New German Cinema
Wings of Desire tells of an angel falling in love with a woman. He decided to become human to be with him. Unquestionably, the film has a vague premise that continues. However, the film acts as pure sentimentalism because it forgives the audience. On the other hand, City of Angels, a 1998 Hollywood remake is embarrassing yet reductive. Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage star in it. If we only saw the first half of the 1987 Wim Wenders film, regardless, we think it is nothing more than a pretentious yet gloomy catalog of suffering.
With a sense of the humanity of modernism, the muse for Berlin’s city on a story of love and selfhood becomes a uniquely life-affirming celebration of humanity. The Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director Award went to Wenders. In brief, the film suggests a sober look into Germany’s past, especially that of Germany. Apart from eliminating the commercial conventions of North American film, Wenders adhered to the New German Cinema manifesto, a new period in German cinema.
The French New Wave influenced the movement, providing a personal yet artistic view of human emotion in conflict and crisis.
Adapted from Peter Handke’s book, Wings of Desire is complicated because it explores human complexity. The nature we can’t explain because it becomes a perfect allegory of Germany’s mistakes after WWII. While become one of the most incredible yet horrific events in human history, it has become a symbol of greed and hatred. However, the film is gentle and shows that all is not lost until there is hope.
Angels represent a great metaphor, embodying time and being eternal guardians of time. Therefore, it becomes an extraordinary poem about life. However, life in the post-war’s specific context divided Germany. In introducing West Berlin to us through the eyes of the angels, the black-and-white film stock ticks them off. Their ability to hear the thoughts of the human characters we meet is also another sign of the film.
It opens with a disturbing but sad inner monologue the city residents are restless in cars, apartments, balconies, bicycles, to planes. The seraphim appeared in the frame, Damiel and Cassiel. Both sit undetected in the convertible’s showroom and read a notebook. Cassiel began reciting the times of sunset and sunrise, the height of the local river, and the events that occurred on the same date.
There is the first balloon flight over the city, the Olympic Games, a plane crash, and other important events. At such times, we know that angels experience time, a meaningless, eternal form. In the sequence, they start talking about personal yet painful things. Such moments of humans mark the infinite to give meaning and frame to life and time. Damiel says he doesn’t need to plant trees or have children, the film’s main character.
He also admits to daydreaming about experiencing the world like a human. Therefore, Wings of Desire is not just an entertainment film. It grows as an ambitious film and aims to replace the norm. Apart from moving away from classic narratives, the film is a perfect example of an arthouse film. In other words, the ideal harmony between balance and content and form elements creates a work of art with the cinematographic ability to express ideas and emotions.
However, the debatable about art becomes another discourse in creating an emotional expression. It can have an impact on society; it becomes the essence of the film. Indeed, it is a form of expression and has a strong message in making the audience reflect.
Philosophy of Art
Fundamentally, art speaks of originality, aesthetics, and the importance of presenting a particular when exploring and recognizing the means of artistic opportunity. For angels who can see history from beginning to end, life is engaged with the afoot current time and not about inheritance. When the angel lists things he wants to feel, he gets excited by the lines of his ears and neck.
He also feeds the cat, being a serious part of the angels. Cinema becomes a small celebration of seeing a colorless world that represents the sensual deprivation of angels. Like a blank canvas, Wenders co-wrote the poetic scenario with Handke. They paint it by showing the clarity of human experience. In a specific scene, Damiel meets a motorcycle accident victim who is dying. In the movie scene, it is moving.
However, he calms him down by turning his mind to vivid memories such as riding a bicycle without hands or drawing a grape. With attention to every detail, Wenders delivers a stunning quality of photography and cinematography. In the first shot, he presents each character as a separate narrator. It was as if God was telling the story or even another angel.
Audience and Point of View
In addition to the shot, Wenders tries to involve us by using a point of view in identifying ourselves as writers. In other words, we are responsible for every character except the angels. We cannot remain bare spectators; nevertheless, we try to construct human history and write stories. The poem talks about childhood, about the past, and how it was innocent. From this point of view, it’s trying to say that the audience can all be children whose wars destroyed their childhoods.
Over Berlin, there is a brief shot of a black-and-white aerial. It shows the demolished city and requires praising technical knowledge perfectly. Instead of Wenders creating the impression that the audience is flying peacefully over the city, such a sequence of aerial shots identifies us as angels. The audience is angels; the narrative feels how angels see and feel. Little by little, the camera slowly descends and becomes a spy passing through windows and walls to sneak into people’s lives and homes.
Apart from listening to their thoughts, it’s not fair game. Therefore, we can hear and see their inner concepts. However, they cannot see us. At the end of the film, Damiel becomes human. Wings of Desire then exploded into color.
The color he had to ask for was a foreigner. Suddenly, the saturation of the screen reflects the character’s senses. The audience first saw color when Damiel met Marion, a beautiful but melancholic trapeze artist. When she undresses in her trailer after training in a traveling circus, curiously, Damiel stands but listens intently to an inner thought when he performs a human character in another film.
The scene briefly changes color and suggests that we see Marion from a human perspective that Damiel longs for. She put on her nightgown, took some oranges from the bowl, and started to conjure. In the other sequence, the angels are sitting in a car. They talk about what they heard that day in people’s minds. It’s no surprise that the conversation takes place in the car. We know Wenders from his travel movies.
In the scene, Damiel wonders about being human. He describes a list of everyday actions that are irrelevant to humans. However, according to him, it was fun. The fact that they are sitting in the car indicates the beginning of Damiel’s narrative of the human world. Wenders uses symbols that not everyone will understand without knowing his films.
Thus, the audience can consider Wings of Desire as an auteur because it provides another reason for considering arthouse. While away from symbolism, the use of light in the shot is interesting. The overhead light of the car dealership becomes a reflection on the car’s windshield. It acts as a curtain through which the camera movement hides and reveals characters. The film idealizes all innocence representing childishness and curiosity in the world, such as Marion and Damiel.
For example, Marion dances on the rope Damiel was holding when he brooded on the couple’s first night together. The inference is not shared ownership. However, the state of the narrative that shares experiences is thus in constant play. Saccharinely, the film shows that love can overcome death and suffering. Alternately, it is only by submitting to time that Damiel can love at all, nor does it claim that all experiences are good.
It invites the audience to continuously admire the facts of feelings and life by depicting characters who are aware but unable to experience the world. On the other hand, Cassiel can’t prevent a young man from committing suicide. It marks a slow rhythm film with sequences cutting scenes sharply at peace.
The suicide impacts Cassiel as Wenders shows through sound and pictures. As Cassiel jumped into the void in a fluster, suddenly, the rhythm sped up; the music became agitated. We witness a series of lights and pictures; it occurs at night to reveal the city’s dark side. It shows a sadder side of humanity. In the final sequence, the film appears as a picture of Germany in a slow rhythm.
Experimentally, the passage shows the perfect state of mind of the character. It is an enthusiastic example of how sound and images can express feelings. Significantly, the architecture and landscape in Wings of Desire fill a ruined black-and-white city with iconic but monumental buildings. By giving the film an expressionist aesthetic that blends with the depressing atmosphere, the sequences that occur have a beautiful yet subtle look.
The camera moves around the library. With a precise movement following the angel, it shows complexity in space. When the angels smile at us casually, we feel the atmosphere has changed. They can listen to everyone’s negative thoughts because the library is only a focus for reading. When angels and humans gather in the library, it plays as a symbol of German history.
Angels and Human
As we grasp the most extraordinary changes in reality when color variations appear, the black and white show how angels see the world; the colors represent the human world. In short, Wings of Desire presents angels as observers but beings who cannot feel what humans feel. However, it became an ambiguous fact what the two angels felt. Damiel isn’t going to fall in love with Marion—we previously thought he would.
Colors can represent emotions. However, it is much more abstract than we think. Color becomes the life we seek and blends the kind of life we desire. It’s just that we can see in color if we’ve ever lived in the shadows. Apart from the angels watching from above and listening to our thoughts, they don’t experience life. In other words, they don’t understand what it’s like to be human.
Damiel says that before he turned into a human, he concluded that seeing is not looking from above but at eye level. Like the angels, he must leave the black-and-white world to be able to experience life. As well as eye level, Damiel was perfectly human since he managed to see at eye level.
- Caldwell, D., & Rea, P. W. (1991). Handke’s and Wenders’s Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism. German Quarterly, 46-54.
- Paneth, I. (1988). Wim and his wings. Film Quarterly (ARCHIVE), 42(1), 2.
- Salmi, H., & Handke, P. Imagining West Berlin: Spatiality and History in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, 1987.