Monday, November 05, 2007

WINGS OF DESIRE directed by Wim Wenders

A harmless prion - is there such a thing? A molecule twisting another to fit itself - or a memory shaping another? Sometimes a film enters my head and like a prion changes my ideas and thoughts. The images haunt me as if they are people I used to know and have now gone away - abruptly and forever. A part of me wants to see the sequel but my more sensible part warns me to stay away. So it was with this film WINGS OF DESIRE which we saw last night.

It is Berlin 1987 and there are angels everywhere. Only children can see them. They haunt the sad, the lonely and the suicidal. They peer over the shoulders of scholars and listen to their thoughts. Libraries are their favoured habitat.

I found this comforting - like that promise from childhood: 'Jesus loves you'. It was personal - repeated to me again and again by my grandparents, parents and people that taught me in Sunday School. The bearded man smiling faintly from faded pictures would be there for me whenever I needed him. Just like an angel. Just like these angels in Berlin. As a child I believed this absolutely. When this child was a child...

Which was exactly how the film started - with this poem by Peter Handke:

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging...

The film is shot in black and white because the angels do not see in colour. The first part was a pastiche of life in Berlin before the wall came down. I recognised some of it: the concrete and the odd patches of overgrown derelict land - it was still there when I went in 2001; but maybe it is gone now.

The job of angels, it turns out, is primarily to observe and their reports reminded me sometimes of Virginia Wolfe's KEW GARDEN and REM's video of EVERYBODY HURTS.

But, like humans, angels can become distracted. One tried to persuade a suicidal man not to jump - and was devastated when he failed; while another reminded the victim of a car crash of reasons to live - things like the smell of fresh bread, the sound of rain on leaves.. until once again the film blended with the poem:

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, ...bread
And so it is even now.
When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now...

This latter angel also fell in love with a lonely trapeze artist and wanted to become mortal in order to be with her, and so like THE LITTLE MERMAID, had to endure both the wonder (the redness of blood, the touch of the ground beneath his feet) and the pain of being human.

I found it an inspiring film and very European in character - mainly because the actors were allowed long beautiful speeches. I also thought it a great and adventurous piece of art.

Here is another angel. One that I bought this Saturday when I went to Birmingham...

It is not robust or as strong as the angels in the film but I think it will do very well as observer from the top of the Christmas tree.


Blogger Kay Cooke said...

Your angel is gorgeous! I can see her really fitting right into your household.(Is that because she reminds me of you?) The film sounds different, and a rather appealing escape.

Tue Nov 06, 02:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha, that made me laugh, CB...

Tue Nov 06, 09:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to see that film. The U2 song that came out of it (and video) are my favorites. ("Dressed up like a car crash"--my favorite line!)

And speaking of Everybody Hurts--I had an amazingly similar experience once on the M1.

Wed Nov 07, 08:57:00 am  
Blogger PD Smith said...

thanks for reminding me of Wenders' beautiful film...and those haunting lines from Handke.

Wed Nov 07, 05:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kath F: We hired the film from Amazon - it was great, I highly recommend.

Just been looking at the U2 film here

See what you mean.

Hi PD Smith - Nice to 'meet' you! Just been looking at your website. Doomsday Men looks like my sort of book - just adding it to my wishlist...

Wed Nov 07, 07:04:00 pm  
Blogger PD Smith said...

Cheers Clare...I've been a fan of your blog for some time now!

Thu Nov 08, 08:23:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, its a great and poetic film! Among the scenes I like esp. is one in a public library where the angels sit (unvisible for the humans) aside the readers, listen to their thoughts and whisper ideas into their subconsciousness. Perhaps W. Wenders thought at this little museum, which he liked so much that he made a little film about it:

Thu Nov 08, 11:54:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Anon, I've wanted to go to Halle for some time because I came across it when I was researching for my book on Dr Heinrich Hoffmann - he studied medicine there because it was one of the few places that allowed students to practise on patients at the time. It sounded an interesting place so if I ever go I shall certainly visit that museum. Some of these small museums are little gems.

Thu Nov 08, 12:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Clare, are you sure that you don't mistake Halle, the city in former East-Germany:
, with the town Halle(Westfalen):
? The mentioned Museum is in the town in Westfalia. Its exhibition is far more interesting than the pics on its website suggest. And the stories Mrs. Blaschke, the founder can tell are equally interesting.

BTW, you mention on your blog your interest in Ecos medieval novel - a real medieval thriller:

Best, Thomas

Thu Nov 08, 06:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Thomas (one of my favourite names BTW).

Thank you I had no idea there were so many Halles! I thought the one Hoffmann studied in was in East Germany, but now I'm not sure. I shall have to look it up.

And thank you for the link to the Bernd Roeck book. I shall look out for it.

Thu Nov 08, 10:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to Berlin in 1990 shortly after the wall came down with some friends. It was a stange time. Many Polish people standing around with a few personal items for sale arranged at their feet. Things like a few odd plates or a pair of old boots. We stayed in a modern hotel of West Berlin, located next to a major peripheral road. I had just seen the film Wings of Desire, and when I looked out of my hotel window on arriving, I discovered I was looking at the apartment which features in the film, where you can see different lives going on at the same time, in lit apartments situated one above the other (as I remember it). I think these scenes might well have been filmed from the hotel room I stayed in, or one close to it.

Fri Nov 09, 12:03:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fine writing, Jonathan! I found that little account of yours hugely evocative. Thank you.

Fri Nov 09, 09:02:00 pm  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

One of the most evocative movies I've ever seen. Of course I loved it, so and loved the scenes with Peter Falk...compadre.


Sat Nov 10, 09:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lori! I heard a funny tale about Peter Falk when they were asking him if he were interested in the role. They explained to him that he would be playing himself but that that the Peter Falk in the film would also once have been an angel his repsonse was 'How did you know?'

Sat Nov 10, 09:46:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Clare,

here some fotos of the mentioned museum, made by an american friend when we visited it together a few days ago:
(without the flashlight it looks far better):
(The cow is a toy of the very young Einstein)


Mon Nov 12, 06:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Thomas - I like your selection of slides, especially the one of Einstein's cow. thank you for sharing them.

Thu Nov 15, 09:12:00 am  

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