Wings of Desire (1987)

Many people on this Earth float by day-to-day transiently through this world, not appreciating the beauty in living and non-living things surrounding them. Some people are not satisfied with their existence and strive for more. Some people reflect on their life, thinking about missed opportunities. What would someone see if they were an outsider looking into the world of human behaviour? “Wings of Desire”, directed by Wim Wenders and shot in Berlin prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, explores that question.

Damiel and Cassiel are two angels who view the citizens of Berlin from above. Humans are not cognizant of their presence, but their role is to provide comfort to those in need and to potentially create an awareness of their spirit and thus emanate hope. Individual examples of this are shown throughout the movie, including a man hurt in a motorcycle accident and a man who is intensely contemplating ending his life. Damiel is quite torn about continuing his existence as an angel, after falling in love with a lonely trapeze artist named Marion. Upon his transition to human form, the film changes from black and white to colour. He is now experiencing the sights, sounds, and feelings that all humans have. He is beginning the journey of sorrow, joy, and all other multitudes of emotions that we feel as humans every single day. And he is quite grateful to experience them.

The title “Wings of Desire” can be interpreted in many ways relevant to the film. As angels, Damiel and Cassiel’s ultimate desire was to comfort and create positive change amongst those who were in need on Earth. It may also reflect Damiel’s desire to change and to experience life in a way that he could not in his prior form. These analyses reflect our drive to change and explore the world daily. However, the overall message that I took away from this fine film was the importance of appreciating the world in which we live, and to be mindful of our feelings associated with that drive. Damiel’s desire was to absorb and be present with his emotions, those which I feel many people take for granted as they are driven to accomplish goals in their lives. Thus, “wings of desire” may allow us to pursue and approach our destination, but one must pay attention to that journey as we need to be able to learn and grow while being in the moment with our multitude of emotions.

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I do not own the above image.

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4 thoughts on “Wings of Desire (1987)

  1. One of my favorite movies.

    It’s real accomplishment is the way the camera allows you to feel free of the constraints of time and space and yet simultaneously long to have gravity back.

    When Damiel becomes mortal it’s a bit like being born in your 50s. He comes into being fully human.

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    • One of my favourites as well. The filming of Berlin is extraordinary, and it is quite an interesting concept to think about Damiel’s transformation from angel to human. He was appreciative of feeling the full range of human emotions, something which many long to suppress.

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  2. I adore this film! And one of the scenes you mentioned (with Cassiel & the young man on the building) is, in my opinion, one of the most moving moments in cinema.

    I also love the scene where one of the angels discusses having been on a bus, and hearing the bus driver randomly call out “Tierra del Fuego!” It reminds me of a bus ride I once took, where the bus driver encouraged those disembarking to call out, “Geronimo!” (which many did)… whimsical little affirmations of delight, in the midst of the general urban taciturnity.

    Thank you for a lovely article!

    Liked by 2 people

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