Wings of Desire is a 1987 film by the German director Wim Wenders. Its original German title is Der Himmel über Berlin, which can be translated as The Heaven (or Sky) over Berlin. Rainer Maria Rilke's poetry partially inspired the movie; Wenders claimed angels seemed to dwell in Rilke's poetry. The director also employed Peter Handke, who wrote much of the dialogue, the poetic narrations, and the film's recurring poem "Song of Childhood."
...When the child was a child, it didn’t know that it was a child, everything was soulful, and all souls were one.
Set in West Berlin in the late 1980s, toward the end of the Cold War, it follows two angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), as they roam the city, unseen and unheard by the people, observing and listening to the diverse thoughts of Berliners: a pregnant woman, a painter, a broken man who thinks his girlfriend no longer loves him. Their raison d'être is not that of the stereotypical angel, but as Cassiel says, to "assemble, testify, preserve" reality. In addition to the story of two angels, the film also is a meditation on Berlin's past, present, and future. Damiel and Cassiel have always existed as angels; they existed in Berlin before it was a city, and in fact before there were even any humans.
Among the Berliners they encounter in their meanderings is an old man named Homer (Curt Bois), who, unlike the Greek poet of war Homer, dreams of an "epic of peace". The angel Cassiel follows the old man as he looks for the then-demolished Potsdamer Platz in an open field, where all he finds is the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall.
Although Damiel and Cassiel are pure observers, invisible to all but children, and incapable of any physical interaction with our world, one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), begins to fall in love with a circus trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommartin), who is talented, lovely, but profoundly lonely. Marion lives alone in a trailer, dances alone to the music of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and drifts through the city.
A subpart of the film follows Peter Falk, cast as himself, who has arrived in Berlin to make a film about Berlin's Nazi past. As the movie progresses, it turns out that Peter Falk was also once an angel, who renounced his immortality to become a mortal participant in the world after he grew tired of always observing and never experiencing.
Eventually, Damiel too longs for physicality, and to become human. When he sheds his immortal existence, he experiences life for the first time: he bleeds, sees colors for the first time (the movie before then is filmed in a sepia tinted monochrome, except for brief moments when the angels are not present), tastes food, drinks coffee. Meanwhile, Cassiel inadvertently taps into the mind of a young man just before he commits suicide by jumping off a building; Cassiel tries to save the young man but is unable to do so, and he is left haunted and tormented by the experience. Eventually Damiel meets the trapeze artist Marion at a bar, and they greet each other with familiarity as if they had long known each other. In the end, Damiel is united with the woman he had desired for so long.
In 2006, the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Toneelgroep Amsterdam presented a stage adaptation of the movie, created by Gideon Lester and Dirkje Houtman and directed by Ola Mafaalani.