"There are angels over the streets of Berlin," quotes the movie poster, but these are like no angels you've ever seen. Bundled in dark overcoats, they watch over the city with ears open to the heartbeat of the human soul, listening to the internal musings and yearnings of earthbound humans like existential detectives. In these delicate, astounding scenes we float through the thoughts of dozens Berlin citizens, from the weary and worn to the hopeful and young, as the angels record the magic moments for some heavenly record. But when Damiel (the empathic and sensitive Bruno Ganz) falls in love with an angel of another sort, the lonely trapeze artist Marion (willowy, sad-eyed Solveig Dommartin), he gives up the contemplation and observation of life to experience it himself.
Wim Wenders's most purely romantic film is like poetry on celluloid, a celebration of the transient and fragile moments of being human: the warmth of a cup of coffee on a cold day, the embrace of a friend, the touch of a lover, the rapture of love. Opening with an angel's-eye view of Berlin in silvery black and white (delicately captured by the great cinematographer Henri Alekan, who photographed Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast 40 years earlier), it transforms into a gauzy color world when Damiel "crosses over" by sheer will. Peter Falk plays himself as a fallen angel with a special sensitivity for celestial visitors ("I can't see you, but I know you're there," he proclaims), and Otto Sander, whose smiling eyes brighten a face etched by eons of waiting and watching, is Damiel's partner. Wenders made a sequel in 1993, Faraway, So Close, and Hollywood remade the film as City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. --Sean Axmaker
This Special Edition illustrates how time to reflect can create better DVD extras. Looking back 16 years after his film debuted in 1987, director Wim Wenders examines it with new eyes. The movie--largely unscripted, we learn--is a love letter to Berlin, a town in flux (it was shot before "the Wall" fell). Wender's dry, insightful commentary takes us through the genesis of the film and the importance of the real-world settings, many of which no longer exist. Peter Falk is also on the commentary track and, like his presence in the film, offers a punch of earnest emotion and humor. Much of the 45-minute featurette repeats Wenders's commentary points. Many of the key talents are interviewed and director Brad Silverberg takes on a role as the film's fan (he later made the Americanization, City of Angels
). There's some 20 minutes of deleted scenes (polished and unpolished) including material that was reshot for the sequel. The packed disc includes an offbeat trailer or two along with a gorgeous transfer of the remarkable film. --Doug Thomas