Five visual themes in Wings of Desire – Wim Wenders’ immortal film about watching
It’s been voted the second best film of the 1980s, but what makes Wim Wenders’ fantasy about two angels observing life in Berlin still so resonant today? These five extracts give a clue to the film’s enduring richness.
Few modern films have made the transition to instant classic as quickly as Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987). His tale of a guardian angel in a still-Wall-divided Berlin who falls in love with – and to earth for – a melancholy trapeze artist is a canny merging of cerebral formal experimentalism and unabashed popular romanticism that swept up highbrow critics and a larger mainstream audience than did typical ‘challenging’ foreign-language cinema of the day (leading US film magazine Premiere’s 1980s wrap-up poll voted it second only to Raging Bull as film of the decade). Still a quintessential ‘arthouse’ film, its bold use of style (black-and-white, existential voiceover, languorous pacing) – and content (overt symbolism and culture blending, from Rilke-inspired poetry to Nick Cave’s post-punk anthems) fostered an appreciation, even a devotion that endures to this day.