Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)
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‘Wings of Desire’ opens with a montage of Berliners as they go about their city, their jumbled, random and rambling thoughts filling the soundtrack with the trivial, and yet weighty, tribulations of everyday life. Birth, death, the trials of raising children, the fact that there is nothing worth watching on TV… together these petty considerations create a very human poetry; a sort of ledger of insignificant yet deeply moving moments.
High above the city – still divided by the Berlin Wall – angels listen in on these mental meanderings, comforting the city dwellers in times of distress, and recording what they witness. They can move about unfettered, focusing on whatever they please, but these benevolent beings cannot experience human life: emotions, the senses and the notion of mortality are unavailable to them. When one of the angels chooses to give up everlasting life, he discovers the invigorating pain of being truly alive.
Clearly, the film is a commentary on the sense of suspended life in Berlin during the Cold War, as well as the weighty, ever-present legacy of the horrors of Nazism. At the same time, ‘Wings’ is a much broader, emotionally intense paean to the beauty of experiencing joy and despair – and everything in between.