There are angels hovering over Berlin and walk unnoticed among its citizens, seen only by other angels and occasionally by children. They listen to people’s thoughts and at times they take an active role of guardian angels assisting those in need, stirring feelings of comfort, hope and optimism in them. The human drama fascinates Damiel (Bruno Ganz), one of the angels, and he yearns to touch, taste and feel and experience the ephemeral moments of simple joys. Wandering around, he finds his own angel at the circus: Marion (Solveig Dommartin). She’s a trapeze artist and for her, he takes a monumental decision.
I’ve seen more than two thousand films, many good and great films, but only a few have marked me. This is one of them. Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (1987) is film poetry, a visual metaphor. The magnificent cinematography of the great Henri Alekan, who filmed Jean Cocteau’s magical La Belle et La Bête (and by the way, given the time of year, I choose these two films over any other Christmas classics), is immeasurable for delivering the message of the film.
Filming the perspective of the angels in monochrome while using colour to emphasize the sensual perceptions of the human characters, the way the camera roams the library (I liked the idea of the several level library, a sort of headquarters for the angels) and glides effortlessly through scenes seemingly defying gravity, just like the soaring of angels; it’s fascinating how this mystical subject could be translated in film. But it will take more than one viewing for me to understand its full meaning.
The closing titles dedication, “Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrej”, has sealed this film’s place in my heart. Because Yasujirō Ozu, François Truffaut and Andrei Tarkovsky have a special place in my heart too.
Have a wonderful weekend!
photos: film stills captured by me; production credits