Thursday, January 25, 2018

Great Moments in Movie Shelves #126

Sixteen minutes into Wim Wenders' 1987 masterpiece Wings of Desire our friendly angel task-force of Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) drag their overcoats and ponytails under the big top of the Berlin State Library, and spend some time listening in on the thoughts of the folks inside. The library's over-stuffed with angels - they know afterlife-worthy design when they see it, I guess!

The library has the air of a cathedral minus the pesky religion, so it's pretty perfect for Wings of Desire, a film that entirely avoids using the word "God" at all. Why believe in God when there are bookshelves, that's what I have always said. 

Wings was shot by the  famed cinematographer Henri Alekan (the circus in the film is named after him), who forty-one years earlier had filmed Jean Cocteau's La belle et la bête, and you get the same sense of weightlessness to the way his camera moves here - the dream -scape of that earlier fairy-tale carries over to this world of celestial beings hovering just outside of time, hovering just in between worlds... not unlike the city split in half, East and West, that the film is psychically elegizing (it was shot two years before the Wall came down) so lovingly.

When I watch this sequence what I'm always reminded of is the monochromatically pea-green office cubicles of Jacques Tati's Playtime - the way the cameras of both films turn our shifting perspectives of these spaces into lush 3D experiences, almost video-game like now, where we twist inside and around the corners of these enclosed cubes, searching, searching, searching, turning Modernist architecture into an excavation of the soul.

1 comment:

joel65913 said...

Oooo I've never seen this but have it on my DVR from the showing on TCM a couple days ago and plan on watching it this weekend. Now I have extra background to look out for!