Aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro's takeover of Cuba, are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travelled to Havana in order to bring the musicians together, resulting in triumphant performances of extraordinary music, and resurrecting the musicians' careers.
A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Visible only to those like them and to human children, Damiel and Cassiel are two angels, who have existed even before humankind. Along with several other angels, they currently wander around West Berlin, generally on their own, observing and preserving life, sometimes trying to provide comfort to the troubled, although those efforts are not always successful. Among those they are currently observing are: the cast and crew of a movie - a detective story set in WWII Nazi Germany - which include a sensitive and perceptive Peter Falk; an elderly man named Homer looking for eternal peace; and the troupe of a financially failing circus, which has closed early for the season because of those financial problems. One day, Damiel tells Cassiel that he wants to become human, to feel not only the sensory aspects of physical beings, but also emotional aspects. He embarks on this thought with the full realization that there is no turning back if he decides to do so. His thoughts are largely ... Written by
After Damiel becomes human, he buys a cup of coffee at a food stand. The proprietor pours coffee into a plastic cup, and Damiel immediately takes a large gulp - neither of which would be possible if the coffee were hot, as it would be if it were freshly poured. See more »
[in German, using English subtitles]
When the child was a child, it walked with its arms swinging. It wanted the stream to be a river, the river a torrent, and this puddle to be the sea. When the child was a child, it didn't know it was a child. Everything was full of life, and all life was one. When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, no habits. It often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and didn't make faces when ...
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Dedicated to all the former angels, but especially to Yasujiro, François and Andrej. See more »
﻿In the first scenes after the opening credits, we see an aerial view of Berlin, but this is a Berlin that doesn't exist anymore. It's a city divided, between East and West, that still bears the scars of the second World War, and can't rebuild where the Wall stands in the way. There is a vast vacant lot where the cultural center of pre-war Berlin stood, with the facade of an old station, and nearby stands a bomb-shelter and the tower of a bombed-out church.
It is from this church where an angel stands looking out over the city, and then we see the people going about their daily lives. All this is shot in black and white, and we realize that we are seeing the world through the angel's eyes, seeing the same colorless world and hearing the same thoughts of the people around. As the story goes on, we realize that this is not just one angel in Berlin, for he goes to a car showroom, and compares observations with another angel. Then we go to the library, which is filled with angels.
The first library scene is my favorite scene of the whole movie. It is here where we see many different people studying, and their thoughts reverberate around the space until they are just a murmur, which becomes music. Because there are so few distinct voices, it doesn't matter that they are in German, which I don't understand. However, there was one young man studying the creation story of Genesis in Hebrew, which ties in with a later point where the two lead angels are discussing how they witnessed creation. First they saw the glacier recede, then fish and animals appear. They laughed when they saw the first biped, someone who shared their image, but they stopped laughing when the people learned how to make war.
As idyllic as the angels' lives are, it is through the pain we humans endure that know we are fully alive. And this is what the angels miss, to see colors, to touch, to taste, to smell, the ability to love and affect others' lives. The children can see them, but the adults may at times only feel some vague presence. They lay hands on people's shoulders, to try to understand their feelings beyond mere words. This is illustrated by a scene on a rooftop, where a man is about to commit suicide; as he sits on the ledge, an angel lays a hand on him as if holding him back, and when he jumps, the angel shouts `no!' For these angels are observers, spending their time being a presence among the living, not just to primarily serve as ushers to the afterlife (where I was sorely disappointed after watching "City of Angels," the American re-make). They are not harbingers of doom, but benign symbols of a creator's concern for humans.
Don't be turned off by the fact that it's in black and white, because one thing that really makes an impact is that it's only through viewing as an angel is it in monochrome, because when humans see the world, it's in color. A poem continues throughout the movie and ties everything together, repeating "When the child was a child..." and we realize that humans are the children, the ones younger than angels, just learning and enjoying life. The music adds a lot to the movie, since this film is more visual than verbal, which means that subtitles don't get in the way. I can't say enough about this filmit's wonderful!
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