Falling walls and falling angels

November 23, 1994

Faraway, So Close
Directed by Wim Wenders
With Otto Sander, Willem Dafoe and Natassja Kinski
Reviewed by Vannessa Hearman

The sequel to Wings of Desire continues the angel theme, with angel Cassiel (Otto Sander) finally joining the humans he has watched over in their past daily struggle.

The Berlin of 1993 is a different one from that portrayed by the first film. The wall has fallen and the horizon seems limitless. As an angel, Cassiel is frustrated at being all-knowing yet unable to communicate and alleviate the disasters he can foresee.

Then one day he rescues a little girl who is falling toward certain death from the high rise apartment in which she lives with her mother. With this act, he becomes human, with all its related vulnerability. He finds that the world in which he has longed to be is nothing like what he had imagined.

As Karl Engel, he flounders disillusioned in a foreign world, devoid of identity and purpose. His angel companion, Raphaela (Natassja Kinski), tries to watch over him, but Cassiel's enemy Emit Fleisti (Time Itself read backwards, played by Willem Dafoe) hovers as a portent of doom, as Cassiel's time on earth was not meant to be.

Cassiel thinks he has found his place in life when he meets American businessman Tony Baker (Horst Buchholz), who asks him to be his personal assistant. Cassiel finds out, however, that Baker is involved in shady arms dealings. Cassiel flees with his conscience and begins his crusade against evil.

The plot weaves in the characters from Wings of Desire, who all become embroiled in Cassiel's fight. They include his angel friend, Damiel, who now owns a pizza shop and shares his life with a trapeze artist, Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and her troupe of acrobats, and Peter Falk (as himself and as his TV series character, Columbo).

Wim Wenders' film contains much humour and adventure. It is a truly European production, with German, French, Spanish and Russian spoken. Cassiel's lack of direction symbolises post-Cold War Europe, where Western capitalism has not delivered for the majority and has left it disoriented. Gorbachev makes a brief appearance, assessing the different world that confronts him.

Lou Reed, Nick Cave and U2 contribute to the soundtrack. The film was shot in Berlin in a mixture of black and white and colour. The first part is most interesting, in terms of the question it poses: "What is it that we live for?" The rest is more of a fun, adventure-type tale. It is self-contained, so those who have not seen Wings of Desire can still enjoy this latest offering from Wenders.

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