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Wings Of Desire (Criterion) (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk
  • Directors: Wim Wenders
  • Writers: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke, Richard Reitinger
  • Producers: Anatole Dauman, Ingrid Windisch, Joachim von Mengershausen, Pascale Dauman
  • Format: AC-3, Color, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English, French
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Oct. 20 2009
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,066 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Format: Blu-ray
The bulk of the film is in German, although some dialogue is in English. There are also occasional moments in French and Turkish.

Although this review contains spoilers, there's not really much to spoil. Each viewer will get something different from the film. The events are merely a loose framework used to provoke thought.

Wings of Desire is not an easy film to watch. It requires a lot of patience and you'll get very little from it if you aren't prepared to think. It's one of those stories that shows you events or allows you to hear thoughts, and then you make of it what you will. There isn't a conventional plot at all. If you watched The Tree of Life and had problems with its abstract narrative, Wings of Desire will test you even more. It's almost like a poem.

The story involves two immortal angels, Cassiel (Sander) and Damiel (Ganz), who have existed for millennia. The setting is Berlin, but the angels knew the city before humans ever existed. They remember how the river found its bed and how life as we know it began. They are serious and rarely show any emotion. Perhaps they have seen everything and it no longer affects them, or is their dispassionate outlook part of their very nature?

Their job is to observe humans and we see through their eyes in black and white. They can hear the thoughts of everyone they pass. Occasionally, when someone is sad or contemplating a desperate act, the angels intervene by touching the shoulder of the person in trouble. This gives that person a sense of hope and well being, but there's no guarantee the person will act on it. Children are able to see angels. Perhaps their innocence and lack of cynicism allows them to see what adults cannot?
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By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 23 2010
Format: DVD
Why shouldn't we fall in love?
Our hearts are made of it
Let's take a chance, why be afraid of it?

By: Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler

The basic story is of an angle that after recording life falls in love with life, not just the trapezes artist that he eventually wants to meet in the flesh. We get to follow his transition blow by blow, as he attempts to follow his desire.

Peter Falk as Der Filmstar is a catalyst and the glue to the story. I even mention that Colombo did not have a hat.

The film started out unscripted and the directors and writers had to punt. You may notice this as the story improves. There was a partial start script from Paris Texas.

I took a German class or several about the time of this film. Therefore, some of the film language is natural, some, I recognize after the subtitles and some is new. No one slurs the words so this would be a great training film. However, I never made it there so this is as close as I will ever get to 1987 Berlin.
Filmed in:
Berlin, Germany
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, Berlin, Germany
Potsdamer Platz, Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Siegessäule, Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany
Staatsbibliothek, Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany

The DVD has a great commentary by director Wim Wenders and Peter Falk, which lets you see what is attempted in the film. So did they accomplish what they set out to do?

Watch Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927 documentary) as a contrast.

Also, do not miss what is touts as a sequel but is really a standalone revision of this film.
"Faraway, So Close!" (1993) with Nastassja Kinski

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
Faraway, So Close!
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This is a classic Wim Wenders film. A meditative, bitter-sweet film shot in gorgeous black and white, that moves along at an "easy" pace. If you already know this film and wish to own it, the Criterion Bluray is the obvious choice!
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
mmmmm film
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9b389954) out of 5 stars 68 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b5014ec) out of 5 stars A film that nearly overwhelms me each time I see it Oct. 31 2009
By Robert Moore - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
No movie that I see on a regular basis makes me feel so powerfully the joy of being alive as this one. Although many films and numberless and sappy television shows since 1987 have used angels of one dreadful sort or another, Wim Wenders managed to success while all the others failed. Working from a story by celebrated writer Peter Handke, Wenders takes angels that seem to have more in common with Rilke's Duino Elegies than the Bible or the New Age angels. Their function is to watch and observe and record, and in their own limited fashion, to comfort and commiserate. The trick wasn't to come up with the gimmick of angels being able to listen to the thoughts of humans, but to make those thoughts beautiful and representative of all that is quintessentially human. The trick wasn't to have the angels see in black and white and the humans in color, but in making what was seen, whether two or many toned, beautiful. One has only to see the absolutely appalling CITY OF ANGELS, an English language remake starring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage, to see that having gimmicks isn't enough; you must have substance as well.

This is not a perfect film. There are some dull moments, and I thoroughly dislike a couple of moments in the film, in particular, Dommartin's speech to Bruno Ganz in the bar near the end of the film. But there are so many magnificent moments, so many moments where they not merely get something right, but produce a moment of almost transcendent beauty, that WINGS OF DESIRE provides more than entertainment, but something akin to a reason to live. The movie becomes in the end a celebration of life, of all the tawdry elements that go into being human. The movie ends in affirming nearly as many things as Walt Whitman does in "Song of Myself."

I love the cast. Bruno Ganz is perfect as Damiel, the central angel of the story. Likewise, Otto Sander's face is the perfect receptacle for all that he witnesses on his silent rounds through Berlin, while Solveig Dommartin is so sympathetic a character, so lovely, that one could imagine an angel or anyone else yearning to be with her. And Peter Falk turns in a remarkably quirky character role, playing himself on location in Berlin. The city itself emerges as a major actor, providing what is certain to stand as the last great visual representation of Berlin in the last couple of years before the Wall fell. Curt Bois was a veteran character actor who was a staple in Hollywood films in the 1930s and 1940s, playing a vast number of waiters and tailors and hotel clerks (he plays the pickpocket at the very beginning of CASABLANCA). In what would be the last role before his death, Bois appropriately plays "Homer," the ancient man remembering all that had occurred in Berlin in the past several decades, playing the role of human witness to counterbalance the angelic witnesses.

This film and UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD, a Wenders film that followed this one in 1991 have to have two of the best soundtracks I have encountered. Subtract either "Six Bells Chime" by Crime and the City Solution or "From Her to Eternity" by Nick Cave, and this would have been far less of a film, and the scene where Solveig Dommartin changes in her trailer while listening to Nick Cave do "The Carny" might be the best scene in the film.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b501540) out of 5 stars a great movie -- one of a kind Dec 15 2014
By Stanley Crowe - Published on
Format: DVD
What an enchanting and thought-provoking movie! The basic premise is that there are angels watching over the earth -- or maybe only Berlin, where, God knows, they needed angels during the Cold War -- and it's Wim Wenders's conceit that these angels have relatively limited power. They can hear people's thoughts, and they can invisibly touch them and bring some strength and comfort in times of stress, but they seem to have no power over people's choices, and appropriately therefore, they are a rather sober group, with their dark overcoats and neck-scarves neatly tucked in, whose demeanor suggests patience and resignation more than anything else. They seem to like to hang around the library when things are quiet, although, of course, they're invisible to the workers and patrons, and in that setting they have the air of a group taking a break from a Board meeting of a non-profit organization. They seem kindly, but a bit detached -- the demeanor of medical staff in an ICU, perhaps? When filming is done in black and white, it becomes clear to us that we are seeing from an angelic perspective; when color is employed, it's as if we're seeing through human eyes. The quality of the color is distinctive, though -- often it seems like the color of an illustrated children's book rather than "standard" realistic color. Just putting it like that overstates the matter a bit . . . but there is something odd and arresting about it. At times we're given the impression that very young children can see the angels.

The angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) seems a tad more animated in expression than the others, including his angel buddy Samiel (Otto Sander), and it turns out that that's because he is seriously interested in human beings to the extent of renouncing his angelic status and becoming human. It seems that angels can make that choice -- Damiel doesn't have to request a transfer from anyone higher-up. In fact, there's no hint of any omnipotent authority "higher up." His decision isn't sudden, so we see a lot from the angelic perspective -- but what pulls him towards earth is his interest in a trapeze artiste, Marion (Solveig Dommartin), and his scenes with her while he is still an angel and invisible are an odd blend of the tender and the voyeuristic, although the voyeurism (and I'm not sure that that's the best word) seems innocent, purged of any salacious intent even as it suggests an erotic attraction too. How Wenders and, especially, Ganz convey that quality of interest is one of the miracles of the movie.

So what is the attraction of the human or of Marion? It seems to me -- plunging boldly into interpretation here -- that it has something to do with aspiration. As a trapeze artiste, Marion wants to fly -- shall we say, to escape the surly bonds of earth? -- but not to escape the human necessarily, nor simply to experience ecstasy. Rather, it seems that in her mind there's a sense of a better quality of life that it makes sense to keep present to one's consciousness as being worth aspiring to. And it strikes me that the experience of that aspiring is something that Damiel wants and hence finds attractive in Marion. As an angel, after all, aspiration is closed to him, but, as Blake says, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time," and that means work and imagination (or fantasy) and aspiration. The little circus that Marion works in is an embodiment of the need for fantasy and the joy of meeting that need, even in a modest way.

And that brings us to politics. From the angelic perspective -- often rendered in high overhead shots (balloon or helicopter?) -- the city is beautiful with an odd combination of order and irregularity. The angelic perspective is almost an aesthetic one -- or maybe, from a human viewpoint, a slightly anaesthetic one. But the ground level pictures remind us that Berlin is a divided city -- there is the wall, and there are the waste spaces still left over from World War 2. And there is Peter Falk, playing himself as a visitor to Berlin, there to make a WW2 movie, on the set of which we see the Nazi uniforms and the prison camp beds. Nothing is SAID about the wall and the divisions it represents, and on the movie set, we hear words relating only to the practicalities of getting a day's shoot in. Occasionally we see in color a bit of film from the war -- burning buildings, ruins -- as if to tell us that such are the memories of some of Berlin's population. There's something ironic about the ease with which Damiel can cross over from the angelic to the human in the context of a city in which the earthbound pictures speak of the barriers to crossing in the human world. The sense of barriers is present too in our hearing of the unspoken thoughts of the Berliners that the angels are overhearing, thoughts important, often vitally so, to the thinker but unshared and isolating. Wenders's vision in the movie seems to tie aspiration to a breaking of barriers and an explicit sharing of ones inmost thoughts, and that I think is why the climax of the movie consists of a long speech by Marion, who has become aware of Damiel's interest. He has in his human state traced her with difficulty to a Nick Cave concert (plenty to think about there!) and they meet up in a nearby bar afterwards. The importance of the speech is that it IS speech, not reverie or inner soliloquy, and if I'm right about that, worries about its being boring or about its substance can be set aside. This is not a movie that abides by the canons of realism.

But isn't it too sentimental, finally? Well, no -- at the end, we see the words "To Be Continued," and while I haven't seen the sequel, I've heard that it embraces a darkness in the human world that we don't see here and that isn't simply a matter of politics. So savor the sentiment, and even if you're not inclined to see the sequel, remember the Wall and the War, which this movie doesn't let us forget. I should just add that Wenders, with the alternation of overhead and ground-level shots, and the alternation of color and B&W, establishes a visual rhythm that holds our interest despite a fractured narrative and that there's more humor in the movie than my comments have suggested. Finally, the whole thing with Peter Falk is just sheer genius.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b501978) out of 5 stars Criterion Collection Edition Loaded with Extras! Nov. 5 2009
By Cubist - Published on
Format: DVD
The first disc features an audio commentary that actually consists of excerpts of interviews with director Wim Wenders and actor Peter Falk over several years. Wenders talks about the origins of Wings of Desire - it was a return to his hometown of Berlin after spending eight years in the United States. He had planned to make another film but it was too complex and expensive. He had to come up with another idea and quick or the production company he had assembled would break up. This fascinating anecdote is only one of many engaging stories as the two men tell all kinds of filming tales. They do a good job of taking us through the making of this film.

Also included are the German theatrical trailer and an amusing "Wen Wunderts" promo trailer.

The second disc features the bulk of the extra material, starting off with "The Angels Among Us," a 2003 documentary where key cast and crew members are interviewed. Wenders wanted to make a film about Berlin, the way he remembered it when he was young. Peter Handke talks about his unconventional approach to the script. For the two main angels, Wenders cast Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander based on their 20-year friendship and working relationship. Everyone speaks quite eloquently about their experiences making Wings of Desire.

"Cinema Cinemas" features an interview with Wenders from the February 17, 1987 episode of this French television program. We see Wenders at work on the set of Wings of Desire with his cast and crew shooting scenes from the film.

Also included are nine deleted scenes with commentary by Wenders and outtakes but only with music. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of footage of the angels observing humanity. The outtakes feature all sorts of beautiful shots of Berlin.

There is also a gallery of production design photographs that also highlight the film's gorgeous art direction. Included are captions that comment on some of these stills.

Also included is an interview excerpt from an interview with director of photography Henri Alekan done in November 1985. He talks about the challenge of achieving the right tone and atmosphere in a film.

"Alekan la Lumiere" features excerpts from a 1985 documentary where Alekan talks to Wenders about his cinematic techniques. There is also footage of him at work.

Finally, there is an excerpt from Remembrance, a 1982 film directed by Ganz and Sander about actor Curt Bois who went on to appear in Wings of Desire.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b501d38) out of 5 stars Like cilantro and root beer Jan. 29 2011
By Tadpole - Published on
Format: DVD
Pretty simple equation here: you'll either love this film or never want to taste it again! I will add this: if you like modern poetry - or not like it for the matter, which is the case with me - you should give this one a try. Very deep and soulful subtitles. This is a film you "float" with; just let go and let it take you where it will. Personally, I felt more alive - revived, if you will - immediately after my first viewing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b501e1c) out of 5 stars "time heals, or maybe time is the illness" July 12 2010
By Medusa - Published on
Format: DVD
Don't be discouraged by the slow pace of the movie. You need to keep in mind when this movie was made and the theories of existence in vogue at the time. Bruno Ganz shines as an angel who listens to peoples' introspection and gets intrigued by the emotions that only humans experience.

Once Henry Van Dyke said:"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but those who love, time is eternity." So will the angel Will the Angel choose eternity in heaven or eternity through love? The journey is yours to discover and it is worth the time!