Visible only to those like them and to human children, Damiel and Cassiel are two angels, who have existed even before humankind. Along with several other angels, they currently wander around West Berlin, generally on their own, observing and preserving life, sometimes trying to provide comfort to the troubled, although those efforts are not always successful. Among those they are currently observing are: the cast and crew of a movie – a detective story set in WWII Nazi Germany – which include a sensitive and perceptive Peter Falk; an elderly man named Homer looking for eternal peace; and the troupe of a financially failing circus, which has closed early for the season because of those financial problems. One day, Damiel tells Cassiel that he wants to become human, to feel not only the sensory aspects of physical beings, but also emotional aspects. He embarks on this thought with the full realization that there is no turning back if he decides to do so. His thoughts are largely …
User Reviews: Digging deep into the thoughts and dreams of mortals and the angels who look after them, WINGS OF DESIRE is a masterfully-made work of art and Germany’s finest. It matches lavish cinematography, flawless direction by Wim Winders, impressive performances and a simple plot told with such brilliance, symbolism and will.
The first half of the film resembles more like a beautifully-painted mosaic or an avant-garde film showing empathy for every character brought about by the screen even showing traces of the Nazism era. Here, the idea of supernatural beings that indirectly assist humans in day-to-day life is introduced. The mystifying beings are unseen to everyone except to the young-at-heart. Hovering atop statues or wandering inside public libraries or apartments, they see and know everything as Winders etches the black-and-white world of the angels. The story evolves when one angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) wonders what it is like to be human, how it is like to be able to feel, to hold or to be seen. Once he comes to the aid of attractive trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin), he feels a spiritual devotion he has never felt before.
Winders’ slow-but-steady rate gives time for the viewer to contemplate on the questions a child asks ("Why am I me and why not you? Why am I here and not there? When did time begin and where did space end?"). He allows the audience members think what they want to think in a new light instead of manipulating them. The scenario of a ghostly being falling for a human may seem overworked now (GHOST, JUST LIKE HEAVEN) but WINGS OF DESIRE is a fresh, innovative piece of cinema with remarkable photography and unbelievable performances. Henry Alekan’s cinematography is both insightful and visually dazzling. Every camera angle takes on a new connotation. Ganz and Dommartin are equally irresistible as two different "people", who worlds apart from each other; both characters are looking for love, no matter how close Damien is from Marion. Peter Falk, playing himself, is an amusing attribute to the cast being "Columbo" in the popular TV show. Being a mysterious character himself, he metaphorically adds a little color to the film amidst all the spellbinding drama and discloses an entertaining revelation that helps the film progress.
This revolutionary masterpiece of craftsmanship is considered by many as the greatest non-US movie ever and it deserves all of its praise entirely. WINGS OF DESIRE breaks new ground in romantic and dramatic film making. Every scene in this movie offers a chance for hope, understanding and compassion. Unbearably creative, outstanding and poignant, this superbly-made motion picture is not another art-house flick. Astounding.
WINGS OF DESIRE was remade in Hollywood as the sleek yet disappointing CITY OF ANGELS(1997).