11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2008
This is one of the most stunningly effective films to explore the afterlife and the reasons why we return I have ever seen. Furthermore it is beautiful, engrossing and thought provoking
The film is set in a war scarred Berlin. It shows the world of the spirits - souls - who are shown as trenchcoated pigtailed angels. Their world is eternal, without colour, without emotion, without time. They talk of the events of history in no order, just scenes they have recorded in notebooks. They can be everywhere and nowhere. Their job is to listen to the thoughts of human beings and try to comfort them, and to encourage the efforts humans make to learn and grow [many scenes are shot in a public library where there are large numbers of angels encouraging the `students']. They also listen to and support the peace makers and the philosophers - a number of scenes are of an angel's care for an old man who is both.
But angels cannot interfere or intervene, only come in dreams. There is one dramatic scene of a suicide, where the angel tries to comfort and fails. Only at this point does the angel show any emotion - he simply screams NO........
The story is of one angel who becomes fascinated - not love because an angel does not love - with a beautiful trapeze artist and makes the decision to become mortal. Once mortal he experiences the faults of humans [he is duped over the money he is paid for his angel's coat] but he also experiences love, music, taste, touch, the simple joy of a life, the adventure, the challenge.
A spiritual feast
94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2004
I love this film and I love it because of so many things. I saw it for the first time when I was a teenager in mid 90s and I was so impressed... I was roaming the streets of Almaty (my home town in Kazakhstan) with my best friend and I asked her: "Do you think angels are walking together with us and collecting the spiritual signs of our existence?' Of course, it was a joke, by what a romantic joke... A longing for something magical that can happen to a mortal...
When you first watch the film, you wonder why Wim Wenders has picked two aging men in long black coats to be angels. That's not how you imagined an angel, after all. However, the further you watch the film, the more you realise that their angelic nature is in the way they look at everything, in their increadible eyes.
When I think about this film I think about all the good that can happen to an ordinary human being. This film highlights the best in all of us and makes us immortal for a short while... And I believe this feeling is worth it.
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
This is probably Wenders' masterpiece, though it followed the equally wondeful Paris, Texas. Wings of Desire was another collaboration with Austrian writer Peter Handke (The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty). Following the key works of the New German Cinema (Kings of the Road, Alice in the Cities), Wenders went to work in America at Coppola's Zoetrope studios- making the problematic Hammett and the reaction The State of Things. Here he returned to Berlin, still divided by the wall which would fall two years later.
The film sits somewhere between It's a Wonderful Life, Rilke's Duino Elegies, The Cure's Just Like Heaven and The Seventh Seal: a metaphysical romance. The lead character is literally Berlin (the German title is 'The Sky Over Berlin); Wenders uses Damiel and Cassiel as two omniscient angels tracking life in 1980's Berlin: observing like a camera. Here we see them listening to people's thoughts in an unforgettable fashion (and this was an influence on REM's video for Everybody Hurts). Damiel sees Marion, a circus acrobat with a penchant for Nick Cave and decides to make the trip from eternity to her (Wenders reversal of Nick Cave's song From Her to Eternity- played here along with The Carny). Along the way he meets Peter Falk as "Peter Falk"- who just happens to be an ex-angel and the film moves back to pre-history and the spectre of the War and Nazism (Falk is making a WWII movie, with those conotations for West Germany- tying it in with such German films as The Marriage of Maria Braun and Mephisto which explore Germany's dark past).
This is pure poetry, as great as the best of Jean Cocteau in terms of transcendental imagery- every scene has resonance: a truly perfect film now restored on DVD. These are the people who see you when you cry (but who can never impinge on this world); the angels are non-intervensionist. Much better than the sappy Hollywood remake City of Angels- though it is worth seeing the post-wall/reunification sequel Faraway, So Close! where Cassiel follows Damiel into the mortal realm.
Hopefully Wenders will follow this with DVD issues of his best 1990's films, The Lisbon Story and Until the End of the World. This is one of the finest films of the 1980's , or any decade from the first century of cinema...
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A morning after the night before film that leaves such a deep impression that you wake with your head teeming with images and moments from it. I notice there are one or two reviewers who just "don't get it". I think the deal here is that if you don't have a feel for poetry, that is modern poetry , Baudelaire and after, then this will leave you lost and twitching. This fim is like one of Rilke's Duino Elegies bought to life for the screen. The premise, if you haven't already picked up on it, is that Angels are moving among men and women in Cold War, East Berlin. Invisible except to the occasional child, infinitely benign, but detached observers, they search endlessly for the most exquisite tokens of human expression, frailty and dignity, amid the myriad humdrum acts that constitute their otherwise monotonous lives. The more seeminly fragile and insignificant then the more treasured they are. From time to time the Angels get together to compare notes on the little acts and incidents that have left the deepest impressession on them. The Angels hear the thoughts of all those they move among, and for an extended part of the film's opening, we move with them through streets, tower block apartments and on public transport, randomly sampling the fragmentary thoughts of those they pass, from their most pressingly humdrum anxieties, through to the profoundest of reveries. The resulting stream of consciousness inevitably takes on the character of poetry of the most universal kind. Very gradually a plot emerges which eventually includes twists and revelations, gently comic and breathtakingly profound, that leave one with a stupified grin and a warm trickle inside, just knowing such innocence and purity of vision are still to be found in this life.
I was lucky enough to catch this on TV, but it's one of those films that I just have to turn my friends on to, at least those I know will understand. And I'm very much looking forward to the accompanying commentary from Wenders and Peter Falk, who does such a wonderful job of playing himself, who is playing himself as usual. The feature that floats like a recurring melody over the accompaniment of the whole film is the magnetic gaze of Bruno Ganz set in his beatific face. My wife was quite shocked when I pointed out that this was the same actor who had played Adolf Hitler with such uncanny similitude in Downfall . I understand Gollywood did their own bastardisation of this masterpiece, and I must admit that the thought of what Nicholas Cage must have done with this sublime role sends a shudder down my spine. Solveig Dommartin as the existentially self-realised trapeze artist is also riveting.
My question now is do I risk a go at the sequel, Far Away, So Close , and spoiling it, knowing how fickle and inconsistent Wenders' genius can be?. The guy has created symphonic masterpieces like Paris, Texas  and the nowhere to be found Iron Earth, Copper Sky. But then he's produced some quite odd turkeys as well. Sometimes he's managed to do both in the same movie, as with Until The End Of The World , which was so magnificent right up to its strange and silly ending. Anyway, for now I have another chance to immerse myself in the warm poetic bath that is this to look forward to, and the pleasure of sharing it with friends whom I know will `get it'.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2007
Wim Wenders' film is fantastic,partially because of the acting,photography,and script,but also because of a totally unforseeable event-the Berlin Wall fell two years after the film was made,and so this is an ode to an era which,though historically recent,is now in an unreachable past.I have watched this with my 17 year old neice,who thought the film was great,but,for her,it may as well have been set during the late Byzantine Empire.
The story is easy to summarise.There are angels watching over each one of us(at least in late 1980s West Berlin).They share our joys and sorrows,and try to protect us from ourselves.One(played by Bruno Ganz) is fascinated by us humans to the extent that he falls in love with a trapeze artist,decides to leave infinity and become human.
Before and after his transition to humanity,the angel meets another of his ilk(played by Peter Falk)who decided to become human some time earlier.The angel then meets the trapeze artist-can't tell you any more,I'd ruin the end.
Fans of Nick Cave are in for a treat,he performs most of the soundtrack.
For me,the most impressive aspect of the film is Wenders' use of Berlin,to the extent that the city almost becomes a character in the film in it's own right.The angels meeting on top of the Victory Monument,overseeing us in the University library,comforting us as we ride in ambulances or on the U-Bahn,and,in an unforgettable scene,trying and failing to stop a person leaping from a skyscraper-all of this integrates Berlin's urban landscape so well.
If you've never been to Berlin and are thinkling of going,watch this first.If you like brilliant phtography and a strange,dream-like story with great acting,again watch this.
NB-There was a dreadful Hollywood remake of "Wings Of Desire",called "City Of Angels".It's truly woeful-what do you expect of any film with Meg Ryan in it?-so avoid like the plague.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2005
This film is just so lovely - it has haunted me all day (despite a stressful and distracting day at work) and is a film never to be forgotten. I had to order it to keep because I know it is a film I will want to watch at regular intervas for the rest of my like.
The library scenes are particularly haunting and really do convey a strong impression of serenity.
The notes in the bonus material are well worth watching too I watched them because I just wanted more I didn't want to leave this film. It is an average length film but I wish it was an hour longer - like one of those rare books that you really never want to finish
Rent it!!! Buy it!!!
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2004
It's ironic that so soon after Wenders shot this film in Berlin (a film about seperation and the search for unity), the wall would come tumbling down. The only entities who can transcend the wall in this movie are the angels, who are nothing but pure consciousness. The original German title for this film translates as 'The Sky Over Berlin' and I certainly think it is more apt than the English one that was chosen. For it is only the sky above their city that unites Berliners each side of the wall. The angels imprisonment in the spiritual world is undoubtedly in my mind, a metaphor for the political set-up in Berlin at that time. Whether it be West Berliners imprisoned on all sides by the communist East or the East Berliners imprsioned from the decadent freedoms of West Berlin.
The angels themselves were banished to Berlin in 1945 for questioning God's intentions. As a city at the apex of 2 world wars and a cold war, there is probably no better choice in choosing it as a symbol of our century. Wenders use of documentary footage from the end of the 2nd world war is frightening in its portrayal of a city's damaged past. A past of confusion and despair that still marks the city's people through their ongoing frustrated desires.
In order to retain some sense of his original 'poetic' vision, Wenders refused to finalize a shooting script before he started filming. As a result he relied on a mostly spontaneous film shoot as well as a lot of improvising from his actors.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
For those of you who already own this film on VHS and have not yet upgraded to DVD, please, do it asap. You won't regret it.
Read the other reviews if you need to be reminded/told what an amazing film this is.
All I want to highlight here is that the DVD extras and picture/sound quality on the DVD transfer are superb. The best feature, in my opinon is the director's commentary. Dry, witty, informative, highly personal - everything anyone who loves this film could want.
From lamenting the sad losses of parts of Berlin and certain personnel involved in realising the film, to revealing in-jokes - cake fights and all - and setting the scene on, well, the 'scene' in Berlin when the film was shot, it's all here.
And, if you already have the DVD and haven't watched the film with commentary, I heartily recommend you do so.
The only other experience I can recommend to add further to one's enjoyment of the film is to visit Berlin itself. What a great city.
And THAT statue. It's one of the most impressive I have ever seen. Beautiful, and a fitting mascot for such a magical film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2013
The first time I watched this was for film studies, and I won't lie. I HATED it. In fact I'm pretty sure I fell asleep.
I was probably just too young to get it and just found it all a bit too arty and boring.
However even though I hated this film when I first watched it, I did think it was an absolutely beautiful film, and that I'd never seen a black and white film look so stunning.
And it was because of this imagery that the film stuck in my head and wouldn't let go.
So a couple of years later I see Wings of Desire in a shop and decide to just buy it and watch it again, wondering if anything would change inside of me.
And it did.
Fair enough this film isn't for everyone, it's long, not a lot happens and it does get very deep in the conversations between the angels and the feelings inside of people's heads, but it's a very human film that's extremely touching and beautiful.
If not for anything else, watch it for the acting, setting and the imagery as I promise you, you'll never watch a better looking film.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2008
Wim Wenders exposes the human frailty in all of us. Through an Angelic perspective of Berlin he paints a beautifully profound, poetic and intimate picture of the human psyche. It leaves images in the mind that will have a memorable and positive effect. It is beautifully filmed and ranks as one of the most profound films of the 20th Century. One to be cherished and enjoyed.