Damiel (Bruno Ganz at his best) is one of a legion of angels who watches over the lives of residents in a divided city. Set towards the end of the 1980s, before the Berlin Wall came down, the film charts Damiel’s desire to feel, just as the subjects he watches over do. In particular, he is enraptured by Solveig Dommartin’s Marion, an acrobat in a circus. Although it is only children who can see the angels, Marion is faintly aware of Damiel’s presence. As is Peter Falk’s actor, filming on location in the city, who has a past that links him with the otherworldly guardians.
Outside the central romance, the richness of Wenders’ film lies in the snapshots of the lives of Berlin’s populace – individuals who exist on the periphery of the narrative but who inform Damiel’s desire to achieve a human state. Wenders’ camera flies above the city (the film’s original German title is literally translated as _The Sky Over Berlin_), capturing these lives in motion, as Damiel’s fellow angel Cassiel (Otto Sander) reminds his friend of what he will lose by achieving a mortal state. Mirroring the shift between colour and black and white first employed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1946 drama _A Matter of Life and Death_, _Wings of Desire_ matches that film’s magical aura – not just in its subject matter, but as a work of transcendent cinema.
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