Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Faraway, So Close!

Faraway, So Close (aka In weiter Ferne, so nah!) (Wim Wenders, 1993) "Every time your ears ring, an angel gets its wings."  Wenders' follow-up to Wings of Desire is not a footnote to the original or a regurgitation.  It's one of those rare sequels that seems necessary and actually throws the first into a better light, complementing and expanding it.

Faraway, So Close! follows the path of "the other" angel, Cassiel (Otto Sander, who is brilliant in this, in a comic performance that Wings of Desire barely hints at), who, although he might want to become human, will not...until his hand is forced in an incident that is reflected from a tragic incident in the first film.  "It's so vivid here!" he exudes upon entering the world of color, following the same rules that the first film established (the angels' POV is black and white, but ours is color; no one but small children can see the angels, and when they "fall" they lose their armor...and their pony-tails), but things are different.

Wings of Desire takes place in a divided Berlin and so everything has a sense of separation and crossing over, but Faraway, So Close! has no Berlin Wall in it, the structure having been sledge-hammered into extinction by the very citizenry it restricted (and Mikhail Gorbachev, whose act of omission in preventing the incidents, allowed the Wall to fall, is prominently featured in a cameo).  Like the Wall, there's a lot of falling in Faraway, So Close!, but a lot of gliding, too.  In fact, the film is less about barriers than it is about how things transition so easily between one and the other.  Drama becomes comedy, comedy becomes tragedy, the color/black and white sequences fade together in a single shot, and the film is a sub-titler's nightmare moving seamlessly between several languages—Horst Buchholz (remember him from The Magnificent Seven?) plays a German expatriate moved back from America and he banters between German and English without missing an umlaut, and Bruno Ganz, the fallen angel from Wings..., has decided to become a pizza chef with accompanying Italian language (and why not?).

Where Wings of Desire was all Sturm und Drang in its romanticism, Faraway, So Close! is a comedy in both the modern and classic terms.  It feels less like an "important" film than its older brethren, but seems absolutely necessary, like a completion to the first, and makes you think that the story was really about the "holding-back angel" Cassiel all the time.  If you love the first, you should see the second, but don't expect the same response to either of the movies when you're done.  Still, it is always nice to visit old friends.

Faraway, So Close! also features Nastassja Kinski as the angel Raphaela, Willem Dafoe as a shady character with time on his hands, Lou Reed, and, of course, Peter Falk.

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