Wim Wenders at TIFF: Wings of Desire

Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders’ final fictional film from the 1980s, is lighter than a feather. The wispy gates of heaven open to an overcast Berlin in the twilight of The Cold War. Angels float through the streets and listen to the thoughts of the city’s many lonely characters.

The film follows the travels of two angels, Damiel (played by Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (played by Otto Sander). As Wings of Desire progresses, their once-similar paths diverge in two dramatically different directions. Damiel falls so much in love with a trapeze artist at the local circus that he decides to cross over from the spiritual to the physical world. Cassiel, on the other hand, helplessly witnesses a man commit suicide from the top of a skyscraper. This experience hurts him so much that he is reduced to gloomily wandering the streets alone.

Wenders’ work here is abstract, dreamy, philosophical, and poetic. He continues to up the ante on how an auteur film director can harness the medium to explore the most difficult existential questions. His style, always unconventional, once again reinvents itself as an epic poem on the human condition. Verse after verse is whispered in the soundtrack. Sometimes it’s Damiel and Cassiel that are doing the talking, while other times it’s the brief consciousness of a stranger in a subway car. It’s a dizzying and disorienting aesthetic to be in so many heads at once, further proving the undesirability of being an angel.


On the Road: The Films of Wim Wenders is currently taking place at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. To purchase tickets for the 5:30 pm screening of Wings of Desire on Saturday, March 5th, visit the link here. To purchase tickets for other films part of the retrospective, visit the program page.

Additionally, be sure to check out the sidebar program, Wim’s Films: American Friends & Foreign Influences, running until March 17th. “This deluxe survey, curated by James Quandt, Senior Programmer, TIFF Cinematheque, spotlights fifteen of “Wim’s Films”—road movies and noirs, venerated classics and films maudits—gathered both from evidence (Wenders’ own list of favourites) and inference (of his obvious influences and affinities).” The full guide can be found here.

Here is TIFF’s trailer for the retrospective, On the Road: The Films of Wim Wenders:

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