Bruno Ganz in Wings of Desire.
Courtesy Janus Films

If, in 1987, you had never been to Berlin, Wim Wenders’ melancholy romance Wings of Desire was enough to make you fall in love with it, in all its tattered, muted-silver splendor. Berlin was, at the time, a city still divided by a wall, and there were ragged, muddy fields where, years later, modern office buildings and shopping plazas would spring up. But it was also, in Wenders’ vision, a place where angels roamed. Bruno Ganz, with his great, bruised-boxer face, plays Damiel, an angel who watches people from various perches high above the city, including the golden-tipped Victory Column and the broken-but-mended Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. As an angel, he can hear the thoughts of the humans below, a cacophony of often-half-formed musings that constitute a kind of dada poetry. Damiel looks in on a circus, and there he sees, and falls in love with, a human who is almost an angel, the trapeze artist Marion (played by the late Solveig Dommartin). He longs to be with her, a dire complication for a winged, nonhuman entity. But Peter Falk, playing a version of himself who is also, it turns out, a former angel, has come to West Berlin to appear in a film. He has advice and encouragement for Damiel, and there’s a happy ending, with Nick Cave presiding. Maybe it would be fun to be an angel for a while, to eavesdrop on citizens of the earth and bear witness to their experience. But nothing, Wenders decides, beats being a human.

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