EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|WINGS OF DESIRE (DER HIMMEL UBER BERLIN) (director/writer: Wim Wenders; screenwriter: Peter Handke; cinematographer: Henri Alekan; editor: Peter Przygodda; music: Jurgen Knieper; cast: Bruno Ganz (Damiel), Solveig Dommartin (Marion), Otto Sander (Cassiel), Curt Bois (Homer), Peter Falk (Peter Falk), Nick Cave (Himself); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Anatole Dauman; Orion; 1987-W.Germany/France-in German, French and English, with English subtitles)|
|"Demands to be seen by cinema lovers."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Wim Wenders ("Lisbon Story"/"Paris, Texas"/"Buena
Vista Social Club") makes a risky
whimsical movie about a divided Berlin and its melancholy residents,
and also throws a few angels into the mix to stir the pot. It turns
into an inspired magical film that is a blend of comedy, romance,
politics (which never clearly gets at what Wenders is driving at) and
philosophical musings. The
German title, Der Himmel
means the sky over Berlin.
There are invisible angels (the ones found
in poetry, not those in Christian dogma), men in overcoats, who are
perceived as guides from the divine world for children, the innocent
and those with a sense of awe for life's treats. Two descended guardian
angels, Cassiel (Otto Sander) and Damiel (Bruno Ganz), while hovering
around unseen in West Berlin observe in black and white the lives of
those in the city and eavesdrop
on their thoughts.
The angels are captivated by
the following three mortal characters: American actor Peter Falk, who
is in town making a movie about Nazis that's being shot in a World War II bunker. While grappling to get a handle on his
detective part, Falk feels the presence of an angel around him and will
later tell the angel that he's been a fallen angel for the last thirty
years (Tell me it's not true ... Columbo!). An aging frail writer named
Homer (Curt Bois), first
seen at the National Library, ponders the devastation of the past and
is troubled that the world might no longer have story-tellers as
spiritual guides when he dies. The lonely but beautiful French trapeze artist Marion
Dommartin) sulks that her struggling small-time French Alekan Circus,
which pitches its tents in a vacant lot, is forced to disband for the
season and she might have to be a waitress again. The angel Damiel
falls madly in love with her and decides to relinquish his immortality
to become a mortal
human being so he can experience love first-hand. Damiel
seeks to know what no angel knows--what it's like to love someone.
Writers Wenders and Peter Handke have shifted the
focus away from the observations of the angels
on the mortals and instead they wonder
what it would be like for an angel to become human in such a harsh
and sad world and live to enjoy the everyday things--drinking coffee,
feeling the temperature changes and burning with all kinds of desires.
Australian punk rockers Nick
Cave and the Bad Seeds play at the raunchy club where
Damiel meets Marion, where she defines in a long romantic sermon how
she wishes their relationship should materialize.
The 79-year-old Henri Alekan, the legendary cinematographer on Jean Cocteau's Beauty And The Beast, as a favor to Wenders came out of retirement to work on Wings of Desire. His stunningly beautiful black and white photography is a reminder of how they did it right during the early silents and during the days of German expressionism. The film goes from color, representing the mortal world, to black and white representing the otherworld. Its magic is more in the photography than in the lyrical story, that turns soggy with a sentimental love story and risks falling into something so absurd that it's risible. But it's miraculously rescued by all the magnificent visuals and haunting impressions gathered in by the observant angels, that turn this arty contemporary adult fable into an ambitiously unique pure cinema experience that demands to be seen by cinema lovers-- those who still can be thrilled by story-tellers.
REVIEWED ON 3/23/2011 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ