You may think I'm not giving Berlin a break, but it's Berlin that's haunting me. This week I got offered to write a guide book to the city (still negotiating - this may or may not happen). Five Tel-Avivian souls I hold dear are in Berlin right now, two for the Leonard Cohen concert, one on a study trip and two more just for the hell of it. I'm communicating with Berlin more than with any other foreign city, and to be honest, I miss it quite a bit.
The most powerful Berlin moment I've had in recent days was truly random and seemingly minor: looking for music online, I ran into an independent clip put together for a Radiohead song. It's made up entirely of imagery from the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire".
Watch it. You'll be amazed. Wings of Desire was no Werner Herzog experiment. It's nearly a Hollywood film, with Peter "Colombo" Falk in one of the key roles, but this is poetry. Wenders based his vision on Rilke's poetry, Peter Handke coauthored the screenplay, Nick Cave offered music ( Radiohead haven't yet formed back in 1987). The cinematography of the aging Henri Alekan, also responsible for Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête, is uncompromising. It's difficult to watch another film after seeing this, including all other Wenders flics, not to mention the unworthy remake with Nicholas Cage flying in for Bruno Ganz.
This is a film about giving up power and liberty for love, an act that is portrayed as being at once unavoidable, sublime and completely tragic. Ganz is an angel who hovers over the city, reading people's thoughts and comforting them when possible. He falls for a trapeze artist and chooses to become human for her, thus trapping himself both in mortal, non-mind-reading flesh, and in isolated West Berlin of the Eighties.
Like much of the art I truly admire, the film's ultimate statement is "C'est la vie". The only comfort for the constant compromises we must make and losses we must endure is how impossibly beautiful life is, in a pure aesthetical sense: a tiny music box found on the street, a puddle of rain, a room full of globes, a pair of fake, feathery wings, a pang of love. It's worth it, I'm telling you. It's a good deal.