I first saw this film soon after it came out. It was at a time in my life that was unaffected by faith, and seeing it again more than twenty years later was a very different experience. I last saw it on DVD a few months ago, because I felt it was relevant to something I’m writing, and it retained all its power to move me.
Wings of Desire is a film about guardian angels. If we think of angels at all (and I’m not someone who is “into” angels), we are used to thinking of them as superior beings, close to the Divine. Here we are shown another side to angelic life, a life that is deprived of much that we humans take for granted. We see beings in touch with the eternal; we see the compassion of those who can read the minds of humans, hold them in loving support and suggest things to their minds, but are powerless to intervene.
The focus is on Damiel, a guardian angel who wants to be human. He is prepared to give up eternal life to experience the sense-richness of earthly life, to feel the solidity of the earth beneath his feet. As he says:
“It’s great to live by the spirit, to testify day by day for eternity, only what’s spiritual in people’s minds. But sometimes I’m fed up with my spiritual existence. Instead of forever hovering above I’d like to feel a weight grow in me to end the infinity and to tie me to earth. I’d like, at each step, each gust of wind, to be able to say “Now.” Now and now” and no longer “forever” and “for eternity.” To sit at an empty place at a card table and be greeted, even by a nod.”
Above all, he wants the freedom to fall in love.
Wings of Desire is a profoundly romantic film. Its beauty, poetry and timelessness are breathtaking, as is its technical subtlety. Shot in monochrome; the film breaks into colour only when we witness a human perspective – something that I’m not sure I noticed on first viewing. Its setting, the then divided Berlin, is a metaphor for the artificial division of spirit and body. We first realize that Damiel is no longer an angel when we see his footprint: a palpable sign of embodiment, of being a human being with all the frailty and glory that that entails. Wings of Desire arouses in the audience a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, and moves us to give thanks.
This is a guest movie review written by Jennifer Kavanagh http://www.jenniferkavanagh.co.uk/