Wings of Desire

(Directed by Wim Wenders) (1988)

Having recently seen the great Bruno Ganz In some OK and under par films, TVC decided to attend the closing night of the German Film Festival in Adelaide and get amongst the champagne and canapés (and we should confirm that we did not, and do not make a habit, of accepting free tickets or hospitality).

Wings of Desire is Wenders’ great masterpiece, in which two “recording” angels, Damiel (Bruno) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), swan about Berlin (an historic and increasingly bizarre town, described by its Mayor a while ago as “poor but sexy.”) The photography of the city is sublime.

Like sunbeams, they provide some succour to the humanity sprinkled about the grey metropolis, without ever being able to find out what it is to be human (shades of Brunnhilde!).

Then Damiel falls for a lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) and starts to tinker with the idea of capturing the joys and terrors of carbon-based life, mentored by Peter Falk (a superb performance as himself by Peter Falk), in an earthly haze of coffee and cigarettes.

Wings is a wonderfully fresh, wry and tender rumination on the joy and pain of life.

The film is a trifle overlong – in true Teutonic manner, it sledgehammers home its pure and simple theme with an excess of closing dialogue (one could do without a couple of Nick Cave numbers with all due respect, and when Dommartin is talking to Ganz in the bar, you want him to kiss her and shut her up) but patience is generally well rewarded.

Rilke’s poetry served as partial inspiration to scriptwriters Wenders, Peter Handke and Richard Reitinger. Dare we suggest that might include the Duino Elegies, one and ten in particular, and I am, O anxious One. Don’t You Hear My Voice:

I am, O anxious One. Don’t you hear my voice

surging forth with all my earthly feelings?

They yearn so high that they have sprouted wings

and whitely fly in circles around your face.

My soul, dressed in silence, rises up

and stands alone before you: can’t you see?

Don’t you know that my prayer is growing ripe

upon your vision, as upon a tree?


If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream.

But when you want to wake, I am your wish,

and I grow strong with all magnificence

and turn myself into a star’s vast silence

above the strange and distant city, Time.


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