Wings of Desire (English Subtitled)

Β (774)8.02 h 7 min1988X-RayPG-13
Wings of Desire is one of cinema's loveliest city symphonies. Bruno Ganz is Damiel, an angel perched atop buildings high over Berlin who can hear the thoughts--fears, hopes, dreams--of all the people living below. But when he falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist, he is willing to give up his immortality and come back to earth to be with her.
Wim Wenders
Bruno GanzSolveig DommartinOtto Sander
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Curt BoisPeter Falk
Ingrid Windisch
The Criterion Collection
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

774 global ratings

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  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
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Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on December 27, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Appropriately Ambitious and Powerfully Modest
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"𝑩𝒖𝒕 π’”π’π’Žπ’†π’•π’Šπ’Žπ’†π’” 𝑰'π’Ž 𝒇𝒆𝒅 𝒖𝒑 π’˜π’Šπ’•π’‰ π’Žπ’š π’”π’‘π’Šπ’“π’Šπ’•π’–π’‚π’ π’†π’™π’Šπ’”π’•π’†π’π’„π’†. 𝑰𝒏𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 π’‰π’π’—π’†π’“π’Šπ’π’ˆ 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒗𝒆 𝑰'𝒅 π’π’Šπ’Œπ’† 𝒕𝒐 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍 𝒂 π’˜π’†π’Šπ’ˆπ’‰π’• π’ˆπ’“π’π’˜ π’Šπ’ π’Žπ’† 𝒕𝒐 𝒆𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 π’Šπ’π’‡π’Šπ’π’Šπ’•π’š"

Wings of Desire is a 1987 romantic fantasy film directed by Wim Wenders. The film is about invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants, comforting the distressed. Even though the city is densely populated, many of the people are isolated or estranged from their loved ones. One of the angels (Damiel), played by Bruno Ganz, falls in love with a beautiful, lonely trapeze artist, played by Solveig Dommartin (Marion). The angel chooses to become mortal so that he can experience human sensory pleasures, ranging from enjoying food to touching a loved one, and so that he can discover human love with the trapeze artist. It would go on to inspire the remake known as β€˜City of Angels’ approximately 10 years later.

If I had to pick one word to describe the entirety of this film it would be β€˜Overwhelming’. Because of this - and especially because of its length - it would be proper to suggest that audience members should think of its story as a summation of two separate parts.

The first half of β€˜Wings of Desire’ is tedious in many ways, but its primary function is in exploring the roles (and responsibilities) of angels as mystical beings. This is a sharp contrast to β€˜City of Angels’ (Which, focuses more on the romance of the story) and serves to conjure empathy for Damiel
In a way that is metaphorically humanizing. Its film score has a hypnotizing whine to it and slowly becomes more upbeat as the film progresses without becoming overbearing or distracting. Scenes shown as being black & white are paired with those shot in color (which, I would describe as beautifully vintage) and successfully capture the essence of a man that badly yearns for a deeper purpose and meaning to his existence. I will also agree and assert that there are times where the sounds/dialogue heard in this film have a particular chaos to them (IE; people β€œthinking out loud” over music randomly or multiple people doings this at one time) but this works to create a larger sociologically relevant context to a film as opposed to forcing a potential romance to take center stage.

It isn’t until the second half that the romance between Damiel and Marion really starts to blossom like it is expected to; this isn't chased or introduced suddenly, however, because this isn’t before we become privy to what life for Damiel is like once he is no longer immortal. The little joys in life - like a cup of coffee with as much cream and sugar one would like - are savored in length and speaks to the fulfillment one can get when they no longer take the little things for granted. To see someone being so happy with so little isn't just a heart warming touch: the reminder is necessary. I would have liked to have heard some more insight in which Damiel reflects on the differences between existing as a human and an Angel, but the omission of this doesn’t take from the overall message or its potential to resonate with viewers that think of themselves as profoundly lonely or innately angsty

Does this movie go on for longer than it probably should? In some ways, I could agree with this criticism in that there are scenes that actively drag their feet with no clear intention of what they might add to the overarching plot. This is forgivable, however, when it’s remembered that β€˜Wings of Desire’ isn’t a love story and isn't interested in masquerading as one. At its core is commentary regarding the tendency for individuals to be occupied with their own realities to the point of being unable to meaningfully connect with other people (and consequently, the world). It is anchored in its efforts to address the misery one invites when they become jaded to the blessings and simplest of pleasures that are at often at arms length but rarely reached for with enthusiasm.

Powerful, but modest.
Ambitious, but grounded
I would recommend!
8 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on May 10, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great piece of literature
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I watched this after one of my professors from last semester recommended it when I told her I was going to be in Berlin this summer. While it is a cold-war era movie, it really shows off the city and the people who live there. The movie also has literary value, and I realized while I was watching it, that my professor (English department) was challenging me (a science major) to look beyond the obvious and ask questions such as "what is desire?" and "How does the use of color reflect desire?"
23 people found this helpful
AJReviewed in the United States on November 21, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
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One of my favorites; I've seen it almost ten times. There are so many things I love about this movie: how the music enhances each scene; the combination of human history of Berlin with Christian mythology; the lows and highs of everyday life... Search online for an article written by the director about the movie for a terrific exposition of this Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art).
11 people found this helpful
Loyalcustomer007Reviewed in the United States on March 17, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Deep movie - Highly recommended
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Wonderful poetic movie. Wim Wenders delivers a nuanced depiction of the human race, through a romantic tale angel-human tale, in the context of Berlin's present and horrible past. Each scene is picture-perfect, the soundtrack is deep, the narration is thought provoking, and Bruno Ganz adds an angel's touch.
14 people found this helpful
Art HansenReviewed in the United States on July 19, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
to touch is more profound than to watch
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Wim Wenders. Der Himmel uber Berlin. Awe inspiring view of the divided Berlin which was navigated freely by angels who could go anywhere, observe anything, and watch over anyone [kind of like the Stassi]. Like the B&W / color Wizard of Oz, an angel learns from Peter Falk, a former angel who returned to mortal life, thus leaving the perfect and safe and bland B&W life of the angel, to reunite with the dangerous and colorful life of the living. The stunning cinematography, and the sweeping floating travel throughout the divided city could themselves have made a respectable documentary. This was the movie that inspired the Nicholas Cage movies about the Angels.
12 people found this helpful
BarbaraReviewed in the United States on October 5, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A touchung and intelligent Fantasy
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Wim Wenders' movie is something else altogether. Brilliantly done, alternating between black and white and color, it has a meditative quality. There never is any rush as it follows two immortal and invisible angels who watch over the people of Berlin, at times being able to provide comfort. They talk about how it might feel to be a human,to be in the midst of life. And then one of them decides he wants to be able to love, to touch, to smell, to taste. He has fallen in love with a mortal whom has watched over for a while, getting to know the difficulties of her life and her vulnerability. He decides to become human.To see him rejoice in what to most humans are not enjoyable sensations - the taste of his own blood when he gets hurt, for instance, is very touching. And the acting is wonderful! And then to have Peter Falk appear as himself - being a Colombo fan - that was the icing on the cake for me. I can highly recommend this movie to anybody wanting to see something different and created with care, sensitivity, and attention to detail.
6 people found this helpful
Andrew EllingtonReviewed in the United States on April 28, 2008
5.0 out of 5 stars
Living breathing poetry...
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Like my title suggests, `Der Himmel uber Berlin' is a film of intensely angelic proportions; a film that is the visual equivalent of a thousand beautiful strokes of the pen. Watching `Der Himmel uber Berlin' is a treat for the eyes as well as the mind. It has been hailed as Wim Wenders finest film, and while I have not seen many of his other films I must say that this would be a hard film to top. If you are only aware of the Hollywood remake of this movie (i.e. `City of Angels') then you are in for an unexpected treat, for Wenders original is a far cry from the Cage/Ryan film. This is not to be seen as a knock of `City of Angels', which just so happens to be a personal favorite of mine, but it is meant to inform you that `Der Himmel uber Berlin' is a masterpiece whereas `City of Angels' is merely a great film.

The film opens in beautiful sepia as angel Damiel watches over the city of Berlin. In fact the majority of this film is Damiel and fellow angel Cassiel walking about the city, listening to the thoughts of the men and women groping for meaning in their lives. One of the earliest sequences scales the apartments within one building, allowing us to hear what the angels hear, and it's this scene that really told me all I needed to know. This film is going to unlike anything I've ever seen before.

`Der Himmel uber Berlin' tells the story of Damiel, an angel who longs to experience the pleasures of life in the flesh, as a human, tasting the sweet air and seeing the vibrant colors, feeling the soft breathe of another and tasting their skin. As he walks the city he contemplates all that he is missing and dreams of one day forsaking his eternal forever for a chance at mortal happiness. Then his eyes fall upon the beautiful Marion, a lonely trapeze artist who captures Damiel's heart instantly. Now his longing to be a part of her world is stronger than ever and as the film draws to a close he has to make the most important decision of his life.

The idea of angels forsaking their heavenly home for the affections of women is not entirely new and or original; for if you remember, that did happen in the Bible, but what Wenders does with `Der Himmel uber Berlin' is make that action honorable, beautiful even. This film paints a vastly different picture than that of Biblical accounts. There is no adverse affects to the angels decision to leave his rightful home, just new experiences and a chance at love and `life'. What this film lacks in dramatic tension (`City of Angels' created its own) it makes up for in artistic beauty (something `City of Angels' didn't attempt to capture). `Der Himmel uber Berlin', as I mentioned, is intoxicating to watch. The sepia in which the majority of the film is shot (to capture the angels muted state) is rich and magnificent, even more so than the colors that flood Damiel's eyes upon becoming `human'. The words spoken (or should I say `thought') by the cast of characters are graceful and meaningful, words that stay with the viewer and incite him to contemplation.

The acting is also beautiful orchestrated. Bruno Ganz is flawless as Damiel, capturing his loneliness, his longing and eventually his overwhelming joy. I have never been a fan of Cage and honestly feel that his one-note performances drag down the films he inhabits. The same can be said for `City of Angels' (which thrives on Meg Ryan's magnificent performance) but nothing of the sort can be said for Ganz who embodies Damiel with believable perfection. Solveig Dommartin is effortless as Marion, the epitome of searching, an individual longing to be found by something deserving of her affections. Otto Sander delivers superbly as Cassiel and Peter Falk (who plays himself in an interesting twist) gives a very honest and tender performance.

In the end it is Wim Wenders whose star shines the brightest though. His direction is effortless and beautiful. He creates an intoxicating masterpiece that will be hard to top. `Der Himmel uber Berlin' is a strange and unique journey, but it is a journey well worth taking. Allow yourself to be carried away by its poetry; I promise you will be richly rewarded.
19 people found this helpful
muskiedineReviewed in the United States on December 27, 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars
When the child was a child . . .
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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.
15 people found this helpful
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