Wings of Desire
We are not alone, German auteur Wim Wenders argues in his beautiful, poetic urban parable Wings of Desire (1987). Unseen, unbidden, angels hover at our shoulders, reading our thoughts, commiserating with our troubles and fears, offering a consoling touch that we may notice no more than the landing of a fly. Of course, being an angel—undying, stoic, disconnected physically from the mortal world (Wenders films the angels in gleaming black and white)—doesn’t absolve one from doubt and loneliness. Thus, angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) finds himself increasingly drawn to down-at-the-heels trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and to the human frailties we take for granted, ignore, or even curse: feeling the cold and lying, say, but also warmth and love. Wenders bundles these musings together with a somewhat jarring appearance from Peter “Columbo” Falk as an American actor with an interesting secret, the then-divided city of Berlin, and, of all things, a galvanic live performance from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Wenders’ course here may seem a little erratic, but he steers around cheap sentimentality and easy platitudes and right into the heart of the matter: Nothing makes us appreciate life and love more than their absence. Few films explore that truth with more feeling or skill.