The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The movie that finally made me switch off my player

with 12 comments

I’m a podcast junkie, which is apparent if you throw a glance at my blog roll. A few times I’ve had the question:  “how do you manage to keep up with so many podcasts?”

The answer is simple: I grab every opportunity I get, from early morning to late night. I listen to podcasts as I’m going to work; I listen to them on my way home. Podcasts help me through my weekly shopping in the grocery store and they accompany me as I’m emptying the dishwasher. It’s as good as automatic. Whenever I sit down in my car to drive somewhere, I reach for my phone, put the plugs in my ears and put on whatever show I’m currently listening to. All those short moments add up eventually and that’s how I make it.

But recently I watched a movie that turned all my usual habits overboard. The movie in question was Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire.

The strange thing is that this was the very same movie that made me fall sound asleep five minutes after it started last time I watched it, back in 1988. Since my sleepiness at movies, particularly art house films, has gotten worse rather than better over the years, I feared the worst, not sure if the discomfort of the chairs in that old, historically restored theatre would be enough to keep me awake.

But I needn’t have worried. Sure, it was poetic. Sure, it didn’t have much of drama in it. But this time I was involved, engaged and mesmerized.

An angel film with class
The film tells the story about an angel who falls in love with a mortal woman and wants to become a human. This isn’t the first time we see angels doing such things. There is an entire angel genre, often including some kind of love interest. We’ve seen angels mixing with living people more or less successfully – protecting them, falling in love with them or wanting to become one of them. I rather like angel movies; they’re usually good fun, although a bit sugary. But I have to admit that many of them are the kind of movies you’d rather watch on an airplane than in a cinema. They’re lightweight, cheesy and quite predictable.

Wings of Desire is nothing like that. Sure, it’s an angel film, but an angel film with class.

If you expect an easily accessible story that will allow you to mindlessly cruise through the movie, you might find it a little bit difficult and I imagine the predominantly black and white photo can be a bit off-putting for some, not to mention that it’s German and is subtitled.

But those obstacles aren’t worse than that you can overcome them. I did. I threw away my usual expectations conversations that made sense and a narrative that was easy to follow. A huge part of the movie we just see angels walking around in the world, listening to the thoughts of people. I let the stream of consciousness, the poetry of the words and images fill my mind. I can barely put into words what feelings they evoked within me. But I was pretty sure it said something essential about life, love and what it’s all about.

My drive home
As I drove homewards I didn’t even think of putting on a podcast and if the thought had crossed my mind, I would have dismissed it immediately. In the mood I was it would have felt completely wrong. I wanted to suck out all of the poetry in the movie and lick the bowl until I had cherished every ounce of its content.

I had been waiting for over 20 years to give Wings of Desire a second chance. But I am glad I finally did.

Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin, Wim Wenders, GE 1987) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

February 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

12 Responses

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  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that film and of the films by Wim Wenders that I’ve seen. It’s my 2nd favorite behind Paris, Texas. BTW, what did you think of its remake City of Angels w/ Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan?

    I thought it was an absolute piece of shit.

    Steven Flores

    February 28, 2012 at 1:27 am

    • I watched Paris, Texas as it came out and I remember loving it, but sadly enough my memory of it has evaporated. Time for a revisit perhaps?

      You know how I feel about remakes. I haven’t watched it and you give me no good reason to do it. Just seeing the description at IMDB makes me cringe. It seems to be an altogether different creature of a movie.


      February 28, 2012 at 7:48 am

  2. Man I gotta rewatch Wings of Desire. Reading your review reminded me of the turnaround I had with The Assassination of Jesse James. When I first watched it I feel dead asleep. After rewatching it, though, it became one of my favorites.

    Dave Enkosky

    February 28, 2012 at 3:42 am

    • Go ahead and give it a try! I think a part of how we regard movies has to do with randomness. A movie that makes you fall asleep could have been the best of the year if you’d only watched it another night. A movie that you fall in love with can turn out to be horrible a few years later as you revisit it because the situation is different.

      I also think there’s a factor of aging in it. If I met myself at age 17 and we talked about movies I’m not sure we’d agree about everything.


      February 28, 2012 at 7:50 am

  3. I found Wings to be a marvelous film, so I’m so glad it resonated with you so much this time around. It is interesting, isn’t it, how a film about angels is really about what it means to be human, the pain of it, the glory of it, the sheer bodily weight of it? It’s the sort of film that makes you feel more alive after you’ve watched it.

    (Your habits with podcasts sound exactly like mine! My earbuds are never far from my ears, and I love listening while doing household chores and while shopping for groceries.)

    • Exactly my sentiment! I was too alive to escape into a podcast. An entirely different situation to when you’re making the chores and need the escape to remind yourself that you’re still alive…


      February 28, 2012 at 7:51 am

  4. I wanna see this film, quite a bit. I have it at home and keep meaning to stick it on, but somethign else pops up! I will now move it up the to watch pile!

    Thanks Jessica

    Scott Lawlor

    February 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

    • I hope you’ll like it as much as I did. Be prepared that it IS a bit on the lyrical side so to say, but try to be openminded and let it soak into your mind and you’ll be rewarded eventually. At least that’s how it was to me.


      February 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

  5. While I didn’t hate the film (how can you hate a film that has libraries in it?!) I managed a few rants about it nonetheless. Definitely not at par with your experience of it, but I’m really glad you had that experience.


    February 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    • What a well written review! I particularly adored the story about the stockings. I recommend anyone who read this comment to run your blogpost through Google translate to at least get the basic idea of it. I’m sad to hear it didn’t work out as well for you as for me. But you certainly can motivate your standpoint very well.


      February 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm

  6. You nailed it Jessica. There isn’t much of a story, but this film has an magical way of making you appreciate being alive and almost see the world around you in a different light. I’m not at all a religious or superstitious person, so it’s even more impressive that a movie about angels could have such an affect on me.

    I too am very glad you decided to give it another chance after all these years.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    February 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    • Exactly. It somehow manages to capture life itself. People say lines they never say in reality, it’s all very poetic and yet there is some sort of existential truth in the core. That’s the only way I can describe how well I connected to it. It’s magic.


      February 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

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