Sunday, March 7, 2010

#490: Wings of Desire

(Wim Wenders, 1987)

When people who have seen very few European films think of European films, they usually think, in a generic sense, of Wings of Desire. Poetic, meditative, and - yes - existential, the movie Wim Wenders made after Paris, Texas is one of the great philosophical explorations of cinema. It's also a beautiful movie that, if your mood is right, can burrow its way into your inner-most thoughts.

This was the second time I've seen Wings of Desire, and I barely remembered anything from my first viewing until I started to watch the film, whereupon moments can rushing back as they appeared on screen. I was a bit surprised now at how strongly I had reacted to this movie when I first saw it, at a time in my life when I wasn't nearly as receptive to slower films that focused more on the environment than on any specific plot. But I think that says a lot about the movie. Wings of Desire is certainly unconventional in the tradition narrative sense, which means it has some of the conventional characteristics that define "art-house" movies (mostly for people who do not watch "art-house" movies). But it also has a strangely reassuring tone that allows moments to pass with such ease and beauty that you might be halfway into the film before you realize it has begun.

There has been plenty written about Wings of Desire, and the best of it is about the technical process of the film. This is because, for me, the film is not something that should be deconstructed. It is impossible to imagine describing this film to someone in a way that makes them understand not just what happens in the movie, but what is meant by those moments. So much of what defines the film is separate from its core plot. A movie that you have to watch in order to understand it seem to me to be the most compelling of all films, and by extension all works of art. Experience, after all, is what the angels in the film are so desperate to attain. As Peter Falk tells the newly fallen angel, "That you have to find out for yourself. That's the fun of it."

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