4K UHD Review: Wings of Desire [Criterion] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, May 27th, 2024  

Wings of Desire [4K UHD]

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Jun 01, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Wim Wenders’ classic Wings of Desire is an unforgettable film about the complex identities of cities, the power of love and what it means to experience the world.

Set in Berlin, the film follows Damiel (Bruno Ganz), an angel who hovers over the streets and buildings of Brooklyn, constantly listening to the inner musings of the ordinary citizens below. Only children can see him and his angel partner, Cassiel (Otto Sander). The angels’ goal is simple: to help reality continue on its path, using humans’ interior monologues or their small actions to better understand the nature of the human race.

Regardless of his skills as an angel, Damiel always desires to be human and to shed his immortality to live among those he knows so profoundly. When he crosses paths with Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a trapeze artist at a failing circus, he experiences the true feeling of love, completely re-shifting the ways he interacts with his calling and furthering his desire to experience a life driven by fleeting moments.

Wings of Desire’s effectiveness comes from its simplicity. The film’s central plotline isn’t particularly complex, but the story’s setup and its room for thematic exploration allow Wenders to blend different ideas stunningly and effectively. The film takes its time delving into the love story between Damiel and Marion, often just focusing on the Berliners themselves and letting their thoughts echo the film’s complex themes on life itself. This can make the narrative feel meandering at times, but it also creates a unique viewing experience where the film works most effectively if you let it wash over you, trusting Wenders’ judgment to steer you through the mosaic of life, loss, and love.

Nowhere is this idea more evident than in the film’s opening act, where the director often relies on long sequences where Damiel listens to Berlin’s citizens, whether that be from the top of a building (at a distance) or on the U-Bahn (sitting right next to them). During these sequences, the director relies heavily on sound mixing, overlaying people’s thoughts over one another in a way that sometimes feels overwhelming, yet perfectly fitting for the story’s scope. Capturing people’s thoughts within lines of dialogue is a risky task, and at times, it doesn’t pay off–specifically when lines are needlessly over-poetic or feel too staged. But, Wedners’ choice to capture different perspectives in this way helps the film explore both human tendencies and the rhythm of a metropolis, working together to show how cities can physically bring us together yet make us feel more isolated at the same time.

But, this isn’t just a portrait of any city. Wings of Desire is a love letter to Berlin and its complexities. Wenders’ film captures the German capital’s constantly changing social, political and cultural identity in the 1980s, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. To do so, the director dedicates many scenes, spread across the film, that solely depict Daniel walking through the city, whether on clean-cut sidewalks or through abandoned, rubble-filled lots, or going to various artistic events with very different crowds. Even so, the film never feels chained to the city or the time it is set. The themes that Wenders explores are timeless, beckoning audiences to ponder what they think it means to be human and what it means to connect with others.

The Criterion Collection’s new 4K restoration looks spectacular, highlighting the crispness of the film’s monochrome hues and beautifully capturing the transitions between black-and-white and color. The new release doesn’t include any new featurettes compared to Criterion’s previous Blu-Ray and DVD editions, but the ones included are great. Among the very best are The Angels Among Us, a documentary about the making of the film, as well as an audio commentary track featuring Wenders himself.



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