Only in the world of a Wim Wenders film would an angel express the desire to go home and read a Philip Marlowe mystery as one of the reasons he’d like to be human. But because that desire is expressed in a Wim Wenders film, it seems completely reasonable. And if that makes sense to you, then you either already know something of Wenders and his films, or you’re likely to be a good candidate for them.
Wenders’ movies don’t exactly zip along, and they tend to be pretty heavy in the symbolism and allegory department — qualities some viewers may find off-putting. They are also frequently not that concerned with telling a story, which is the case with Wings of Desire, a film more about mood, place and theme than narrative.
The premise is that angels are all around us. They record our doings and are able to influence us, but they’re unable to actively participate in our lives, or be seen by us (though occasionally children will see them). It’s also about our ability — through our mere existence — to influence the angels, to make them want to descend from their ethereal selves and experience what we do. And the point of the film is to explore these ideas through a series of encounters — occasionally connected — that are experienced by two particular angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), especially the former, who wants to become human when he falls in love with a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin).
Depending on your tastes, you’ll find the film either a beautiful, moving experience, or a slow and pretentious one. One thing you won’t find it is much that’s like anything else, except perhaps another Wenders movie. But Wenders is sufficiently important in modern film, though, that it’s worth finding out for yourself — or possibly even giving the movie a second or third chance.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke
[The Hendersonville Film Society will sponsor a showing of Wings of Desire on Sunday, July 24, 2005 at 2 p.m., in the Smoky Mountain Theatre at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to Lake Point Landing entrance and park in lot at left.)]