Wings of Desire


Wings of Desire

Critics Consensus

Beyond ravishing, Wings of Desire is Wim Wenders' is aching and heartbreaking exploration of how love makes us human.



Reviews Counted: 52

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Average Rating: 4.4/5

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Movie Info

Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are angels who watch over the city of Berlin. They don't have harps or wings (well, they usually don't have wings) and they prefer overcoats to gossamer gowns. But they can travel unseen through the city, listening to people's thoughts, watching their actions and studying their lives. While they can make their presence felt in small ways, only children and other angels can see them. They spend their days serenely observing, unable to interact with people, and they feel neither pain nor joy. One day, Damiel finds his way into a circus and sees Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a high-wire artist, practicing her act; he is immediately smitten. After the owners of the circus tell the company that the show is out of money and must disband, Marion sinks into a funk, shuffling back to her trailer to ponder what to do next. As he watches her, Damiel makes a decision: he wants to be human, and he wants to be with Marion, to lift her spirits and, if need be, to share her pain. Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is a remarkable modern fairy tale about the nature of being alive. The angels witness the gamut of human emotions, and they experience the luxury of simple pleasures (even a cup of coffee and a cigarette) as ones who've never known them. From the angels' viewpoint, Berlin is seen in gorgeous black-and-white -- strikingly beautiful but unreal; when they join the humans, the image shifts to rough but natural-looking color, and the waltz-like grace of the angels' drift through the city changes to a harsher rhythm. Peter Falk appears as himself, revealing a secret that we may not have known about the man who played Columbo, and there's also a brief but powerful appearance by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Wings of Desire hinges on the intangible and elusive, and it builds something beautiful from those qualities.

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Bruno Ganz
as Damiel
Otto Sander
as Cassiel
Curt Bois
as Homer
Beatrice Manowski
as Das Strichmädchen
Hans Martin Stier
as The Dying Man
Peter Falk
as Himself
Lajos Kovács
as Marion's coach
Peter Werner
as Manager
Paul Busch
as Circus
Didier Flamand
as Angel at the library
Olivier Picot
as Air-raid shelter
Dirk Vogeley
as On the highway
Mick Harvey
as Crime & the city solution
Nick Cave
as Himself
Blixa Bargeld
as Member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
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Critic Reviews for Wings of Desire

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Wings of Desire

An angel falls in love with a human woman and decides to become one of her kind. The inspiration for the Hollywood tear-jerker City of Angels, Wim Wenders's film is decidedly un-Hollywood. Filled with existential reflections and poorly paced, the film is more meditation than plot and story, more philosophical musing than love story. It feels long, though only a little over two hours. Peter Falk, who apparently is an ex-angel, plays himself, and this dash of reality seems incongruent with the fantasy that permeates the rest of the film. Overall, I didn't like either the Hollywood or European version of this story because both seem too far to the ends of extremes.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Dealing with the interconnectedness of the human existence as well as the ethereal quality of dreams and the world of angels, Wim Wenders provides his magnum opus with "Wings of Desire." The film has been lauded for its grasp of different foreign languages, veering from the macabre, and showing the romanticism of the relationship between Damiel and Marion. While a later adaptation dealt primarily with this relationship, "Wings of Desire," at its core, is a film about the experience of being human and not taking it for granted. The world is not shown as being exciting, but instead candid and often beatific. The angels' world is superimposed over the humans', but theirs is a dull gray and white landscape. The humans' is in color and they interact with one another, but in the angels' they can hear the people's thoughts. Oftentimes these thoughts are philosophical and heavy-handed, exactly what a person would think if they were alone. These thoughts are oftentimes sprawling narratives about their lives, their strife and worries about the future. The angels whisper into their ears, picking up their moods by implanting thoughts. One of these angels is named Damiel, who floats around a huge library where other angels nest, and also around the massive city of Berlin. He and his friend Cassiel remark on the virtues of being alive, and all the small things that we never notice in our daily lives. While at a circus Damiel sees a trapeze performer named Marion and follows her around, listening to her dense inner thoughts. She gives these long soliloquies about the state of the world and how she fits into it, which are charming and introspective. Between the amazing visuals, the bleak and yet interesting soliloquies from the people that the angels are listening to, the amazing cinematography, the great performance from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the bleak Cold War landscape of Berlin, this film is unparalleled in beauty or simplicity. Peter Falk is also a great addition in a strange cameo where he plays himself, with a fictitious background as a fallen angel. Knowing someone is listening to your thoughts may seem terrifying, but when it comes to these guardians and their empathy towards humans, even in their times of need, it's an angelic effort all around.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Daniel and Cassiel are two angels who are assigned to watch over the city of Berlin. It is their job to monitor people and take note of all that occurs, and to help out those in need. Daniel (Bruno Ganz) eventually grows tired of this, and decides to give up immortality to become human so that, no only can he experience life to the fullest, but just life in general, including finding love with a profoundly lonely trapeze artist. Hollywood bastardized this film as City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, but even then, that doesn't take away from the fact that this is one of the most beautiful, poetic, and profoundly moving films ever made. It is, basically, Wim Wenders's masterpiece. It is a heavy film, with lots of spiritual and philosophical subtext, but despite being an art film, this deals with things that everyone can relate to, mostly, just trying to escape from an isolated life and make meaningful connections with others. The film is heavily stylized, using both criso momochromatic black and white and bright colors to represent the angelic and human worlds, respectively. The fact that it was also shot in Berlin while the Wall was still up also reinforces the divide between the humans and angels, and it is interesting to see the city from this perspective. My only real complaint is that the film is kinda slow, and maybe a bit ponderous here and there, but overall, this is just a marvelous film, and I'm glad I finally saw it because I really feel like it truly is one of the best films ever made.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A beautiful, haunting, atmospheric drama concerning two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sandler) who wander amongst the streets of Berlin undetected, and how one of them (Ganz) falls in love with a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) and starts to ponder about the opportunity of becoming human in order to be with her. This is simply a stunning piece of work by director Wim Wenders, as he creates a movie so full of life and mystery but is also able to show the flip-side of these moments of excitement by setting it in the bleak, depressed city of Berlin (with the Wall still standing - another layer of dread and sadness added in to the equation). While it is part social commentary on the state of Germany after WW2, it's actually more important a love story, and one that has a lot of weight to it surprisingly. Peter Falk's character is also a rarity - and the man nails it. While the movie really gets interesting in the last half hour, it is still intriguing during its first hour and thirty minutes, as Wenders seamlessly goes between a black-and-white scope with brief instances of color. A definite must-see just for the sheer atmosphere this movie possesses alone. Without question one of the best dramas ever created, with dialogue so rich it is impossible not to be in awe of it.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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