Wings of Desire (1987)

Wings of Desire (1987), directed by Wim Wenders.

(Der Himmel über Berlin, "The Heaven Over Berlin").

Angels watch and record human mortals, listening to their thoughts but not often interfering, sometimes giving just a little subliminal push of encouragement to the lonely and despairing.

The angels wonder at so much they don't know: what it is like to see color, to take off a shoe and stretch your foot under the table, or to be in love.

An angel can become mortal; apparently there is no rule against it. Damiel has been watching a "flying" woman, she works on the trapeze in the circus. He is going to fall and meet her. At the end, after their first night he writes: "Now I know what no angel knows".

The concept could have developed in a precious and overly-sweet way, but that's avoided here and we have a satisfying balance. It is heavy enough that we know we are watching an art film, but lightened with humor and quirkiness. All those lonely people, each a separate world. And yet: it's a love story.

Inspired casting pulls a lot of weight here: the great Bruno Ganz as our troubled angel, lovely Solveig Dommartin as the lonely trapeze artist, and Peter Falk playing himself, an American actor making a war movie in Berlin.

This is the last film for Curt Bois, "Homer", the Storyteller, age 86. He has 127 film credits in the IMDB, starting at age 6, and memorably was the Pickpocket in Casablanca (1942), one of the many refugee actors in that film. "Vultures, vultures everywhere!"

Notes from a recent rewatch:

Score by Jürgen Knieper and Laurent Petitgand.

Faraway, So Close! (1993) is a sequel with many of the same characters returning. City of Angels (1998) with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan is an American remake.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion. Wenders and Falk provide an edited commentary track.

I learned:

Serbian patriot and writer Peter Handke is a controversial figure, despite his many awards including the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature. His poem "Song of Childhood" connecting the different parts of the film -- "Als das Kind Kind war..." ("When the child was a child...") -- is available in German and English on the wikiquotes page for the film.