Wings of Desire should be seen by anyone who questions life--its purpose, its pleasures and hopes, its suffering, its loneliness and despair. German filmmaker Wim Wenders has masterfully infused Peter Handke's poem "Song of Childhood" and the symbols and themes of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke into a film that demands repeated viewings because of its ability to transcend the circular and maddening corporate demands of what life should be and how we, as its unwavering constituents, should think and respond.
"When the child was a child, it had no opinions about anything..." What we see in Wings is how disfiguring to life's simple enjoyment is the journey from childhood to adulthood. As the angels Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) traverse Berlin offering that intangible "push" that we all at some time need to get beyond negative thought ("I'll drag myself out again, and why not?"), the viewer gets a cross-section of adult "stories," the inner, unspoken, rambling, disjointed novels we all continuously create. What we realize from this cross-section of humanity is that behind a even a neutral or seemingly contented countenance is often an inner void of pleasure. And isn't that really how it is? How many times have you smiled, when inside there was nothing there to match?
But there are moments that Damiel and Cassiel observe that are remarkable: "A woman on the street folded her umbrella while it rained." It's the simple things that are available to us, that can bring us pleasure, that we all too often overlook. It's that deviation, that small 'road less traveled,' that has the potential to make a positive difference. It's that child we once were that we should pay more attention to. "We can only be as savage as we are absolutely serious." In other words, lighten up, be childlike, and enjoy.
The film's focus eventually moves to the beautiful Solveig Dommartin as the troubled trapeze artist, Marion. Damiel falls in love with her--her beauty, her spirit, her thoughts. She questions her place in life, who she is, why she is, and what she will do once the circus folds: "How should I live? Maybe that's not the question. How should I think?" There is a scene after her circus companions have departed, and she is all alone, that is truly inspiring for anyone who has been "left behind" and disillusioned with life. The spin she puts on her situation, the unconventional thought she dares to consider, is a wonderful consideration for us all.
Watch this on a rainy Sunday and then go for a walk. Leave the umbrella behind.