Friday, July 25, 2014

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1987)

Director: Wim Wenders
Writers:  Wim Wenders, Peter Handke
Cast:       Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander

An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.

The German title of the film translates literally to 'Heaven above Berlin' and it is about invisible and immortal angels who listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants and comfort those who are in distress. Out of the two angels whose perspective we largely see in the film, one of them played by Bruno Ganz (Hitler in Downfall) is having an angelic existential crisis with him longing for a human life. He is sick knowing everything that is going on through the minds of people whom he sees and wants a bit more of surprise and intrigue to his existence. The angelic perspective in the film is shown in black and white and of humans' in color. The last half hour of the film is largely in color.

Most of the dialog are poetic in nature and also delivered in that style. The film begins with the following lines:

Damiel: When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging. It wanted the stream to be a river, the river a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea. When the child was a child, it didn't know it was a child. Everything was full of life, and all life was one. When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, no habits. It often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and didn't make faces when photographed.

Angels in the film can be seen as the enlightened/intellectual souls who are highly aware of what is going on truly knows what drives people's desires and their actions (They have read 'Selfish Gene'). Damiel is sick of this and wants a more normal life which is why he embraces what is human life in this film. He later discovers that he is not the first angel to do this. When he finally meets the girl whom he fell in love they have the following conversation/monologue as if they have known each other for a long time:

Marion: Now it's serious. At last it's becoming serious. So I've grown older. Was I the only one who wasn't serious? Is it our times that are not serious? I was never lonely neither when I was alone, nor with others. But I would have liked to be alone at last. Loneliness means I'm finally whole. Now I can say it as tonight, I'm at last alone. I must put an end to coincidence. The new moon of decision. I don't know if there's destiny but there's a decision. Decide! We are now the times. Not only the whole town - the whole world is taking part in our decision. We two are now more than us two. We incarnate something. We're representing the people now. And the whole place is full of those who are dreaming the same dream. We are deciding everyone's game. I am ready. Now it's your turn. You hold the game in your hand. Now or never. You need me. You will need me. There's no greater story than ours, that of man and woman. It will be a story of giants... invisible... transposable... a story of new ancestors. Look. My eyes. They are the picture of necessity, of the future of everyone in the place. Last night I dreamt of a stranger... of my man. Only with him could I be alone, open up to him, wholly open, wholly for him. Welcome him wholly into me. Surround him with the labyrinth of shared happiness. I know... it's you.

The film ends with a to be continued note and it was later on followed up with a sequel 'Faraway, so close!' which I haven't seen yet. Then comes the closing credits which begins with: "Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, Francois and Andrej" which is a reference to legendary filmmakers Ozu, Truffaut and Tarkovsky. 

Rating: 5/5