Wings Of Desire Revisited
Based solely on the reactions of a handful of friends, I would deem Wings of Desire to be a film you either love or hate, nothing in between. Prior to rewatching it on the big screen a couple of weeks ago, I would have put myself firmly in the “hate it” camp; now, well, it’s complicated.
Wings of Desire is a drama from 1987, directed by Wim Wenders and starring a bunch of people completely foreign to me and, strangely, Peter Falk. I know, what the fuck right? The movie is in German, almost entirely in black and white, and centers around two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, who stroll around Berlin in overcoats, listening to people’s thoughts and reading over their shoulders. Damiel adds some spice to his daily activities by stalking a French trapeze artist named Marion, and falling in love with her in a matter of days.
The movie is actually quite lovely; the black and white footage gives the film some instant romance and arty cred, and the soundtrack is super fantastic. But then there’s Peter Falk. He plays himself, but with the fictionalized [?] backstory that he is a fallen angel. He winds up acting as an unlikely mentor to Damiel, who eventually decides to “fall” as well; choosing to give up his immortality and fancy wings for a shot at love with Ms. Trapeze. That’s all well and good, but when I first watched this movie at the age of 20, I just couldn’t get on board with the casting of Falk.
I can’t explain it; I watched and enjoyed Columbo as a kid, so it wasn’t that I didn’t like him as an actor. It was more that he just felt out of place. It never made sense to me for fucking Columbo to pop up in Berlin while shooting some stupid Nazi mystery movie, making never-ending hat choices and ridiculous comments about drawing and “good lines” to some invisible angels that happen to be wandering around.
Anyway! I’m not writing this to shit all over the film, because after deciding to give the movie a second chance, I didn’t hate it. I still appreciated all of the same things I did the first time around, but this time I didn’t want to throw up in my mouth when Peter Falk appeared. Maybe it was all the gushing from others I had to stomach before the big rewatch, I don’t know, but he was kind of adorable. Yes, it was still odd for his character to be in the story and location, but it worked for me this time. Instead of being irritated by the weird detail of his inclusion, I was somewhat endeared. I actually enjoyed his nonsense, who would have thought?
Not only did I have a complete change of heart about his character, I actually teared up at the end of the movie, which most certainly didn’t happen the first time. Marion’s monologue in the closing scene with Damiel, as a new flesh-and-blood mortal, got me all choked up out of nowhere. While searching for funny clips of Peter Falk, I found a write-up that included the full text of her speech, written by Peter Handke. I’ve pasted it below as I find it more impactful to read than to watch, but I’ve also included the scene below the text for you to draw your own conclusions.
I must put an end to coincidence! The new moon of decision! I don't know if there is destiny, but there is decision! Decide! We are the present now. Not just the whole town, the whole world is taking part in our decision.
We two are now more than just two.
We embody something.
We are seated at the Square of the People, and the entire square is filled with people
who wish the same as we do.
We decide the game for everyone!
I am ready.
It is your turn now.
You have the game in the hand.
Now or never.
You need me. You will need me. There is no greater story than ours, of man and woman. It will be a story of giants, invisible, transferable, a story of new ancestors. Look, my eyes! They are the image of necessity, of the future of everyone in the square.
Last night, I dreamt of a stranger, of my man. Only with him could I be alone, open up to him, completely open, completely for him, let the whole of him enter me completely, surround him with the labyrinth of shared bliss.
I know that it is you.
The lines: “You need me. You will need me. There is no greater story than ours, of man and woman. It will be a story of giants, invisible, transferable, a story of new ancestors.” hit me right in the gut. The notion of a couple in love coming together as “new ancestors'“ is just beautiful. Anyway! The scene is a little overdramatic and drawn out but still effective.
In fact, the entire film is a little overdramatic and drawn out but still effective. Somehow all the kooky details and plot holes still add up to a positive experience. Not bad Mr. Wenders, not bad. Not amazing, but not bad. I guess there is some room between love and hate, at least in this case.