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“When the child was a child, it didn’t know it was a child.” is part of the opening voice-over to Wings of Desire. A critically acclaimed, artsy, German film from the late 80′s, Wings of Desire has been considered by many to be one of the top 100 movies ever made. After watching it and thinking about it for nearly four days, I can’t say I agree
Wings of Desire is a predominantly black and white movie filmed in a very artistic point of view. Sprawling scenery shots and slow scenes follow an angel Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz – perhaps recognized from The Manchurian Candidate) as he watches over people in communist separated Berlin, Germany. In addition to Damiel, there is a whole group of angels who also spend their days looking over people. In one of my favorite scenes, Damiel and a fellow angle, Cassiel (played by Otto Sander – Das Boot) discuss what happened on that day in history and then go over what happen “today.” The idea that something meaningless today could be history in the future and is recorded by angels is rather intriguing. On the other hand, a large part of the movie is just scenes cut together to try and build a story around Damiel’s goal of feeling something and being human.
A seemingly out of place cameo appearance by Peter Falk (best known for his role as TV detective, Columbo) eventually makes sense but not until after you have gone through nearly two hours of film. Scene after scene, voice over and operatic like settings makes the movie feel almost to artsy and forced. One example would be the nearly 10 minute scene of Damiel’s human love interest, Marion as she performed her trapeze act in a circus. Another is the out of place scenes of Cassiel following a dying man as he recounts how the world has changed and will never be the same once he leaves. In all the scenes, there is voice-over that represents the inner voices of the local Berlin residents living their daily life. These voice-overs however sound far too trite and poetic to truly represent inner monologue. A driver going through traffic supposedly is thinking, “Are there still borders? More than ever! Every street has its borderline. Between each plot, there’s a strip of no-man’s-land disguised as a hedge or a ditch.” Who thinks that while driving?
From an artistic point of view, sure Wings of Desire is an amazing film. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about getting into film or photography as it shows some amazing ways to frame a scene. However, if you are looking for a coherent movie that follows a logical and understandable story line, this may not be for you. At the end I couldn’t help but feel that the director, Wim Wenders and writers, Peter Handke and Richard Reitinger had just read a few psychology books and wanted to write a script that would impress a girl with their sensitivity and mental fortitude. The end scene between Damiel and Marion felt like reading a student’s white paper and knowing that they highlighted every other word and clicked the thesaurus to find a bigger word in an attempt to mask their inability to write a good paper.
Other movies that I was reminded of due to the filming and cinematography: