01 October 2007

Wings of Desire


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.....


Directed by Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire is a pretty dense film with poetical dialogues and very good messages. My colleague Silvia once told me about the film which she rented from our library and said that I must in all cases see the film and discuss it with her. Two years later, Dechito did see the film last week and Silvia is already back in Italy enjoying spending time with her boyfriend Stefano in her villa in Crema. It goes without saying that in Dechito's world time is a miraculous thing and seems to go slower than time outside his world (or, to put it bluntly, Dechito is such a lazy git and always does things in a much slower pace than anybody else).


Well, the film is about a group of angels who enjoy being voyeurs having a good sneak at people around them. Having an advantage of invisibility, they can come and go and overhear what the mortal talk. (Hmm ... thinking about it ... I really want to be like them! I've already got a list of whom I should stalk ...) Anyway, Damiel (one of the angels starring Bruno Ganz) doesn't want just to stalk and enjoy this voyeuristic privilege. He does want to have a real life and taste mortality. The film centres around this question: whether to be mortal and enjoy the ups and downs of life, or to be immortal and be on the safe side. However, I think Damiel is cheating: he's already been an angel and known what it's like to be up there comtemplating down below. I don't have such a choice! So I need to subscribe to his belief that it's noble to be born and enjoy suffering and happiness because that'll make your life as colourful as it should've appeared on a Sony WEGA TV set. (Why WEGA? Because it's the make and model we have. No psychoanalytical reading please).
Talking about colour, Wim Wenders does have fun switching from black-and-white to colour and vice versa. When he uses the camera to portray what angels see, he chooses black-and-white. When he uses the camera to portray what mortals see, he chooses colour. The simple reason is that angels have seen too much, have experienced too much, have heard too much, everything is at once so banal and repetitive. I should like to direct my secret readers to read Borges's short story 'The Immortal' to understand this blase feeling. I think it's probably something like marking some 300 essays on the same topic -- I'm not joking about this, I'm actually marking them and need to submit the results some time next week!


Another important subject in the film is desire. Damiel wants to forfeit his status as an angel partly because he is after a circus acrobat who sports a fake pair of wings. Even though she's portrayed as an angel, her life is burdened with a lot of problems. It's ironic that Damiel sympathises with her and wants to forfeit his real wings and go after these fake wings instead. Well, love does conquer all and he's all set to shoulder all human problems, even though we as viewers foresee all sorts of problems awaiting him (no money, no clothes, no home, etc. but at least the heaven is kind enough to give him his armour suit to sell).

What I like about this film is setting. It's set in Berlin and when Damiel falls down from heaven, he's awake next to a long wall painted in colour. Maybe this is what I've gathered from the film (despite my drowsy state whilst watching this film): walls, boundaries, thresholds, etc. are indispensable as it makes human life meaningful. If we are all omnipotent, how boring would that be? But if we can have a glimpse of what we may have but are not allowed to, immediately we have longing and need.

A case in point is in the Bible: if God doesn't forbid Adam and Eva from eating an apple from the tree of knowledge, they wouldn't have wanted it that much as I'm sure there're other infinitely better stuff in heaven anyway -- nectar, ambrosia, cookie'n'cream ice-cream, sticky rice and mango, etc. It's just that we humans are a bunch of nutcases who want things that are forbidden to us. I'm sure when Damiel assumes a real life of human being and spends more time with Marion (that circus acrobat), they'll start bickering and throwing things at each other. Well, Wim Wenders may say that exactly what he calls life and we should cherish it. If one chooses life, it means one subscribes not only to the good bits, but its downside too.

Life is fun because it has limitations, full of lacks and deficiencies. Life is a series of problem-solving negotiations and challenges. Life is full of suffering but suffering makes our life meaning, especially when we can learn or overcome that ordeal. So I guess Damiel is a masochist, don't you think? I, on the other hand, want to swap places and be an angel first. A busy schedule ahead, I'm sure!

1 comment:

Oli said...

Just to say, I just watched the film, and I loved it. I thought your analysis was right on the mark. Cheers!