Angels are scattered across the building, leaning over studious readers, shepherding their spirits in the hope of protecting their souls. No dialogue is spoken: none is needed. We can see everything we need in a gentle acknowledging nod or a soft caressing palm of the attentive guardians.

Germany’s capital is the perfect location for such elegant cinematography. Its vibrancy and visual allure is in harsh contrast to the haunting flashes of devastation inflicted in 1945. A car becomes a time machine as its surroundings plunge into the horror of death and dictatorship which characterised the war-torn city.

Furthermore, the wall between east and west - which is visible in numerous scenes – provides a fitting symbolic backdrop to the story of two divided worlds. It would be another two years after the film's release before David Hasslehoff had the chance to sing on top of the border's ruins.

An ineffable grandeur lies at the heart of Wenders’ visual masterpiece. Very easily it might have been tediously slow and pretentious. On the contrary, Wings of Desire presents a goosebump inducing, moving and intelligent appraisal of our species. There are not enough synonyms of 'beauty' in the English language to do it justice.


No comments:

Post a Comment