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Wings of Desire

Year: 1987
Production Co: Road Movies Filmproduktion
Director: Wim Wenders
Writer: Wim Wenders/Peter Handke/Richard Reitinger
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Peter Falk, Solveig Dommartin

I knew this was a very beloved movie, I knew Nicolas Cage weepie City of Angels was a remake, and I knew I loved the idea. What concept has more opportunity to expand our worldview than the notion angels wandering Earth, invisible, observing our lives, occasionally influencing them and even themselves being affected by them while immune to the Earthly cares and pursuits that consume us (money, success, etc).

So at the risk of being excommunicated from the church of cineliteracy, I don't understand why Wim Wenders' classic was such a squandered opportunity. It bored me rigid for about half an hour until I couldn't stand it any more.

Bruno Ganz (who so memorably portrayed Hitler years later in Downfall) is Damiel, wandering around modern day Berlin, tenderly looking over the shoulders of humans who have no idea he's there, trying to imbue them with hope and inspiration as his job seems to dictate, occasionally chatting with his equally invisible contemporaries.

I only know how the story unfolds both because it has an outsized reputation and because Brad Silberling's 1998 update followed the same basic premise – Damiel gets tired of being invisible and untouchable when he falls in love with a human woman and wants to become mortal himself to be with her.

The woman is circus performer Marion (Solveig Dommartin), but even by the time I stopped watching the sentiment was so deadpan and reserved that very little of any emotional consequence seems to have happened for either of them.

There's also a subplot of actor Peter Falk playing himself as the star of a local production and having a professional crisis over the role, the connection to the rest of the story of which is still completely lost on me.

There's one very arresting image early on of Damiel standing on the parapet of a church steeple, his wings visible but fading behind him and a little girl on the street below who can apparently see him, but the rest of the film (that I saw) never lives up to either such a well built visual or the premise of the movie.

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