The movie that finally made me switch off my player
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