"There are angels over the streets of Berlin," quotes the movie poster, but these are like no angels you've ever seen. Bundled in dark overcoats, they watch over the city with ears open to the heartbeat of the human soul, listening to the internal musings and yearnings of earthbound humans like existential detectives. In these delicate, astounding scenes we float through the thoughts of dozens of Berlin citizens, from the weary and worn to the hopeful and young, as the angels record the magic moments for some heavenly record. When Damiel (the empathic and sensitive Bruno Ganz) falls in love with an angel of another sort, the lonely trapeze artist Marion (willowy, sad-eyed Solveig Dommartin), he gives up the contemplation and observation of life to experience it himself.
Wim Wenders' most purely romantic film is like poetry on celluloid, a celebration of the transient and fragile moments of being human: the warmth of a cup of coffee on a cold day, the embrace of a friend, the touch of a lover, the rapture of love. Opening with an angel's-eye view of Berlin in silvery black and white (delicately captured by the great cinematographer Henri Alekan, who photographed Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast 40 years earlier), it transforms into a gauzy colour world when Damiel "crosses over" by sheer will. Peter Falk plays himself as a fallen angel with a special sensitivity for celestial visitors ("I can't see you, but I know you're there," he proclaims), and Otto Sander, whose smiling eyes brighten a face etched by eons of waiting and watching, is Damiel's partner. Wenders made a sequel in 1993, Faraway, So Close, and Hollywood remade the film as City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com