Wednesday, 7 March 2012

There are angels on the streets of Berlin

I may have mentioned here on my little blog how much I adore the city of Berlin.  I may have also mentioned that I am a huge fan of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.  How fortunate I was to stumble across Der Himmel Uber Berlin or, as released in Britain, Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders’ existential masterpiece, which combines my loves into a single film!

The premise is that countless angels have mingled unseen with the people of Berlin for thousands of years, listening to their deepest thoughts and darkest emotions. The film is shot in rich sepia toned black and white as a metaphor for the fact that these angels have spent so long observing that they are no longer able to experience the simplest joys of life.

We focus on two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), portrayed as middle aged men in dark overcoats.  They look down upon the city from Berlin’s ‘Golden Angel’ or Statue of Victoria on the Siegessaule.  They embrace the lonely, the desperate, the bereft.  Their raison d’etre is, as Cassiel says, to “assemble, testify, preserve”

The city of Berlin is the major star of the picture, with scenes depicting both the affluent Kurfurstendamm in West Berlin against the dereliction and poverty of areas such as Kreuzberg on the other side of the wall.  Not to mention the scenes that take place in between as Damiel and Cassiel walk in a literal no man’s land. 

The sense of loss and the presence of literal and metaphorical ghosts is never better played out than when Homer (Curt Bois), a World War 2 veteran, searches for the Potsdamer Platz, reduced from its former glory to a derelict wasteland.  A heart breaking scene seemingly representative of the collective sense of emptiness and guilt experienced by a divided city struggling to find its identity whilst still wrestling the demons of its recent history.   

In another scene we see Damiel attend a circus, where he is surprised that, unlike the adults, the children present can see him and talk to him.   The circus when seen through the eyes of the children is in full colour. 

The setting of the circus is where Damiel first encounters Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a beautiful but lonely trapeze artist who lives alone in a caravan and listens to Nick Cave.  Damiel falls in love with Marion and begins to wonder what it would be like to substitute observing the lives of others for a life filled with personal experience.

Through the assistance of an already “fallen” angel played by Peter Falk and referred to only as “Der Filmstar”, and with some angelic assistance from his erstwhile partner Cassiel, Damiel makes his dreams come true.

The film culminates with Damiel and Marion meeting for the first time at a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds concert where they greet each other like long lost soul mates.

Cassiel listens in to Nick

This film is as close to perfect as any I’ve ever seen.  Humourous and heartbreaking in equal measure.  Beautifully shot, full of exquisitely poetic dialogue and a torrent of metaphors that blow the mind!

I would heartily recommend this film to anyone.  Not necessarily an easy watch, but it rewards your emotional investment tenfold.

Lucy x


  1. I can't believe I've never seen it!

    I sat next to Nick in a bar in Sydney, back in the 80s, and he smoked menthol cigarettes and ignored me.

    And I had Are You the One That I've Been Waiting For as my wedding song. The marriage was a compelte disaster, but I will always always love Nick.

    Sarah xxx

    1. Fantastic song choice. I'm pretty sure the relationship that inspired the writing of that song is over also! My brother in law has met him too and says he is very shy and quietly spoken xx

  2. This film looks interesting, I may have to look it up.

    Lis x

  3. I love Wenders, but it happened that I never watch this film, because everyone around me have already seen it...too bad! And I love Nick Cave a lot, but more than him Blixa Bargeld that is in the last screen capture with I'll have to find some free time to watch it!!!
    Beautiful pictures

    1. I hope you can. I'm desperately trying to get hold of a copy of Faraway So Close which was the sequel to this film. Seems its only available from the States on region 1 DVD and only from certain sellers:( I've watched Paris Texas so far but still need to watch some of Wenders' other films

  4. Can you believe I was bought this on video back in 2000 and still haven't watched it? I've still got a video player so I really have no excuse. x

  5. You are so cute....I have been looking back at past posts and I love your style.....and you have great taste in clothing!

  6. This film has been on my to-see list for a long time. It looks wonderful!

  7. It looks really interesting. I love Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That second picture reminds me of the weeping angels in Doctor Who which always freak me out.

  8. All the screenshots and your wonderful descriptions really make it sound like a wonderful movie. I love old movies so this definetly goes on my to watch list)


  9. one of my favourite films ever, it's just beautiful and affecting, always takes me a little while to come back to the real world after I've watched it. xx


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