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Wings of desire

October 30, 2007

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one

Peter Handke’s Song of Childhood, from Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin), came to my mind when writing an earlier post here -few days ago- about the Eternal Children.


“When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.”

This is a film that still haunts me, since the first unsuspected time, with its magic, its little surprises and original questions – which slowly reveal themselves, the poetic motion and engulfment.


I vividly remember the first time that I discovered the pleasure of photography by simply changing the vantage point of my view. So much, I also remember the experience and awe felt by the monochromatic cinematography, when first viewed the Wings of Desire.


Parallel to what is portrayed on the film, the longing for physicality and the emphasis on human relations, there has been since then a personal desire to retouch the mystical, non-straightforward, but critically real world that I once saw.


Henri Alekan, at the age of 77, was the director of photography. Interestingly, I found out now, that he used a unique, very old and fragile silk stocking that belonged to his grandmother as a filter for the monochromatic sequences.

There is a wonderful interview of Henri Alekan here, under the title ‘If there such a thing as real angels.’ It is intriguing to read his explanations about many scenes of the film. Even more, his personal views on artistic expression and lens-based image making. I picked up, for example, two points. One where he says, ‘I just don’t believe that electronic effects can make the public experience the same communication you can achieve with a trick that is manually executed.” And another one where he emphasises his approach by pointing out that “a certain level of illumination for the image to be recorded on film [is necessary] but it must correspond intimately with what will happen, with the action.”

All the photographs in this article are film-frames from Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire.

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