Eden is Burning: Wim Wenders's Techniques of Synaesthesia

by Assenka Oksiloff
Eden is Burning: Wim Wenders's Techniques of Synaesthesia
Assenka Oksiloff
The German Quarterly
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Eden is Burning: Wim Wenders's Techniques of Synaesthesia

Nachtens will ich mit dem Engel reden,

ob er meine Augen anerkennt

Wem er plijtzlich fragte: Schaust du

Und ich mate sagen: Eden brennt

-Rainer Maria ilk el

In the aftermath of Wim Wenders's road movies of the 1970s and early 1980s, two of his more recent films inaugurate quite distinct types ofjourneys. Himmel iiber Berlin [Wings of Desire] (1987), released after Wenders's lengthy stay in America and shot exclusively in pre-Wende Berlin, de- picts what the director calls a "vertical road movien:2 its most dramatic sweeps are downward, tracing the perimeters of the city marked by the Wall, and inward, pene- trating the complex identities that have formed within itsboundaries.Bis ansEn& der Welt [Until the End ofthe World] (1991), on the other hand, breaks out of these con- fines to traverse vast geographic spaces, spanning five continents and fifteen coun- tries in the process. Thismore common no- tion of journey as a horizontal movement forces one to question the very concept of "vertical" road movie asit characterizes the earlier film: what defines the type of travel inWings of Desire, and how could itpossibly relate to the journeys of Until the End of the World? The difference between these two contemporary road movies rests, among other things, on the historical speci- ficity of their settings. The desire to take flight in the earlier film arises out of a Cold War context in which there is literally no- where to go. The futuristic setting of the later film, at this point bordering on the reality of our present situation, depicts a world of unhampered movement through time and space. Despite these opposing no- tions of travel, however, both Wings of Desire and Until the End of the World can be understood as investigations of the percep- tual field, specifically of the human senses as they relate to the external, phenomenal

Viewed in terms of epistemological journeys, the vertical investigation intothe subjective space of the senses forces one to reevaluate the very nature of perceiving as one crosses geographically and temporally specifc borders. In what follows, I would like to suggest how these films together constitute a type of journeying across changing perceptual terrains, moving from what I will term a synaesthetic to a tech- nological model of perception.

Some recent analyses of Wings of Desire have focused on the "problem" of perception on both a diegetic and formal level. Alice Kuzniar reads the fdm as a critique of spec- tatorship and voyeurism and a search for a "Gegenblick" based upon a psychoanalytic model of vie~ing.~

In a similar vein, Chris- tian Rogowski has analyzed the potential of the "liebevoller Blick" as a reevaluation of the gendered positions implied in a dorni- nant cinematic gaze.5 Both of these studies resist what is characteristic of other recent evaluations of the film: the need, namely, to indict it as a narrow-minded focus upon the world from a white male heterosexual perspective or to celebrate it as the tran- scendence of a modernisVpostmodernist duality.6 By inquiring into cinematogra-

The German Quarterly 69.1(Winter 1996) 32

phically determined problems of percep- tion, Kuzniar and Rogowski offer hghly textured analyses of the scope of Wenders's project as it extends to questions of gender and sexuality. On the other hand, the fram- ing of the question of perception by an analysis of the gaze reduces the problem to one of sight. Iwould argue that the journey undertaken by the protagonist angel, Damiel (Bruno Ganz), isone that attempts to leave behind a specular realm in which seeing is the dominant mode and to enter aworld determined by the interaction of the senses, above all those of hearing, seeing, and feeling. In investigating the develop- ment of this synaesthetic state of percep- tion, I would like to trace its potential, as well as itspossible limit as a cinematic pro- ject, one that becomes particularly evident in the conclusion of the film and in the movement to the altered perceptual field in

Until the End of the World.

Implied in the difference between the German title Himmel iiber Berlin and the English Mngs of Desire is a journey be- tween two conceptualspaces. While the for- mer suggests a privileged realm of ethereal spectatorship, the plunge to earthupon the Wings of Desire," on the other hand, intro- duces material bodies with heterogeneous sensual faculties. The initial diegetic shot inthefilm establishes the conceptual frame ofthe German title by capturing, inextreme close-up, the singdm eye of the angel, the central organ of an "optical regime" in which seeing takes precedence over the other sen~es.~

It is the first in a sequence that exposes a logic of vision as determined by the Cartesian disembodied eye.8 Crowning the Victory Column in the center of Berlin is Damiel, a subject empowered by a mo- nocular and transcendental mode of per- ception. Tosee like an angel means to have an unobstructed view of the spectacle, which isestablished in a number of counter shots as the uhan sprawl below. The angel is a "Geistn-as mind, ghost, and spirit- unimpeded by physical needs or desires. To know the world on these terms means to bracket that which is physical from the act of seeing, a task which Cassiel (Otto San- der), the companion angel, describes as a series of commands: "Nichts weiter tun als anschauen, sammeln, bezeugen, beglau- bigen, wahren. Geist bleiben. Im Abstand bleiben. Im Wort bleiben.* Meaning takes precedence here over matter, and distance over physical proximity, thereby enabling the subject to take in the world and impose orderuponits contents. As Damiel and Cas- siel demonstrate, they can travel through alltemporal and geographic zones while re- maining impervious to real time and space. Such powers of vision enable them to ex- plore every corner, private and public, of the city.1°

This visual capacity is foregrounded from the outset ofWingsofDesirenot simply as a dispassionate process of observation, but as an imposed rationality that simul- taneously generates and masks inarticu- lated desires. While the angel must "keep his word" and remain distanced, animpera- tive that is translated into cinematic prac- tice by shooting in black and white, he also craves the experience of a union with the "red" material world. In fact, for a brief mo- ment, the opening sequence of the film sug- gests that this union is not only possible, but perhaps inevitable. The establishing shots that situate the spectator in a secure space above the city (fmtcrowning the Col- umn, then on top of the Memorial Church) are interspersed with a blending of viewer and viewed. For brief instances, the cityscape is superimposed upon the seeing eye and the movement of the traffic below isimprinted upon the the angel's immobile form. While Damiel is ostensibly invisible to the mortal world, a number of onlookers on the streets return his gaze by looking heavenward-all of them children who "in- tuit" the presence of the angels. In doing so, they violate the implied barrier between spectator and spectacle that secures a disembodied ocular order.

Viewed on these terms, Wings of Desire interrogates the cinematic practice estab- lished by classic Hollywood realism which has been faulted for its idealogy of monocu- larsight. It questions what Serge Delaunay in 1970decried as 'a truly blind confidence in the visible, the hegemony, gradually ao quired, of the eye over the other senses, the taste and need a society has to put itselfin spectacle."ll In a similar vein, Jean-Louis Comolli's assessment of classic realist film as a "machine of the visible" highlights the connection between a foregrounding of the visual aspects of cinematic production and the privileging of sight in a society driven by the reproduction of representations. For Comolli, the stress upon camera, shooting, lighting, and screen and the concomitant obscuring of"invisiblen technologies such as editing and sound track confirms cinema as an apparatus in a "social machine" that both manufactures representations and "manufadms itself through representa- tions."12 These are constructed in cinema, according to Comolli, through the subordi- nation of heteregeneous elements of pro- duction to the image. Mary Anne Doane's early work, influenced by Comolli's critique and related essays that appeared in Screen, investigates the question of the "invisiblen as it specifically relates to the anchoring function ofvoice in dominant cinema.13 Ac- cording to Doane, the subordination of sound to image works to contain the human voice as a supplemental element rendering a sense of depth, stability, and reality to visual space. Voice in dominant cinema con- structs a "fantasmatic body," a fictional unity of the senses which acts to confirm the ostensibly organic integrity of the spec- tacle and the spectators.

The opening sequence of Wings ofDesire exposes the terms of this visual order and simultaneously calls them into question by mobilizing precisely the invisible elements that for Comolli and Doane have been held subservient to the visual. The possibly transformative nature of perception is investigated in Wenders's film through the interaction of sound track and spectacle. The imaginary barrier between viewer and viewed is ruptured not simply through the blending of visuals, but through a sonic force exposing the material complexity of apprehending images and constructed bod- ies that challenge the "fantasmatic unity" which Doane critiques. This becomes evi- dent in a sequence tracing Damiel's journey from the sky to private apartments in the city. The soundtrackat this and otherpoints in the film can be characterized as what Michel Chion calls a sonic "supe~field."~~ The noises we and Damielhear are ambient and at times unidentifiable: traffic, chil- dren playing on the street, radio music, "an- gelic" and non-diegetic musical chords, as well as a series of voice-overs, interior monologues of the various subjects ob- served by the angel. Frequently out of sync with the siting of figures, the strands of messages slice through the intimate "por- traits" and the spaces they inhabit. Simi- larly, ambient sound is often only retroac- tively anchored to a corresponding image, for instance through seemingly nondiegetic music that is subsequently trans- formed into diegetic upon the siting of a radio. On a technical level, it seems as if the cinematic and angelic eye, rather than pro- viding static images for the viewer to con- sume, is actually set in motion by the mul- tiple audio tracks. As Chion points out, the technical features of Dolby recording allow for a semi-autonomous status of sound in relation to image. In the case of Wings of Desire, this use of interwoven audio record- ings does not simply place sound at the service of discrete and meaningful images; rather, sound functions to illuminate the fluidity of visual spaces in penetrating through walls and external forms.

Such shifting constellations of interact- ing media also suggest the transformation of the specular male subject to a speculative one questioning his role as observer. The angel reacts to his encounters in the city by expressing what is virtually impossible to articulateowing to the fact that he does not experience it,namely his desire to feel--or, more to the point, his desire to desire:

Manchmal wird mir meine ewige Geistes- existenz zu viel. Ich mijchte dann nicht mehr so ewig driiber schweben. Ich moch- te ein Gewicht an mir spiiren, daR die Grenzenlosigkeit an mir aufhebt und mich erdfest macht. Ich mochte bei jedem Schritt oder WindstoR "jtzt" und 'jetzt und jetzt" sagen kijnnen und nicht wie immer "sit je" und %I Ewigkeit."

Immortality islinked throughout the filmto a rational power of observation that aflirms continuity over the contingencies of the ma- terial world. What escapes this angelic realm, but is exposed through the filmic ex- perience,isa material "now" of corporeal and social life, one that isvery clearly related in Wenders's film to a sensuality in which the immediacy of feehg, the "weight" of the body, isjuxtaposed to disembodied viewing. Ifweightlessness suggests a scopular shield, it also denies the angel the pleasure of cor- poreal sensation. The desire to experience is what propels him quite literally to shed his annor and give himself up to the unpre- dictability of life below.

On a technical level, this latter realm is constituted as one in which seeing is no longer an autonomous mode of perception, but is taken up as part of a sensory contin- uum effected through the heterogeneous cinematic apparatus. Thishas the power to evoke sensations on the part of the specta- tor that extend beyond the limits of seeing and hearing as distinct sensory functions. It isone which, as Chion suggests, can gen- erate "rhythmic, dynamic, temporal and kinetic sensations that make use of both the auditory and visual channels."l5 The desired reaction of the spectator as she ex- periences these sensations through the film isoRen mirmred on a diegetic level in Wngs ofDesire. Early in the film, when Damiel is still an angel, he enters the State Library of Berlin to observe the people studying there. Hisrole as observer isinitially linked to the readers' intellectual pursuits, which are tied to a rationalized mode ofvisualiza- tion. Through his encounter with the mul- tiple "inner voices" of the readers, however, he is pushed to the brink of a near-life ex- perience. Rather than conveying a series of identifiable messages to the listener, these voices blend together to produce an aural effect straddling the borders of discourse, symphonic music, and rustling noises. While Damiel isinvisible to the others, his body is exposed to the spectator as one which is pulled into and enveloped by the acoustic and visual space.

This scene and others employing sound in a similar manner provide a bridge be- tween the ethereal realm of disembodied spectatorship inhabited by the angels and the physical world below. What issuggested in Wenders's film, however, is that these two realms do not stand in strict opposition to each other. Rather, the visual economy of the angel as "voyeur" can perhaps be ex- posed through sound, and more specifically the voice, in implicating the body of the spectator as physical, desiring, and sexual- ized. This is hghlighted most succinctly through the role of Marion (Solveig Dom- martin), a trapeze artist who works in a rather anachronistic and suggestively "pre- mass cultural" milieu of the circus. In our first introduction to Marion's world, she moves mechanicdly through her routine, dressed as an angel. An exchange between her and the male trainer underscores this fact as an ironic commentary upon the scopophilic regime in which the "real" angel is caught up as he stares at her longingly. The trainer urges her to soar like an "angel* while she complains about the "chicken feathers," the cardboard wings attached to her costume. Unlike the invisible Damiel, Marion's "angelic" body is exposed; she is constrained by the costume she isforced to wear as well as by the commands of the trainer. Shot from a variety of angles, the female angel must create the illusion of ethereal beauty despite her status as a physical object under inspection. Very often, the camera angle is from below, the perspective of both the trainer and Damiel. The camera functions here to frame the ob- ject of spectatorship as necessarily femi- nized-the sensualized woman put on display for the pleasure of the disembodied male viewer. These shots, investigating Marion from the perspective of the grounded observer, confirm the gendered politics of spectatorship within classical m- alist cinema. It is one in which, as Laura Mulvey has suggested in her now famous essay on visual pleasure, the cinematic ap- paratus aligns the female body with the male gaze.16

As in earlier sequences of the film,the visuals are intermittently accompanied by a voice-over-in this case, Marion's thoughts as she performs her acrobatics. Through the interior monologue, the lis- tener (angel and cinema audience) is provided access to a realm which in some ways lies in marked contrast to the public spec- tacle of the trapeze angel. Unlike the clear outlines of her body, which are open to de- tailed scrutiny, her thoughts meander from subject to subject, not confined to one "ra- tional" message that can be framed within the diegetic space. Auditory fragments are overheard which interweave observations about her present situation, her feelings, and her hopes and fears for the future- very often expressed in French, Marion's native tongue:

I oRen talk about myself because I'm em- harassed. At such moments, moments like now. Time heals all.What iftime were the illness? As if sometimes one had to lean overtogoonliving ... Tolive ...onelookis enough. The circus,I11 miss it . . . Allthose I've known ...who remain, and who will remain in my head. It begins, it always ends. It was too good. At last, out in the city. I'll find out who I am, who I've be-



In direct opposition to Marion's body, which at that moment isfixed as the object of desire, the voice functions to enunciate her own desires and changing impressions ofherself. Through the use of a female voice- over, the factors constraining Marion within the diegetic space of spectatorship are simultaneously highlighted and ques- tioned.

They are hghllghted to the extent that, as Kaya Silverman contends in TheAcoustic Mirror,the matching of female voice with body does not necessarily indicate the disruption of a scopophilic economy. Silver- man claims that male and female voice- overs establish an exterior-interior dichoti omy which ahgns itself, through a number of operations, with the same gendered realms that obtain on the level ofthevisuals and storyline. First of all, the female voice is often contained within an 'inner textual space," usually a frame within a greater diegetic frame such as a song-and-dance performance or a film-within-a-film:

Through [this operation] the female voice is doubly diegeticized, overheard not only by the cinema audience but by a fictional eavesdropper or group of eavesdroppers. Male subjectivity is then defined in relation to that seemingly transcendental au- ditory position, and so aligned with the ap- parat~s.'~

Silverman's critique suggests that the overturning of a male-dominated economy of spectatorship cannot simply be reversed by substituting the male for the female voice. While the former confirms the male position as exterior and transcendental, in a position ofcontrol overthe diegeticevents, the latter merely situates the feminine im- age and voice more securely as "interior" to the spectacle, indeed as the very spectacle itself. The female voice thus ultimately en- sures the dominance of the male over the female voice, according to Silverman, by tending to resynchronize the feminine within a clearly demarcated spectacle.

Asecond strategy in this process of con- tainment isthe notion of the "talking cure." Opposed to the rational pronouncements of classic male discourse, the female voice con- veys the supposedly "involuntary" utter- ances of the woman's hidden psyche. The voice thus functions as an organ of 'exposi- tion" which pries out of the woman those 'secret" impulses that would otherwise re- main hidden, and thus threatening to the spectator. This voice, as Silverman points out, is frequently characterized by a som- nolence that overrides the importance of transmitting any one clear message to the audience and can, at times, be reduced to anunconcious moaning. Thissecond strat- egy, like the one which preserves the voice within a "recessed" area of diegesis, also en- sures containment and control by creating a 'psychic order to which its 'owner' is then confined."lg Silverman notes that both of these strategies function to confirm the "corporeality" of the feminine-as voice and spectacle-and to magnify rather than to counteract synchronization. Ironically, what seems to offer insight into the 'truth" of women, then, is precisely the vehicle by which a feminine "performance" or "strip- tease" is performed in service of the scopo- philic regime.

Most striking in this sketch of the domi- nant sound regime is the manner in which it seems to be applicable, point by point, to the particular scene I have singled out in Mngs of Desire. The use of the voice-over in our initial introduction to Marion occurs at precisely the moment in which a care- fully circumscribed space, the circus, func- tions as a frame of performance within the larger frame of modern-day Berlin. Cap- tured within the narrow confines of the tent and monitored in her every movement, Marionisaudible only to the eavesdropping angel and to us. Despite the fact that her thoughts seem to be "her own," the auditory element seems to confirm the dominance of the male angel, whose power as voyeur is simply augmented through sound. His po- sition as outside observer is contrasted to the 'psychic" inner realm of the woman. Whilehisvision isfar-sighted and clear, her voice remains fixed within an immediate reality which she would like to escape but cannot, since she is prevented as a human from seeing the future. The supposedly ma- terialnature ofthe feminine psyche, as con- trasted to the disembodied viewer, is brought out through the sonorous quality of the French which Marion reserves for her "private" discourse. The cadences of the for- eign language point to both her position as ousider in the German milieu and to a sen- sual quality that matches the beauty of her figure.Carried along by these rhythms, the voice invites the male angel to Yeel" the body he sees suspended before him.It is this corporeality, which the angel cannot of course truly experience at this moment, that eventually leads him to enter the sen- suous realm.

On the other hand, the deployment of sound in this scene, and in other sigmticant instances throughout Wings of Desire, can be reexamined if one questions the relation of dominance between image and sound which is presupposed in classical realism. The assumption throughout this critique of the female voice is that it necessarily acts in service of a (feminized) spectacle which confirms the Yantasmatic" body ofthe spec- tator. As I have suggested, Wenders does not deny the lure ofthe spectacle inhis film, if anything, his cinematography heightens and foregrounds the seductive power of im- ages in the aestheticized shots of the female body, as well as the aerial and "interior" shots ofthe urban setting. Rather than sim- ply celebrating thisvisual regime, however, the sound track serves to interrogate the terms of scopophilia and to suggest how vis- ual pleasure can be both probed and re- situated through sound. At stake here is not simply a denial of the technique of syn- chronization in the film. The question, rather, is whether sound in this instance merely serves a suturingeffect that secures the primacy of the male gaze. The voice, classically bound to a framed image of the body, is an effect that functions to redirect vision and to expose a corporeality extend- ing to a spectator--one who can no longer remain "behind the scenes."

Understood in this way, the voice repo- sitions the 'acoustic mirror" as defined by Silverman. Instead of simply reflecting the subjectivity of the male viewer and compen- sating for hislack through the feminine image, this voice can be employed as a mirror revealing the very scene of spectatorship. Such an act of exposure is performed, in a scene verging on parody, as Damiel thinks he is "caught" observing Marion while fol- lowing her outside the tent. Amale worker, looking in their direction, exclaims "Ooh, ein Engel geht vorbei!" and Damiel, think- ing that the comment is directed at him, turns around in alarm. While Damiel quickly realizes that the female "angel" remains the spectacle here, the workerarticu- lates the truth of Damiel's desiring gaze, one which formerly claimed to be "transcen- dental" and in which his own body ostensi- bly played no role. His shocked lookbetrays the fear that he, too, can be desired by oth- ers in shifting economies in which the dichotomy of heterosexual male voyeurlfe- male object no longer obtains. The intrusion ofvoice into the accepted scopophilic regime thus suggests the mirroring ofdesiringbod- ies, both observer and observed.

Marion's voice, leading Damiel beyond the space of the circus tent, forces this iden- tification of the spectator~listener. In this case, the auditory elements precede the vis- ual in directing the movements of the cam- era asitfollows Marion's voice outside. Her words reflect the notion that crossing this threshold involves auditory and visual processes:

At last, out in the city. I'll iind out who I am, who I've become. Most of the time I'm too aware to be sad. I waited an eternity to hear a loving word. Then I went abroad. If someone would say 7love you so much today" that would be wonderfid. The world appears before my eyes, and fills my heart.

Following this innervoice, Marion even- tually finds herself at a night club where the experience of viewing and listening be- comes the very 'object" of investigation. In the club, Marion's situation is on a par with that of the male angel: here, she becomes the invisible observer in the crowd. Unlike the angel, however, this situation leads her to a state ofheightened sensuality in which seeing, listening, and feeling are combined into a synaesthetic experience as Marion is engulfed by the sonorous folds of the music in a way that involves her entire body. Rather than acting as a frame for staged performance, the night club emerges as a sensuous envelope in which the distinc- tions between performer and audience, as well as between sensory functions, become blurred. The crowd feels the music as it penetrates the body, just as we see the sounds and hear the sites through its sway.

Most distinctive about this scene is the quality of the lead singer's voice of the post- punk band, 'Crime and the City Solution." While he seems to be "communicating" directly to the audience through song and ges- ture, his rhythmic raspiness distorts the lyrics beyond comprehensibility. As in Marion's monologue, it is the voice which breaks the firmly established boundaries that a monocular, monolithic visualregime would seek to preserve. Producing sounds that cany language beyond the borders of meaning into a physically perceived tonal- ity, the vocals highlight what Roland Barthes has called the 'grain" of the voice. Thisgrain has the potential, according to Barthes, to "displace the fringe of contact between music and language."20 He ex- plains this displacement by borrowing and revising terms from Julia Kristeva, refer- ring to what he calls the pheno-song and the geno-song. The pheno-song situates music within a linguistic model by placing it in the service of communication, repre- sentation, expression, custom, and domi- nant ideology. In a reverse movement, the geno-song, centering on the volume of the speaking and singingvoice, actually probes the material depths of language itself. It invades the ideational realm of communi- cation by stressing the corporeality ofvocal chords, lungs, lips, and tongue. As described by Barthes, listening to the geno- songs produced by the voice takes us into a realm of "signifpg play that has nothing to do with communication, representation (of feelings)," a space where "melody really works at the language."21

For Barthes, of course, this latter realm is privileged, for it is where jouissance, the disruption of meaning, occurs. But Barthes's focus on the "grain"of the voice, taken within the context of Wings of Desire ascinematic experiment, is suggestive as a quality designating a movement across the otherwise differentiated realms of rational- ized communication and feeling, mind and body, sight and sound. The "grainy"voice in the concert scene is itself an echo of the technologically rendered multi-track sound which, as I have noted, interacts with the visuals in the film. The numerous recording tracks that overlap communicative dis- courses, music, and a multiplicity of voices actually converge here within the "natural" medium of avoice situated in the interstices of speech, song, and noise. This ostensibly natural medium functions to question the very notion of a "pure" technological repro- duction of the voice in the service of clear communication. Instead, "high fidelity" sound here is exposed as always already a rendering of a physical quality, the basis of which is a notion of distortion rather than the purification of sound.22

In Wings of Desire, the voice becomes a vehicle for journeying from the subliminal visual world of the angel to a liminal realm where senses interact and converge. This apparatus mobilizes the senses in a way that both yields to a pleasurable physical experience and challenges one to expand the frontiers ofestablished "sense" or mean- ing. If Wenders's film is a synaesthetic rather than a purely visual machine, it pro- vides us with a model of the Cksantt- kunstu~erkthat seeks to span the imaginary chasm between viewer and viewed rather than maintain the fiction of a self-enclosed (organic or technical) artwork.Z3 Above all, Wings of Desire stresses the mobilizing po- tential of sound once it is no longer held subservient to image. Throughout the film, a series of voices canythe characters and audience across cultural, spatial, and tem- poral terrains: from that of Marion, who exits the performance tent to participate in the modern urban experience; to the Ho- meric "storyteller" (Curt Bois) combing the desolate Potsdamer Platz as he recounts the past; to Cassiel accompanying a driver whose taxi shuttles between 1945 and the present; to Peter Falk (playing himself), an ex-angel who travels from America to play a spy in a Nazi film.

Most signifcant perhaps is the flight of the angel breaking through the visual bar- rier to enter the sensual realm below- landing, quite suggestively, in front of the Berlin Wall. While this seems to signify the rupture of the most hndamental barrier in the film, it also marks, in my opinion, the limits of this synaesthetic project. When sy- naesthesia is understood as an attainable god rather than as a series of crossings, it can very quickly be reduced to a notion of original, organic unity. While the impetus of the angel's exit from an ocular Eden is at times suggested to be the desire to feel in general, this impulse is increasingly de- fined in the film in the more narrow terms of a union between man and woman. Tasting, smelling, smoking, feeling the ele- ments-the sensations the angel experi- ences upon his first landing-are transformed into a singular pursuit which can only be defined in visual terms, namely, sit- ing the woman. The angel eventually finds Marion, again in a night club with music similar to the earlier one, but this time the body is reduced to the eye. Marion's speech during her first earthly encounter with him repeatedly underscores a retreat to a visual regime: "Es gibt keine grijl3ere Geschichte, als die von uns beiden. Von Mann und Frau . . .Schau, meine Augen! Die sind das Bild der Notwendigkeit." The return to the eyes suggests the triumph of clear identities which, not surprisingly, forces the woman to bareherself to the man atthe same time that she isexiled to a realm of darkness and mystery:

"Letzte Nacht triiumte ich von einem Un- bekannten, meinem Mann-nur mit ihm konnte ich einsam sein, o&n werden fiir ihn, ganz offen, ganz fiirihn, ihn ganz als Ganzen in mich einlassen, ihn umschlie 13en mit dem Labyrinth der gemeinsamen Seligkeit Ich weil3, Du bist es."

The subsequent sexual union, elided on a visual or auditory level in the film,marks the stasis of the synaesthetic experience and the erection of clearly marked gender and sensory boundaries. As bell hooks notes, the relationship betweenDamieland Marion isa "romantic reassertion of the pri- macy ofheterosexual love."24 At least in the closingscenes, love is reduced from a notion of multi-faceted and transgressive desire to one in service of an "organic" reproductive cycle. Sigulficantly, the voice-over isthat of the male angel in the last sequence and, by visualizing Marion, who hangs again in the air practicing her acrobatics, he speaks of transcendence rather than transition:

Ich war in ihr und sie war um mich. Wer aufder Welt kann von sich behaupten, er war je mit einem anderen Menschen zusamrnen? ICH BIN zusamrnen! Kein sterbliches Kind wurde gezeugt, sondern ein unsterbliches gemeinsames Bild. Ich habe in dieser Nacht das Stamen gelernt. Sie hat mich Heim geholt, und ich habe eins gehden. Es war einmal. Es war ein- mal, und also wird es sein.

The beginning of this drama was staged in the opening sequence of the film asinitiating a journey to folgotten sensual ter- rains, as suggested by Peter Handke's text, which begins "Alsdas Kind Kind war.. .." Ironically, this "es war einmal" is resurrected here as the pure transcendence of visualizing identity.25

Wings of Desire concludes with the words "to be continued . . .," which can be read from a diegetic context as the open- endedness ofthe subject's life story afterhis metaphoric rebirth, but they have also been realized on a marketing level as a foreshad- owing of the newly released sequel In weiter Ferne, so nah! [Far Away So Close] (1993).

In terms of a continuity of plot, this is certainly the case: Wenders's latest film recounts the post-nuptial story ofDamiel and Marion and also focuses upon the plights of the companion angel Cassiel after hisentry as a human into the newly reunified Berlin. Interestingly enough, however, the flm seems to abandon the complex investiga- tion into perception and relies upon much more conventional, in my opinion often clichbd, cinematic techniques in tackling the rargei political issues of good and evil in a new world order.

While Until the End of the World elides these concrete historical events in a futur- istic leap to 1999, it takes up the project inaugurated in Wings of Desire by seeking to expose the "politics" of perception in a modern context. Wenders draws attention to this connection between the two films, noting that the angels' ability to hear people's thoughts led him directly to the notion of a scientist who can see people's thoughts.26 If sound (in particular that of the voice) is used to question the primacy of transcendental vision in the former film, modern "techniques" of vision constitute the starting point for a critique of all sen- sual apparati in the latter. Until the End of the World shifts the focus from heterogene- ous human faculties straddling the spheres of Geist and body, meaning and matter, to that of the borders between the human and the technological. The vertical journey trac- ing the contours ofmultifarious bodies thus gives way to a horizontal spread of net- works that quite literally span the globe. The singular eye of the angel that initially provides a window to the world in Wings of Desire is replaced here by a complex visu- alizing apparatus forever connected to vari- ous media: digitalized computer screens and tracking programs; videophones; and high-density television broadcasts. In my subsequent discussion of the later film, I will examine its role as a critical sequel to Wings of Desire within the context of an ongoing critique of perception, in particular in terms of how newer media relate to the human senses. Rather than tracing these as themes throughout specific scene se- quences, Iwould like to situate key aspects of the work within a larger framework of current discussions on perception that have been informed by technological develop- ments.

In Until the End of the World, newly de- veloped electronic and computerized modes of transmission determine the very make- up of the cinematic project. Wenders quite consciously exploits newer media through- out the film (above all video and high-den- sity images borrowed from developing tele- vision technology) and implements them to determine the changing texture of the nar- rative. This results in circuitous plotting and hybrid genres: the film initially unfolds like a series of MTV videos as we follow Claire (Solvieg Dommartin) through her adventures in Europe accompanied by con- temporary sound tracks (by U2,REM,Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, and Depeche Mode, among others), then switches to a B-movie detective format in locales as diverse as Ukraine, Japan, and the USA, and finally to a mutated home video created by a Yam- ily" of scientists in Australia. This aspect of the film leaves it open to attack for being, as one critic quite vehemently insists, a "thinly plotted" and off-center "inchoate mess.w27On the other hand, the generic me- lange bears direct witness to changing con- ditions of production in terms of financing, overall conception, and editing. Funded to a good degree by such major corporations as Sony and Sharp, Until the End of the World highhghts the increasingly crucial role played by major industries in contem- porary filmmaking, as well as in new con- ceptions of the modern aesthetic product. One of the central challenges in making the movie was to transpose the electronic images onto film without compromising the clarity of high-density pictures, a process that entails, among other things, new tech- niques of montage.28 The shift,in material processes of production, in this case, ex- tends to a subsequent reevaluation of the very nature of the "auteur" films for which Wenders is known. As Wendershimself admits, this project forces an encounter between two very different notions of film- making: commercially financed movies aimed at mass consumership, and privately produced films that privilege artistic inde- pendence over mass appeal.29 By allowing the very technologies that have become cen- tral to the experience of mass viewership to define the work, Wenders must also relin- quish a claim to the autonomous %ionn def~g

the auteur film.

This stress upon new technologies does not simply provide a new "theme" for a hturistic narrative, nor does it merely serve an investigation into cinema's changing aesthetic potential. If we place ourselves as the viewers of this film in the position of the traveler Claire, whose sensory functions come into contact with ever more sophisti- cated visual media, then we must concede that the very processes of seeing are per- manently altered and extended as human perceptuaYbiologica1 apparati become linked to technical "visualizing" machines. Until the End of the World thus also contin- ues on a fundamental critical level where Wings of Desire left off in investigating anew the permeability of ascribed bounda- ries. The earlierfilm critiques (at least until the closing scenes) a hieramhization of the senses which has traditionally placed vi- sion at the apex and, by mobilizing sound, seeks to restructure this relationship into a synaesthetic interaction of the senses. [Jntil the End of the World, in turn, poses certain questions about historical contin- gency. In what way are these various con-

figurations of the senses historically deter- mined? What material and ideological changes permanently alter our acts of see- ing,hearing, feeling? These questions could extend, for instance, to the critique of scopo- philia and its relation to voice asit has been analyzed by Silverman and asI have devel- oped it in my reading of Wngs of &sire. If the earlier film does attempt to reangle the acoustic mirror, then what material, social, and historical forces might play a role in this readjustment? Until the End of the World suggests that it is not simply the changing aesthetics of cinema which pushes for a new idealogy of vision and hearing, but that the development of a vast array of mass media and global networks contributing to a "visual culture" are key factors.

In a recent article entitled "Aesthetics and Anaesthetics," Susan Buck-Morss stresses precisely this historically contin- gent nature of 'aisthisis," or the "sensory experience of percepti~n."~~

Examining the realms of science, technology, and the hu- man senses at the turn of the last century, Buck-Morss traces shifts in cultural expe- rience that extend to all of them. She fo- cuses, among other things, upon the impact of such developments as anaesthetics in medicine, increasingly automated modes of production, and the fascination with "phan- tasmagoria" in the arena of mass entertain- ment. Rather than simply claiming that these events influenced a reevaluation of the notion of aesthetics on a philosophical or artistic level, Buck-Morss seeks to dem- onstrate how these material changes oc- cured hand in hand with a radical restruc- turing of the human psyche and senses. As she claims, her aim is "to trace the develop- ment, not of the meaning of the terms [of aesthetics], but of the human sensorium itseF3 Interestingly enough, what begins as a brief history of perception very quickly leads to a critique of the established boundaries between subject and object world, one in which a new conception of synaesthesia plays a central role:

The field of the sensory circuit thus corresponds to that of "experience," in the classical philosphical sense of a mediation be- tween subject and object, and yet its very composition makes the so-called split be- tween subject and object (which was the constant plague of classical philosophy) simply irrelevant. In order to differentiate our description bm the more limited,traditional conception of the human nervous system which isolates human biology hm its environment, we will call this aesthetic system of sense-consiousness, decentemd from the classical subject wherein exter- nal sense-perceptions come together with internal images of memory and anticipation, the "synaesthetic system.32

For Buck-Morss, the term 'synaesthesia" no longer simply implies a relationship between the senses within a closed physiological sphere, but instead indicates the openness of the spheres of the biological, technical,and mnemonicasa series ofboth interlinked and internally discontinuous networks. The sur- face of the body-such sensory organs as eyes, ears, skin, and nose-hnction as switching stations through which pass inner and outer stimuli, conceived in relation to each other in a process of "mimetic syn- chrony."

My claim that Until the End of the World can be viewed as a critical sequel to Wings of Desire is based on this new definition of synaesthesia. What begins as a vertical journey in the earlier film that cuts a path through the human senses in critiquingcul- turd, historical, and gendered boundaries, continues as a horizontal quest extending to the frontiers of human/technological ex- istence. The notion of synaesthestics can thus be linked to a "technoaesthetics," a term Buck-Morss uses to describe the fas- cination with visual media at the turn of the century. Until the End of the World probes the relationship between internal cognition and external technologies, seeing subject and seen objects, as well asbetween various subjects. It reveals how this is made possible through the new visual media, in-

cluding those employed in the film, in our own fin-de-si&cle. Claire's travels are thus not only a movement between geographic spaces, but also between the external ob- ject-world and the "inner" realm of subjec- tivity.

This becomes evident if one considers that the changing physical terrains trav- ersed by Claire in her travels around the world areno longer separable from the tech- nological devices that enable her to pursue her quest. Rather than functioning asneutral tools to enhance a pres&d %umanw sphere of visuality, these media actually create multiple fields of perception deter- mining biological and psychic spaces. Two types of inventions in particular, the com- puterized tracking devices used for surveil- lance and the new-age "home video" devel- oped by the inventor Henry Farber (Max von Sydow), hlghllght the way in which the subjective field of vision is radically altered and extended by modern technology. The surveillance programs used by the detec- tive Phillip Winter (Riidiger Vogler) and Claire (developed for the late capitalist world by, in an ironic clichb, a former Soviet country and using a logo of a "big brother" bear) expose the very act of exposure in the public realm. Here, cyberspace has con- quered physical space-it is a terrain in which there isliterally nowhere left to hide. Similarly, the ostensibly "privaten home video, which is used to implant images in the mind of a blind woman (the inventor's wife Edith Farber, played by Jeanne Moreau), unearths the formerly invisible thoughts of individual subjects. The cogni- tive, imaginative, and oneiric processes that are normally contained within a pri- vate "spiritualn realm are made visible as material objects for scrutiny and exchange. Home videos and tracing devices thus con- firmthe primacy of the technological in re- configuringthe physical and physiological reality of seeing.

In a lengthy description of a new act of seeing, Wenders highlights precisely this merging of formerly distinct spheres.

Speaking of the imagined device which the scientist attempts to develop, Wenders de- scribes the transmission of images from seeing to blind subject asa two-fold process. The first entails the recording of the het- erogeneous material of perception:

Ein sehender sieht die Welt Fm den Blinden. Dieser Xamermann" sieht durch eine Karnera, die er wie eine Art Helm oder Spezialbrille triigt, und die Kamera zeichnet als High-Definition-Videobildgemu das auf, was er sieht. Auch der ?bn wird gleichzeitig wie bei einer Kunstkopf- aufnahme aeezeichnet. Somit gibt es ein "objektives Dokument" dessen, was der Kamermann gesehen hat ... Es reicht nicht, dieses "objektive Bild" allein aufzu- nehmen. Auf demselben Band, als Padlelinformation, wird daher auch noch eine andere Information aufgezeichnet: die Gehirnaktivitiiten des Kamermanns w&- rend der Aufnahrne. Eine Unmenge von Elektroden registriert in feinstmoglicher Auflosung die Gehirnstriime des Sehen- den in der Sehrinde, hdt sozusa en den "AKTDES SEHENS" selbst fest. 35

Thisinitial moment of recording signals what Wenders later calls the "first act of seeing," a stage containing elements of re- cording identified by Wenders as both "ob- jective" and "subjectiven: the physical ob- jects apprehended by the subject, and the psychic responses to the external stimuli. Understood asboth a techno-physiological activity and an opening sequence in a futuristic drama, the first "act" of seeing does not unfold linearly from external physical to inner psychic realms, but rather suggests a material continuum between the two as they are recorded simultaneously in deter- mining the visual (and auditory) field.34 This, like the critique of vision launched through sound in Wingsof Desire, suggests an interdependence in the constitution of perceiving subject and perceived object. In the following description, Wenders sug- gests how this bond always entails a re- membering of the material of perception. Claiming that the objective elements of the recording can be easily read, but that the subjective areinterpreted by the computer as a code that cannot be easily "cracked," Wenders insists upon a necessary "second" act of seeing:

In einem isolierten und abgedunkelten Raum wird [der Kameramann] mit seinen von ihm selbst aufgezeichneten Bildern konfrontiert. Auf einem High-Definition- Monitor sieht er seine eigenen Aufnah- men noch einmal. Auch dies.mil zeichnet der Computer wieder die Gehirnstr6me ad. Weil der Sehende das Bild schon kennt, ist dies ein Wiedererkennen, ein Akt des Wiedersehens und der Erinne- rung. Der Computer folgt den Augenbe- wegungen iiber den Bildschirm, und weil ihm zur gleichen Zeit, wie er das "Zweite Sehen" festhgt, auch das objektive und das subjektive Bild des "Ersten Sehensn zurVerfiigung steht, kann er nun endlich an die Arbeit gehen: aus der Gesamtinfor- mation kann er nun ausfltern, aus wel- chen Gehirnstriimen sich das Bild zusammensetzt. Die verschiedenen Schichten von Informationen iibereinander funktie nieren wie ein Sieb, und der Computer ist nun in der Lage, aus dem Vergleich der ausgesiebten Daten ein neues "subjekti- ves Bild" zu konstruieren, das er ganz in Gehirnstriimen definieren kanx~.~~

Ifthis description of the multiple acts of see- ing is taken as as an illustration of the im- mediate conditions of seeing rather than as an esoteric futuristic fantasy, a number of important points emerge. First of all, the "second" act always involves key instances of recognition and remembering. Anencounter with a physical image, or perhaps the active constitution of an image, is only pos- sible as an encounter with memory traces. Secondly,if the psychic marks left by earlier "actsn of seeing determine this remember- inglseeing, then the image always carries with it an excess of information that can never be consciously assimilated by the see- ingsubject. Cognition only occurs through a process of matching and selection of data, by which the (psychic) memory trace corn- sponds to the immediate (physical) response of the subject. What Wenders describes as two distinct stages in the process of transmitting images can actually be collapsed if one considers that the "first" act of seeing is never truly an initial one-in other words, every act of seeing is always secondary, in that it refers back to a "pre-history" of appre- hended images and responses by the subject. Thus,the supposed "instance" of viewing always encapsulates a historicity that exceeds the moment of viewing and determines both the identification of constituted images and a certaininstability inherent to them in their historical permutations.

The transfer of images from Claire to the blind woman highlights the way in which seeing always involves exchange, both in terms of a temporal transposition and transmission by and through multiple subjects. The initial act of viewing, when Claire records the greetings of family rela- tives in San Franscisco, is never solely an isolated experience in Claire's personal memory bank. Rather, Claire acts as a type of "carrier," taking in images that actually belong to the Farber family history. Her memory actually merges with the blind woman's in the final "production" of the im- planted image, suggesting that both per- ception and memory are always part of a broader history that cannot be confined to the sphere of any one single subject. Thus, the apprehension ofthe external world, "in- ternal" physical and psychic reactions, and the assigning of historically specific mean- ings to images together form an act that is never performed in the singular, but rather one that is mapped out through a series of technical, temporal networks.

In line with what Buck-Morss describes as a drive for "anaesthesis," or a numbing of the senses, in an earlier historical con- text, the subjects react to (visual) over- stimulation in a new perceptual order with a self-willed sensory deprivation. Claire, as her name suggests, enjoys a clarity of vision, one which is at least in part deter- mined by the plethora of devices at her dis-

posal. By connecting the optic nerve to new technologies, she simultaneously extends hervision outward to cover immense spaces and to link herselfto disparate figures, and inward into the recesses of her memory and imagination. But, as Wenders points out, Claire's story issituated in an age in which one may journey more and more but see less and le~s.~6

This notion is borne out in the repeated references to blindness and im- paired eyesight, not only that of the mother, but also the increasingly acute ailment that plagues the eyes of her son, Sam. While he initially reacts to visualoverstimulation by rejecting the new technology, Claire's willingness to participate in the experiments eventually leads them both to a visual "ad- diction" in which they recede into the world of their own dreams. This condition results in the collapse of their relationship and in their extreme isolation from the outside world. The seemingly utopian richness of the visual culture is thus paradoxically linked to a desolate, dystopic social sphere, one that is mirrored on a grander scale by the bleakness of the political and geo- graphic landscape surrounding them.

The notion of a poverty of perception in Until the End of the World bears important resemblances, as well as differences, to the condition of the angels depicted in Wngs of Desire. In both cases, a heightened visual capacity can lead to a numbing of the other physical faculties and to complete isolation. The latter film offers an antidote to the per- ceived dangers of the new age which is very similar to that of the earlier film. Until the End of the World and Wings of Desire ultimately converge in their reliance upon a utopian notion of love as a desired point of Aufhebung, or sublation. As in the earlier movie, Until the End of the World clearly linksthis last-ditch romanticization of hu- man relations to the unifyingpowers of nar- rative-more specifically, a lasting written narrative which in some way is intended to counteract disposable images made for con- sumption. That the redemptive quality of earlier narrative forms is tied to a nostalgic and ultimately reactionary impulse is made particularly clear through the role of Claire's husband, the writer Eugene Fitzpatrick (Sam Neill). What is suggested in his steadfast belief in writing, which eventually cures Claire of her addiction, is that written narratives serve to stabilize identity. The act of writing, performed toward the conclusion to the film on an archaic typewriter, mirrors the angels' act of seeing in Wings ~fDesire.~~

In both projects, the transcendental, male-gendered model underlying these activities is critiqued by Wenders. Nevetheless, he never completely dispenses with it, in the hope of maintain- ing a stable aesthetic project that retains powers of redemption to combat modern al- ienation. This is particularly problematic in the latter film because the theme of sub- jective alienation which pervades Wings of Desire and its urban Cold War setting is no longer, in my opinion, a viable myth in the historical reality of Until the End of the World.If vision is highlighted in the latter case as no longer localized in the sphere of individualized rational subjects, but is ac- tually a series of material, psychic, and bio- logical processes spread out through mul- tiple networks, then the concept of a personal alienation, which always implies a dislocation from a defined center, no longer obtains. What one must confront, in its stead, is the challenge of defining new bodies of agency from within these net- works. The fact that Claire and Eugene Fitzpatrick's futures are seen as following divergent, unidentified paths at the conclu- sion of Until the End of the World indicates, however obliquely, that this new perceptual terrain remains open to investigation.


'Rainer Maria Rilke,"Nachtens will ich mit dem Engel reden," Werke,6 vols. (Frankfurta. M.: Insel, 1987)2: 223. In a number of inter- views and essays, WmWenders has mentioned his indebtedness to Rilke, and this poeminpar

ticular, for "translating" some of the cinemato- graphic challenges he faced in rendering the angels' point of view.

2hm aninterview conducted by Coco Fusco, "Angels, History, and Poetic Fantasy: An Interview with Wm Wenders," Cineaste 4 (1988): 14-17, here 16.

3Because the notions suggested by Wings of Desire are ultimately more in line with my reading of the film's implied critique of sensu- ality, I have chosen to use the English title throughout this essay. For the sake of consis- tency, I refer to the English title of the later film aswell.

4See Alice Kuzniar, "Suture inlsuturing Literature and F'ilm: Handke and Wenders,"

Intertdity: German Literature and Visual

Art,ed. Ingeborg Hoesterey and Ulrich Weis- stein (Columbia, SC:Camden, 1993) 201-17.

5Christian Rogowski, "Der liebevolle Blick? The Problem of Perception in Wm Wen- ders's Wings of Desire," Seminar 29.4 (Nov. 1993): 39949.

'jFor critiques exposing the ideological limits of the project, see Robert Phillip Kolker and Peter Beicken, The Films of Wim Wendars: Ci- nema as Vision and Desire (Cambridge: Cam- bridge UP, 1993) and bell hooks, "Representing Whiteness: seeing wings of desire," Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End, 1990) 165-71; for an analysis of the way the film resituates the terms modernism and postmodernism, see David Caldwell and Paul h,"Handke's and Wenders' Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism," The Cerman Quarterly 64.1 (1991): 46-54. While all three of these critiques offer some convincing arguments regarding the flm, some of which have informed my own analysis (see especially my specific reference to hooks's essay below), I find that they too readily fall into opposing camps of Wenders's defenders and detractors.

7A number of recent studies offer readmgs of this optical regime with very different aims in mind. For a recently published historical overview of the privileging of sight among the senses and its purported "denigration" in mod- ern thought, see Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes (Berkeley: U of California P, 1993). In richniques of the Obsen~er(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), Jonathan Crary discusses a paradigm shifk away hm visual transcendence at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and in so doing, linksinnovations in philosophy, science, and the visual arts at the time. In her most recent book, Rosalind Krauss explores similar questions, but situates a psychoanalytic critique of vision in twentieth-century moder- nism. See Rosalind Krauss, The Optid Unconscious (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993).

sThe notion of the Cartesian eye as an an- gelic one is developed by Karsten Harries in Descartes, Perspective and the Angelic Eye," Yale French Studies 49 (1973): 284.

9All citations arehm Himml aer Berlin [Wings of Desire], videocassette, dir. Wm Wen- ders (Orion Home Video, 1989) 130 mins.

1°In a thoughtful and thorough reading of the film, Roger Cook examines the "transcen- dental" position represented by the angels. His analysis of the angelic point of view facilitated by the "unchained camera," in particular as it relates to scenes in the first half of the film, converges at key points with my own under- standing of "Cartesian vision." According to Cook, the transcendental position is the spring- board for a critique of suturing asprescribed by dominant Hollywood fiction and leads to the exploration of alternative modes of narration. In my own reading, however, I am more con- cerned with how this view specifically implies (or denies) a certain mode of sensory perception and how itinteracts with other sensory proces- ses. See Roger Cook, "Angels, Fiction, and History in Berlin: Wim Wenders's mngs of Desire," The Germanic Review 66.1 (1991): 34-47.

"Quoted in Jay 470.

12Jean-Louis Comolli, "Machines of theVis- ible," The Cinematic Apparatus, ed. Teresa de Lauretis and Stephen Heath (New York: St. Martin's, 1980) 12142, here 121.

13See Mary Anne Doane, 'The Voice in Cin- ema: The Articulation of Body and Space," Yale French Studies 60 (1980): 33-50.

14See Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia UP, 1994) 150-

52. I5Chion 152. "%ee Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and

Narrative Cinema," Screen 16:3 (Fall 1975): 6-


17The translation appearing here and in the subsequent excerpt of Marion's monologue is hm the English subtitles to the film.

18Kaya Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988) 57.

lgSilverman 61.

2aRoland Barthes, 'The Grainof the Voice," Image-Music-=, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977) 179-89, here 181. A number of other essays by Barthes explore similar questions, including "Music, Voice, Language" (278-85), Gtening" (245-60), and "The Romantic Song" (286-92), all in The Responsibility of Forms, trans.Richard Howard (Berkeley: U of California P, 1991).

Z1Barthes, The Grain of theVoice" 182. 22For a discussion of kndering" as a prin- ciple of sound recording,see Chion 109-14.

2~Ironically, this notion of film as Gesamtkunstwerk would seem to mirror a dominant Hollywood approach to film beginning in the mid-1930s. Caryl Flynn points out that this aesthetic paradigm determined film music as subservient to the visual track. See Caryl Flynn, Strains of Utopia (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992) 3M. Wings of Desire resuscitates some key principles of the Gesam.tkunstwerk but, at least until the closing scenes of the film, does not seem to rely on the conservative notion of an "originarf unity.

Z4bell hooks 168.

%For a review of the role of Handke's text in the film, a topic which I do not take up in my own reading, see Cook 35.

Z6See Walter Donohue, rtevelations: An Interview with Wim Wenders,"Sight and Sound (April 1992): 11-24.

Z7Leonard Marquart, rev. of Until the End of the World, Cineaste 19:1(1992):80.

Z8See Yoichi Umemoto, Wenders en haute

definition,"Cahiers duCinema 440 (February

1991): 48.

Z9See the interview "Entretien avec Wim Wenders," with Thierry Jousse and Fran~ois Niney, Cahiers duCinema 448 (October 1991): 83-85, here 85.

30Susan Buck-Morss, "Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin's Artwork Essay Reconsidered," October 62 (Fall 1992): 341. Buck-Morss begins with a reevaluation of the last section of Benjamin's essay, which kctions as a springboard for a lengthy reflec- tion upon what she terms "aesthetic cognition," the apprehension of the object-world which is to be understood as other to rational judgment, and upon a notion of "anaesthesis" as a reaction to overstimulation. For a discussion of the term "aisthisis," see Buck-Mom 6.

31Buck-Morss 10.


12-13. Wm Wenders, The Act of Seeing (Frankfurt a. M.: Verlag der Autoren, 1992) 32. 34Wenders's reference to bi~~aural

recording underscores the hct that what seems to be primarily a critique of modern technological vision in this film actually extends to other senses as well. Binaural recording is an attempt to repro- duce sound as actually heard by a human sub- ject, to which ends headphones areplaced on a dummy head that stands in for the listener. Wenders's suggestion that the "cameraman" function as a dummy head does not imply, in my opinion, that the subject reclaims hisher (rightful) place in the act of hearing, but rather that hidher position is always understood as mediated in the "techniques" of perception. The German term "Kunstkopfaufnahme" is espe- cially suggestive here, because it highlights the aesthetic and artificial or non-human aspect in the process.

"Wenders, Th.e Act of Seeing 3233.

3eEntretien avec Wim Wenders" 83.

37Interestingly enough, what is suggested in the visual depiction of writing, but never dealt with on a critical level in either film, is the physical nature of the act. Both the hand that puts pen to paper in Wings of Desire and the fingers depressing the keys of the mechanical typewriter in Until the End of the World imply a connection between meaning production, the sense of touch, and physical media. The sugges- tion in the latter film in particular, however, that writing canbe used as a counterforce to a technical mode, rather than as an activity at once implicated by and critical of this reality, tends to efface these connections.

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