Wings of Desire: The Movie City of Angels Shamelessly Ripped Off

Moving on to our next film, Wings of Desire.  This 1987 German film has the distinction of being the first foreign language film I'm reviewing.  It was directed by Wim Wenders, stars Bruno Ganz and Solveig Dommartin, and earns a spot at #259 on the TSPDT list.

Full Disclosure: I haven't seen Wings of Desire's been sitting among my DVDs waiting to be watched for over a year now.

This is a hard movie to write a synopsis for, and an even harder movie to write a clever and amusing synopsis for.  The fact of the matter is that the first hour and fifteen minutes (at least) are spent watching the angels observe humans and listen to their thoughts.  And that's pretty much it.  Even after the action starts, it's a pretty high concept film.  Angel falls in love with girl, becomes human, gets the girl.  I'm sure I'm insulting the film by simplifying it like that, but it is what it is.  Here's my best shot at a more detailed synopsis.

Damiel is an angel, and it's his lot in life to observe humanity, to testify to it.  He's been doing this for thousands of years, but lately he's been wanting more.  Damiel's sick of being on the outside looking in, and he longs to be a part of human history instead of just its observer.

Then he falls in love with a young trapeze artist, and he...well, he pretty much goes into full on stalker mode.  He meets Peter Falk, another fallen angel who "took the plunge" into humanity years earlier, and is now a successful film actor.  Well, he doesn't really meet Peter Falk, because humans can't see angels, but Peter can feel his presence, and he gives him the final push he needs (not literally) to become human.

Damiel says goodbye to his best angel buddy, and wakes up lying on the ground, bleeding.  He is overjoyed.  He goes to the circus where Marion performs, only to find it torn down and abandoned.  Luckily, there is a Nick Cave concert, so Damiel just assumes that Marion will be there...and he's right!  They meet, they kiss, they fall in love, they presumably live happily ever after.

Random Musings:

  • I like the opening, where we see people the way angels see us.  It's beautiful.  But my God, I would kill myself if I had to listen to all the blithering, inane thoughts of strangers.  It's like that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • How creepy are these angels?  They stand over people who are minding their own business and touch them, while looking up at the camera and smiling.  That's like nightmare material.  How is that supposed to be at all comforting?

  • So what is the job of the angels exactly?  Do they just listen to people's thoughts and write down the greatest hits?  Of what use is that to anyone?  The one useful thing I saw them do in the entire movie was Damiel comforting a dying man on the the entire movie.  The rest of the time they were just being creepy and spying on hot girls.

  • I think that this movie must be really powerful for Germans - so much of the emotional content is deeply rooted in the German postwar experience.

  • Oh my God I'm literally ten seconds away from reaching through my TV and punching Peter Falk out as he makes the poor costume lady let him try on six billion hats for his costume.  Actors can be such dillholes.

  • I love this thought process, as Peter Falk draws a picture of one of the extras, who is playing a Jewish person during WWII and is wearing a yellow star: "The star means death.  Why did they pick yellow?  Sunflowers.  Van Gogh killed himself."  I don't know why but that seems like a perfectly logical thought progression to me.

  • The trapeze work in this film is unreal.  What makes it even more impressive is that I heard a rumor that Solveig Dommartin did all of the stunts, and that she learned it in eight weeks.

  • I love that it goes from black and white to color as Damiel becomes human.  It's such an obvious thing to do but it really is lovely.

  • These characters talk a lot of bullshit.  Especially Marion in the bar scene at the end.  She pretty much has a five minute monologue of pretentious word vomit.

So that is Wings of Desire.  It is one slow freaking movie.  But luckily, it's also a film filled with gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful melancholic atmosphere.  It's a very contemplative piece, more than willing to luxuriate with each person's thoughts, and it's not afraid to take its sweet old time getting to the plot.  The dialogue varies between being genuinely touching and poetic, and being so pleased with itself for being "touching" and "poetic".  Ultimately it is a visually stunning film with an interesting and unique story to tell.  I guess I just didn't connect with it emotionally as much as I thought I would.  Believe me, no one wanted to like this movie more than me.  And I did like it, but I ended up feeling frustrated, because there was so much emotion in the piece that I just couldn't access.  Sad times for the film geek.

Thanks for reading, and please pop back around for Night of the Living Dead!

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

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