Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wings of Desire

(ot Der Himmel über Berlin) French/West German movie (1987). Argos. Pr Anatole Dauman, Wim Wenders. Dir Wenders. Screenplay Peter Handke, Wenders. Starring Solveig Dommartin (Marion), Peter Falk (Himself), Bruno Ganz (Damiel), Otto Sander (Cassiel). 128 mins. B/w and colour.

Two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, attend Berlin, feeding on human thoughts and emotions as they have done since humanity first appeared on the site. Their Immortality has its cost: they cannot experience life directly – only leached of its colours, tastes and emotions. Yet Damiel falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artiste, Marion, and his growing passion for her finally succeeds in transforming him into a mortal man. Also in Berlin is Peter Falk, visiting to appear in a movie being made there; unlike everyone else except some children, he can directly sense the presence of the invisible angels – because, as he eventually confesses to the mortalized Damiel, he was once an angel himself, but took mortal form 30 years ago. Drifting through Berlin's nightlife, the mortal Damiel at last encounters Marion, and her love for him is instant, as if she had always known him.

Slow-moving, largely in b/w (the way the angels see the world) and with dialogue in English and (subtitled) German and French, WOD might seem at first daunting, yet it rapidly becomes absorbing and very convincing; the suspension of disbelief is attained not through spfx but by skilful nuances of acting (others do not walk through the angels but always manage narrowly, and quite naturally, to avoid bumping into them), by the alternations between b/w and colour, and by the rhythmic background patterning of people's thoughts (as heard by the angels), which rises to the heights of an abstracted, timeless-seeming chorale when the pair visit a public library, where the musings of the readers are overlaid on the susurration of ideas present in the books. Like all the best fantasies, it leads us to a shift in Perception: the angels' plane of existence becomes natural to us, while our own mortal world of sensation becomes a fantastic and infinitely desirable venue. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.