As part of the retrospective of the films of Claire Denis, the Northwest Film Center is screening “Wings of Desire”(1987, Germany) directed by renowned director Wim Wenders. Claire Denis was the first assistant director on this film.
This is the story of two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander). They watch over Berlin and are only seen by children and other angels. They listen to inner thoughts of people, some of whom are tormented, others joyful.
Damiel and Cassiel are neutral. They do not feel pain. They do not feel happiness. They have no pleasure. While their skills are incredible, they do not truly understand what it is to be alive even though they are privy to all actions and thoughts of those they watch.
One day, though, Damiel is observing a circus and becomes enamoured of a trapeze artist, Marion (Solveig Dommartin). She learns that the the show must close permanently and is despondent. Damiel wants to comfort her but in order to do so, he must leave the angel world behind.
Does he? And what about fellow angel Cassiel? Is he also intrigued enough by humanity to put his “angel-ness” behind him and join humanity?
“Wings of Desire” opens in magnificent black-and-white, showing the beauty and starkness of Berlin and its timeless architecture. Later in the film, color appears, somewhat undersaturated but natural looking.
The lyrical beauty of this film can be attributed in part, according to Wenders in this interview, to the poetry of Rilke, which he read daily while developing ideas about this film. (Click on “Interview” in this IMDb link.) Rilke’s references to angels, and the abundance of angel paintings, statues, and other figures throughout Berlin, inspired Wenders and they are portrayed in all their glory throughout the film.
His background as a visual artist (water color painting and copperplate engraving) are influences on his composition and the use at times of static shots, allowing the viewer to contemplate the aesthetics of the film. Wenders won countless awards for “Wings of Desire,” including the Best Director award at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Over time, this film has become a classic. This highly-acclaimed filmmaker has directed over fifty films, including “Paris, Texas” (1984), “The End of Violence” (1997), “Buena Vista Social Club” (2000), and “Pina” (2011). Wenders is now working with James Franco on a 3D film, “Everything Will Be Fine.”
Do not miss the chance to see this film on the big screen today at 2 pm at the Whitsell Auditorium. Tickets range from $6 to $9. In addition, the series of films of Claire Denis continues through May 18. Check the Northwest Film Center’s website for details.
Sources: Wim Wenders website, Senses of Cinema website, IMDb, Northwest Film Center website