{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wings of Desire

When the child was a child,
It didn't know it was a child.
Everything was full of life,
And all life was one.

One of the most true works of art will not ask you any questions directly but will touch something within you that will let you ask questions to yourself. Its like seeing a carefree child all happy riding his bicycle and you asking yourself 'What is this joy? or where is that joy now?'. Wings of Desire do exactly the same. Wings of Desire is a life-affirming tale that celebrates mortality. There is no cry for maturity or logic but a heart-felt whisper to be child again.

Wings of Desire is a tale of two Angels Damiel and Cassiel hovering over city of Berlin and experiencing/witnessing the life of mortals, viewing their everyday problems and joys, listening to their inner thoughts passively for eternity. They see Berlin with all its noise, parents lamenting children, women having labor pains, self-loathing people committing suicides, old people going nostalgic about old days. They have seen it all. They don't react too much. But long for this pleasure, this pain.

Damiel confides in Cassiel about his dissent over this and not experiencing any real joy, joy of saying a surprising 'Oh' rather than all-know 'Yeah', joy of blackening his fingers with morning newspapers , joy of feeding a cat, joy of basic colors of human emotions.

But unlike Damiel, Cassiel is more content to just witness. Of all the persons he observes, he takes a special interest in Homer, an old man who wants to speak out about the city's terrible past and the nostalgia of war and peace. Several of the most profound lines of the movie comes out from Homer, "And if mankind loses its storyteller, then it will lose its childhood" and "Is Peace too uninspiring to write about" and "What is it about peace that keeps its epic from enduring?" !

Frequenting different places of the War-torn city, Damiel find real fun and amusement at circus sitting along with children and laughing his heart out. Here he falls in love with Marion, a lithe trapeze artist in a traveling circus. One of the most romantically beautiful scene is in Marion's caravan where Damiel realizes his love and longing for her and decides to become a human.

From here Wings of Desire could have taken two roads, one that the angel realize his mistake to come down, which is obviously an easy choice and expected, second that he finds out the joy and pleasure he longed for, which is difficult as it may be termed manipulative or childish or unrealistic. Wim Wenders takes the second choice and presents it with child-like realism.

The images where Damiel descends from the sky and tastes his blood and walks along the Berlin Wall and see all the colorful murals is just what a child would have done on the day of his birth ! The Wall of Berlin becomes first lesson for an angel who has just shed his wings for a dip of mortality.

I must be one non-observant fool if I didn't mention the B&W photography in the movie, its mesmerizing. Berlin looks stunning in those B&W montages. To show Angel's in black and white and we mortals all colored sure is life-affirming.

Wings of Desire may be seen in so many different ways, an ode to desire or a dedication to romance or the longing of touching pain and pleasure alike, or the nostalgia of innocence or a heart-felt song of love and life. Its like a landscape or a mural where you zoom in and out, realizing the beauty of it over time and thus appreciating life in all its frailties.

1 comment:

anurag said...

The Full Poem that appears in the movie:

Song of Childhood
By Peter Handke

When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn't know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn't exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.

It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, ... bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,
It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

Originally translated by Gabriel, revised by Doug Rosebrock.