100 Movies to See Before You Die- “Wings of Desire”

Wings of Desire is a 1987 film that was a joint West German and French production. It was directed by Wim Winders and starred Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, and Peter Falk. The film was not a big box office hit upon release but it did manage to bring in enough to cover its budget. The film was a critical darling and Wenders won “Best Director” at the 1987 Cannes Festival. So does this film deserve to be counted among the all time greats and wear the badge “classic?”

Should this film be considered a classic? When I sat down to watch this film it was for the very first time. I didn’t know what to expect beyond the short description on the paper Netflix sleeve. I confess that I had my doubts going into the film as to whether or not I would find it very interesting. First, let me tell you the things I enjoyed. I really appreciated the look at divided Berlin. That is a time in history which I lived through but I am too young to remember. It was fascinating to see the shots of the Berlin wall, ruins that likely dated to World War II, and the check points that were a part of every day life during the Cold War years. I also really enjoyed the latter portion of the film when the angel, Damiel (Ganz) finally becomes human. His experiences of seeing colors for the first time, trying a hot cup of coffee, and buying clothes are all wonderfully filmed and capture his joy perfectly.  Unfortunately, I found the first two-thirds of the film to be quite a drag. It seems to get bogged down in its own self-importance and a story that is actually quite simple and wonderful becomes a slog. I appreciate the artistry of this film, especially the beautiful manner in which it is shot, but the pacing just kills the experience for me. So I would say this film is a good, maybe even great, film but it is not a classic.

Would I own this film? No. The film was just not compelling enough for me to want to own a copy of it or to revisit. This is definitely a memorable film and the themes it explores are universal and very worthy topics. I just wish it had done it with a little better pacing.


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