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Wings of Desire(1987)
Damiel is an angel perched atop buildings high over Berlin who can hear the thoughts—fears, hopes, and dreams—of all the people living below. But when he falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist, he is willing to give up his immortality to come back to earth to be with her.
For more about Wings of Desire and the Wings of Desire Blu-ray release, see Wings of Desire Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 14, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Wim Wenders
Writers: Peter Handke, Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk (I), Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Hans-Martin Stier
» See full cast & crew
Wings of Desire Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 14, 2010
Winner of the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders' "Der Himmel über Berlin" a.k.a "Wings of Desire" (1987) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Axiom Films. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with director Wim Wenders and actor Peter Falk; "Conversations on Wings of Desire"; outtakes and deleted scenes with commentary by director Wim Wenders; and trailer. Axiom Films have also provided a 24-page illustrated booklet containing "Songs of Childhood" by Peter Handke; short notes on Wim Wenders by fellow directors Atom Egoyan and Walter Salles; "An Attempted Description of an Indescribable Film" by Wim Wenders; and "Angels, History and Poetic Fantasy", an interview with Wim Wenders by Coco Fusco. With optional English subtitles. Region-Free.
Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire tells two very different stories. The first one is about a group of angels roaming the streets of Berlin. They observe, follow and occasionally prevent humans from committing terrible mistakes. Kids can see and feel them, adults can't.
Most of the angels gather in a giant library in the heart of Berlin. There, they share their stories and learn from each other. Some also dream about what human life has to offer. They have been around for hundreds of years and seen plenty.
One of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz, Der Untergang), finds the humans intriguing. There is one in particular, an American movie star (Peter Falk, Columbo), who claims that he could feel his presence. Damiel spends long hours reading their minds, trying to understand what moves them. There are times when he feels like he is succeeding, but there are also times when the humans frustrate him enormously.
Cassiel (Otto Sander, Faraway, So Close!), Damiel's best friend, also spends long hours observing the humans. But he does not find them to be as fascinating as Cassiel does, and rarely goes out of his way to help them. He prefers to have Life follow its natural course.
While wandering around the streets of Berlin, Damiel encounters a beautiful trapeze dancer, Marion (Solveig Dommartin, S'en fout la mort), who has just been told that the circus she is performing with would have to stage its last show because there is no more money to cover the bills. Heartbroken and disillusioned, Marion begins to question the purpose of Life. Damiel observes Marion from afar.
The last show. Damiel is enormously moved by Marion's dancing. Later on, he follows her back to her room. She has come to terms with the fact that it is all over now - it is time to move on. But where? And doing what? Marion secretly wishes that instead of her dancing skills, she had someone - a man - to love.
On the way back to the library, deep inside Damiel something snaps. It is a new feeling, one he has never before experienced. Could this be what the humans describe as "love"? Damiel does not know, but he is willing to find out. He tells Cassiel that he is going to "make the plunge".
The second story in Wings of Desire is largely told through still images. It is about a city divided by an ugly wall. It is also about those who live in the city - the ones who have seen it getting destroyed, and then being slowly rebuilt. Throughout the film, they wander around desperately trying to uncover the exact locations of cafés, shops and theaters they once visited.
The overwhelming amount of Wings of Desire is shot in black and white. Only occasionally - when Damiel feels, and later on begins searching for Marion - the film utilizes color. All of the black and white sequences were done with the use of a unique camera filter.
Wings of Desire boasts a fittingly atmospheric soundtrack with terrific tunes by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ("From Her to Eternity", "The Carny"), Tuxedomoons ("Some Guys"), Crime and The City Solution ("Six Bells Chime"), Laurie Anderson, Laurent Petitgand, and others.
In 1987, Wings of Desire won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Two years later, the film won the Best Cinematography Award (Henri Alekan) granted by the National Society of Film Critics in the U.S.
Wings of Desire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Axiom Films.
This is a very strong high-definition transfer, likely sourced from the same element Criterion used for their North American Blu-ray release of Wim Wenders' award-winning film. There are, however, some minor differences between the two releases, which I would like to quickly address.
Both releases look very strong when blown through a digital projector and certainly represent enormous upgrades over previous SDVD releases of the film. Fine object detail is pleasing, clarity very good and contrast levels convincing on both. Similar to the Criterion release, the Axiom release is also free of large flecks, debris, cuts, or splices. Here, edge-enhancement and macroblocking are again not a serious issue of concern.
There are certain scenes, however, that look slightly more convincing on the Criterion release. For example, at 1h.10min., where we see the dancer contemplating life, contrast is just a tiny bit better on the Criterion release. On the UK release, the right upper corner is darker, even softer looking. Another good example is at 1h.20min. - at the night club (see capture #4) - where the face of the man standing next to the dancer is almost impossible to see. On the Criterion release, you could clearly see his face. With other words, even though both distributors obviously had access to the same element, it appears that Criterion actually did some very careful fine-tuning, which as far as I am concerned gives their release an edge over Axiom's release. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray release. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Wings of Desire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. For the record, Axiom have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical flaws with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The dialog is clean and easy to follow and the lovely soundtrack very effective. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings. Additionally, the Criterion Blu-ray release of Wings of Desire did not include a second audio track. This one does, but I don't think that it actually adds anything of substance when compared to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Finally, I actually found the white English subtitles to be a tad too big, particularly when viewing the film projected on a large screen.
Wings of Desire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features on this disc are in PAL. Therefore, if you reside in North America, or another region where PAL is not supported, you must have a Region-Free player capable of converting PAL to NTSC, or a TV set capable of receiving native PAL data, in order to view them.
Commentary - the Criterion Blu-ray release of Wings of Desire contains an audio commentary edited in 2009 by independent DVD producer Mark Rance from over six hours of interviews he conducted in August and September 1996 and March 1997. The audio commentary found on this Blu-ray disc is actually the same commentary with director Wim Wenders and actor Peter Falk that appeared on Anchor Bay's old SDVD release of the film. It is very informative, offering a terrific analysis of the film and its complex themes. In English.
Conversations on Wings of Desire - director Wim Wenders, Hof Film Festival director Heinz Badewitz, editor Peter Pryzgodda, and actor Bruno Ganz discuss their involvement with Wings of Desire, how the city of Berlin is treated in it, the production history of the film, etc. In German, with imposed English subtitles. (19 min).
Outtakes and deleted scenes - with optional commentary by director Wim Wenders. In English. (31 min).
Trailer - the original German theatrical trailer for Wings of Desire. (2 min).
Booklet - a 24-page illustrated booklet containing "Songs of Childhood" by Peter Handke; short notes on Wim Wenders by fellow directors Atom Egoyan and Walter Salles; "An Attempted Description of an Indescribable Film" by Wim Wenders; and "Angels, History and Poetic Fantasy", an interview with Wim Wenders by Coco Fusco.
Wings of Desire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Next to Criterion's Blu-ray release of Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire Axiom's Blu-ray release may look slightly less impressive, but it is still very easy to recommend. If you cannot play Region-A "locked" Blu-ray discs, there is absolutely no reason why you should not think about ordering a copy of this Region-Free Blu-ray disc as soon as possible. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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