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The Criterion Conversation (Part One)

Bruno Ganz in 'Wings of Desire'
On November 3, the Criterion Collection releases the newest edition of Wim Wenders’ 1987 masterpiece, ‘Wings of Desire‘. Set in post-War, pre-unification Berlin, the film is tells the story of a pair of angels — played by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander — cursed with watching over humanity, but never experiencing it. Until, that is, one falls in love with the beautiful trapeze artist Marion (Solveig Dommartin). The quest to follow his heart leads leads the angels around the war-torn city, encountering strange characters along the way, including the American actor Peter Falk and a rambling old storyteller called Homer.
We were lucky enough to chat with the Criterion Collection producer Susan Arosteguy about the film’s Criterion edition, which features a brand-new digital transfer and sound design mix by Wim Wenders. It’s positively packed with extras including a new commentary based on an early ’90s interview with Wenders and Falk, an old French TV interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan, a 2003 documentary with Wenders, Falk, Ganz, Sander and the film’s writer Peter Handke. There’s also outtakes and deleted scenes, on-set archival footage, and a film about actor Curt Bois (Homer) made by actors Ganz and Sander. Stay tuned next week for part two — plus our ‘Wings’ guide to Berlin, then and now. See what Arosteguy had to say, plus the film’s original 1987 trailer, after the jump…


Museyon Guides: Here at Museyon, we’re really interested in the relationship between places and movies. How does this film relate to Berlin?
Susan Arosteguy: When they filmed this movie in ’86 it was before the Wall came down, and there’s still a lot of remnants of super bombed-out Berlin that aren’t there anymore. This movie really captures a place in time and reminds people what it was like before the Wall fell. It would be really fascinating to go there with all these locations in mind and go check ‘em out and go see what they look like now. Obviously some stuff is still there, but a lot of stuff, I don’t think is.
MG: One thing that surprised me is the documentary where Wenders says that he went into the film wanting to make a movie about Berlin. And it ended up being something bigger, but that was his first goal.
SA: At this point in his career he had made five or six movies in America, so he was sort of coming back to Germany and really embracing making a German film. It’s really interesting that he came back to his home and this whole movie organically grew out of this desire to make a movie about Berlin.
It’s really cool because Nick Cave is in the movie; Nick Cave was living there at the time. You can always depend on Wenders to pick up on the cool musical thing happening. They filmed all those concert scenes in a bombed-out hotel that was a club that people used to go to. But I’m sure that’s not there anymore either. (Check out the clip from an older version of the film, below).

MG: What makes Wenders such a special director?
SA: Probably the writing. Between this film and ‘Paris, Texas‘, it’s really unique the way they were both written. Peter Handke was writing these — I think he was calling them “dialogue islands.” When the angels are talking to each other and recounting stuff, they’re sort of monologues. He would construct the film around these monologues. And the same thing for ‘Paris, Texas’, Sam Shepard had all this material that he wrote for his book Motel Chronicles which they inserted into the film. So at any given point the actors are spouting this dialogue and then it’s more improvisational. It’s just a really unique thing for the actors to be able to be reacting to the material in that kind of way.
MG: Was there anything that surprised you as you dug up all this material about ‘Wings’?
SA: The one thing that I was surprised about was how awesome Curt Bois was. He’s just so funny and completely entertaining. It was cool for me to see Otto Sander and Bruno Ganz reacting to him in that documentary as actors. You can tell that they’re friends in real life when you see them together in the movie, and their camaraderie –- the three of them -– I thought was really unique. It’s a cool thing to be able to see, because you see them as the angels and these German actors, and this kind of brings it all home, it’s very sweet.
To read more about Berlin, and ‘Wings of Desire’, pick up Film+Travel from Museyon Guides. To find out more about the film, or to pre-order your DVD or Blu-Ray today visit the Criterion Collection.
Film still courtesy of the Criterion Collection

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