Handke's and Wenders's Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism

by David Caldwell, Paul W. Rea
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Title:
Handke's and Wenders's Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism
Author:
David Caldwell, Paul W. Rea
Year: 
1991
Publication: 
The German Quarterly
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64
Issue: 
1
Start Page: 
46
End Page: 
54
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English
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Abstract:

DAVID CALDWELL PAULW. REA

University of Northern Colorado

Handke's and Wenders's Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism

Wings of Desire (Der Himmel uber Berlin,

1988) opens with a shot of a hand writing while a voice intones, 'Als das Kind Kind war. . . ." As the speaker continues, the image of the hand dissolves into an extreme close-up of a human eye. Moments later, the film's two angels compare what they have writ- ten. One angel closes his journal and con- fesses to a desire: to experience the world with childlike wonder. Later in the fi Peter Falk also carries a book in which he sketches.

Through interplay between such supposed opposites as word and image, child and adult, Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire returns re- peatedly to issues of epistemology and mem- ory, to questions about the past and the future. The fi's central polarity of images and words, along with its implications for how and what we know, creates important opportuni- ties for discussing broader tensions and turn- ing points in contemporary culture. Thus Wings ofDesire both illustrates and transcends tensions between modernism and postmod- ernism. More significantly, just as this film encourages reconciliations between opposites, so too does it herald a world moving beyond the divisions of the past.

In The Conditions of Postmodernity (1989), David Harvey treats Wings ofDesire as a post- modernist text, albeit one with modernist mo- ments in its second half, which he describes as an attempt "to resurrect something of the modernist spirit of human communication, to- getherness . . ." (320). But are "comrnunica- tion" and "togetherness" essential themes of modernism? It would seem more accurate to

The German Quarterly 64.1(1991) 46

argue that tensions between postmodernist and other conventions-in fact between op- positions of various sorts-shape every as- pect of this extraordinary film.

The very pervasiveness of such polarities indeed suggests that Wings of Desire has its roots in such canonical modernist thinkers as Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. As E. Ann Kaplan points out, these fathers of mod- ernism established paradigms that in one way or another depended on oppositions although "they each constructed different kinds of pro- cesses for dealing with (or in some cases working through) the oppositions" (3). Con- versely, Kaplan and others observe that post- modernism tends to move beyond these ten- sions, toward what Fredric Jameson terms "the effacement of opposites" (Kaplan, 14). "The aesthetic of Blade Runner" and of post- modernism, Harvey contends, involves "the explosion of boundaries" (311).

Handke's and Wenders's Wings of Desire transcends both modernism and postmodern- ism. It moves beyond paired opposites: earth and sky, metaphysical and physical, child and adult, angelic and human, black-and-white and color, malelmale and malelfemale relation- ships, past and present, war and peace, word and image and, above all, modern and post- modern. The fi is a multi-layered master- piece that explodes both film genres and easy oppositions; though tensions are never fdy resolved, its movement is toward the human, the childlike, and the present. The setting, the story, and especially the style of the fi embody this interplay between polarities. But in the end Wings of Desire moves beyond op- positions.

Nowhere are this tension and movement more apparent than in Wenders's handling of setting. It might appear that, like postmodern films such as Blade Runner or Brazil, Wings of Desire could be set in any modem metropo- lis. But much as Carol Reed set his classic The Third Man in a war-ravaged, divided Vien- na, Wenders appropriately chose Berlin, the city of EasttWest polarities. He directs Ale- kan's camera as it easily soars over the Wall, surmounts old oppositions, and fluidly pene- trates barriers to foreshadow the new con- nectedness the angels will experience. In many ways Wings of Desire evokes Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Die Sinfonze der Groflstadt (1927), for it is a visual poem to Berlin and its unique history. Wenders exploits the ten- sions between the generic and the specific, the global and the local, the foreign and the German. During the first half of the film he offers unrelated shards of urban life in all its banality, alienation, and ennui. These frag- ments-plus Peter Falk's musings on his itinerary: "Tokyo, Kyoto, Paris, London, Trieste, . . . Berlin"-suggest an unrooted internationalism. Similarly, English and French are spoken as well as German, and two of the main characters are foreigners.

As several commentators have shown, postmodern films typically do not present strongly individualized characterizations. The first half of the film is postmodern in this re- spect: the two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, are not highly individualized, and they listen in on a great many lost Berliners. But once their aerial evesdropping is done, the angels become more personalized, and they interact with distinct and engaging human characters. Not surprisingly, the humans turn out to be more interesting than the angels-one source of Damiel's discontent and desire to become more human. This affirmation of hu- manness sets this film apart from typical post-modern works, which tend to depict humans largely as the victims of social decay and spiritual exhaustion.

Essentially Wings depicts the movements of two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, played sen- sitively by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander. By intercutting black and white with color film stock, the film explores the tensions between the celestial and the earthly, between different ways of knowing and living. After nearly an hour of restrained, distanced black and white photography, Wenders cuts to color for the first time as Damiel sits watching Marion, the trapeze artist, disrobe in her trailer. Thus as- sociated with earthly delights, color becomes increasingly prevalent after this point and dominates the fi after Damiel descends to earth, gladly becoming a fallen angel. How- ever, it is sigmficant that the film does not just switch to color at the moment of his de- scent, for the other angel, Cassiel, remains ambivalent and does not take the plunge. At the end of the film Cassiel sits isolated in a colorless circle watching as Damiel and Mar- ion learn to play. Continuing to intercut the two film stocks provides a correlative to Cas- siel's vascillating feelings and, importantly, keeps the film from becoming overly sche- matic. In Wings, the unpredictability principle remains operative until the very end, when man and woman come together in full color, putting aside unresolved questions.

Damiel's first moments as a human are touching and telling. As he strides along the Wall on his first walk, Damiel marvels at the garish grafitti, asking a passerby to identify the colors. The passerby, probably unused to such questions and possibly dulled by middle age, seems unimpressed with the colors to the point that he is not certain how to identify them. This provides one among many exam- ples of the film's opposition of childlike wonder to adult imperceptiveness. As we have seen, this motif appears early in the film when Damiel speaks of the woman who walked in the rain and the teacher who was "astonished" at the child's description of a fern. Throughout the film,it is only the children who notice the angels; most adults trudge through their exis- tences, too glazed to savor the rain or notice the ferns. As Damiel notes in his journal, hu- mans once enjoyed an angelic state when they were children but did not know they were children. By presenting the city through the sensitive eyes of the angels, the fi not only

extends the German tradition of subjective camera so well described by Kracauer in From Caligari to Hitler or Eisner in The Haunted Screen; it allows us to see thmgs freshly- literally from a childlike point of view. In this respect, Wings of Desire moves beyond both the modern and the postmodern. These new- found possibilities for seeing and for under- standing fulfil the promise of the opening close-up of an eye.

Paired oppositions are evident again in the story line. The narrative drive from the celes- tial to the earthly parallels the film's move- ment from malelmale toward malelfemale re- lationships. Continuing a pattern evident in many of Wenders's earlier films, Wings ofDe- sire begins as a "buddy" film, albeit one in which any eroticism disappears and the bud- dies seldom even converse. As the focus shifts to Damiel's pursuit of Marion, Cassiel nearly drops out of the picture. Little attention is given to this decline in the apparently long- term relationship between the male angels. Perhaps the viewer is to assume that the angels, disembodied as they are, have not made a strong emotional bond, though the film provides considerable evidence that they do feel deeply. In any event, by having one of the males leave to pursue a life of the senses and a woman- a pursuit that was either non- existent or met with a dead end in Im Lauf &r Zeit (1975), Der amerikanische Freund (1977), and Paris, Texas (1984)-Wings marks a departure for Wenders.

However, Marion is not an ordinary wom- an. Her free flying on the trapeze in her winged costume makes her angel-like at times, yet she is linked to the earth and thus connects angelic and human existences. In an interesting role reversal, she keeps her vo- cation at the end, and Damiel assumes the "womanly" watcher's role-he holds the grounding rope to prevent her from "flying away." She is a human with physical desires, but she exhibits strong metaphysical longings; Damiel is not merely an etherial angel, for he also experiences physical desires. Marion wants to become something more; Damiel wants to experience the human condition.

Thus woman and man become reciprocals and fuller beings by transcending boundaries.

The angels are not merely the disembodied spirits of individuals; they carry knowledge and memory. Their favorite haunts include the towering 1871 Siegessaule and the Staatsbibliothek, where the camera pans the orb-like lights to suggest the celestial connection. Since the angels already know everything, they are often content to watch humans read and look at pictures. Yet Damiel longs to see beyond what is known- "Endlich ahnen statt immer alles zu wissen"-as he indicates in his soliloquy on the prehistoric past.

The theme of the burden of the past and the need to transcend it finds expression through Homer, the old man who also fre- quents the library. Homer represents "the immortal singer abandoned by his mortal lis- teners." Like the angel who accompanies him, Homer sees that the Potsdamer Platz no longer exists, and he recalls when history turned ugly. "Und dann hingen plotzlich Fah- nen, dort . . . Und die Leute waren gar nicht mehr freundlich und die Polizei auch nicht." But this recollection is not enough; Homer, the poet of memory, desires more. Like Damiel, who upon his descent experiences such earthly sensations as Imbisskaffee and borrowed cigarettes, the old man desires to savor again the coffee and tobacco once sold in what is now a void in the middle of Berlin.

Whereas Damiel knows that the Potsdamer Platz was destroyed in the War, Homer has incomplete human knowledge of history. It is significant that Homer's otherwise good mem- ory seems to fail for the years 1933-45. Like Damiel, Homer would like greater vision or foresight ('Ahnung"):he needs to understand why no one has written the great "epic of peace" and why peace does not hold a more enduring appeal. While Damiel descends to live a life of the senses, Homer puffs his way up the library steps, aspiring to angelic knowl- edge. Thls is one of the few ascents Wenders permits his human characters, who are typi- cally seen moving downward (Peter Falk land- ing at Tegel, a suicidal man leaping from a building, stuntmen falling through the floor of a movie set). Once Homer arrives at the upper reaches of the library, where planetary globes are displayed, he reveals his angelic affinities. His bald head seems to fit well among the celestial orbs, and his obsession with memory links him to the angels. Indeed, he and Damiel are reciprocals. In postmodern fashion the film again eclipses traditional boundaries: it interfaces angels and mortals to suggest overlappings.

War and peace are counterpointed too- often ironically. As we have seen, the docile angels roost in monuments to warfare: the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedtichtniskirche and the Siegessaule, replete with a huge angel bearing an olive branch. Wenders frames Peter Falk, who is making a war movie, against the ruins of the Anhalter-Bahnhof, In estab- lishing his dynamic between war and peace, Wenders even plays with names: Falk, mean- ing "hawk," is recognized by Berliners as "Colombo," meaning "dove" in Italian. (The Italian spelling rather than the American "Columbo" appears in the published script.)

Using words and images, Wings of Desire presents a dialogue between past and present. The library, the war monument, the shots of bombed-out buildings, Homer's ruminations on the Potsdarner Platz, and the clips of documentary World War I1 footage all point to Wenders's concern with troubling memo- ries and the weight of the past. In the opening shot, Damiel perches atop the steeple of the Ge&chtniskirche; later Damiel and Marion meet in the Esplanade, once a gathering place for high-rankiig Nazis during the Third Reich.

The interplay between past and present be- comes manifest in the sub-plot in which Peter Falk, a fallen angel now thoroughly in love with life and art, attempts to make a film without a script. For him the significance of the Ger- man past is forgotten, muddled, or reduced to trivialities. His mish-mash of thoughts in- cludes Emil Jannings, Kennedy, and von Stauf- fenberg, whom he terms a "helluva guy." "What difference does it make, it happened?"

Falk's voice-over continues. Downplaying lan- guage, Falk is associated with the visual: he frequently sketches people he meets, and he often appears on television. On his movie set actors in SS uniforms and Jews wearing Stars of David stand side by side, chatting non- chalantly. Falk is apparently not alone in his ignorance of history.

However, Falk's ignorance about the past also implies a freedom to define hunself in the present; this becomes humorously apparent when he tries on numerous hats before finding the right one. Similarly, the French trapeze artist Marion also breaks with her past as an acrobat by sliding down the rope and leaving the ring. For Damiel, Falk exemplifies the angel who has literally fallen in love with earthly delights, but Falk's freedom from the past is not complete. Berliners still refer to him as "Colombo," limiting him to a hat he wore in the past. Thus the opposition of the past and present, like the other tensions in the film, is not completely resolved; Wings both meditates on the past and affirms the present.

The central, ongoing paradox of the film, however, is that of pictures and words. As we have seen, Wings establishes this polarity at the very outset with images of the eye, the handwriting, and the voice-over narration. This tension between word and image emerges from the very genesis of the film: it is the creation of Peter Handke, a writer, and of Wim Wenders, a visual artist. Together they balance a literary script with classic cinematography.

From the outset and repeatedly throughout their film, wordsmith Handke and image-maker Wenders establish a dialectic, an inter- play first between the spoken and the written language and then, pervasively, between words and images. Similarly, this interplay of word and image creates tensions for both angels and humans. As we have seen, the angels Damiel and Cassiel write down obser- vations; they love words but move toward see- ing. On the other hand, humans also experi- ence such tensions between the verbal and the visual. Falk never fails to find an audience

when he talks, but he also struggles to ex- press himself visually through doodling and acting. Homer, the poet of memory who has lost his listeners, turns to examining photo- graphs in Berlin's Staatsbibliothek.

Angels and humans alike feel the limits of both word and image and thus seek fuller means of perception. The disjointed and idle observations from the angels' journals seem as incomplete and unsatisfying as the humans' inexpert dealings with pictures. The angels put down their journals to observe the lives of Berliners. Peter Falk remarks concerning one of his drawings, "This picture stinks." The angel Damiel expresses most forcefully the desire for a more complete existence when he confesses to his colleague Cassiel his de- sire to become human. Making this change will enable him not only to know things (wissen) but also to guess, suspect, and foresee (ahnen): "Endlich ahnen statt immer alles zu wissen."

Both visual and verbal knowledge alone are inadequate. As Homer searches vainly for Berlin's Potsdamer Platz in what is now an empty space near the Wall, he knows and recalls the location of the former Platz, though it no longer can be seen. It is precisely this knowledge that evokes the need for foresight, for intuition. Should the cataclysms of German history not have been more clearly foreseen? If Berlin can lose its historic center, what else stands to be lost to ongoing historical pro- cesses?

The question of how to acquire knowledge forms the theoretical center of the fi. Whether or not they were familiar with Jac- ques Derrida's deconstruction of "the myth of presence," Handke and Wenders seem to understand that, especially since the time of Gutenberg, oral transmission has fallen into decline. Thus their film explores the two re- maining choices. Does one subscribe to the authority traditionally invested in the written word, despite lingering questions about the adequacy of language to convey ideas and de- spite an unfortunate tendency to believe any- thing that is read or heard often enough? Or does one follow Western culture's insistence on the primacy of visual evidence, assuming that "seeing is believing"? The film's skepticism about the reliability of all means of dis- course suggests a postmodern sensibility; in fact, Linda Hutcheon's Politics of Postmodern- ism contends that all forms of discourse are "ex-centric" or mar&.

Together and separately, Handke and Wen- ders have addressed this question before. Pic- tures of words and word pictures suggest a role reversal in Handke's 1970 novel Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter, which Wenders adapted to film in 1971. Wenders later the- maticized this dynamic between the visual and the verbal in Alice in den Stiidten (1974)-in which the main character, a writer, displays a penchant for photography -and again inDer Stand &r Dinge (1981-82), where the script has as its point of departure the shooting of a film within the film.

The importance of both written and picto- rial sources pervades Wings. Along with Cas- siel and Damiel, Rilke's angels hover in the background; the idea of the angels may be derived from Rilke's Duineser Elegien, especially the second elegy. Wenders inserts documentary war footage of a bomb-damaged building. Its residents stare into the street. The accompanying narration describes an apartment exposed to the world because a wall is gone. This suggestive image parallels a similar description of the exposed interior of a building in Rilke's novel Die Aufieichnun- gen des Malte Laud Brigge. Concerned with history and epistemology as it is, Wings of Desire alludes frequently to both verbal texts and visual icons. However, the film clearly reduces the self-conscious reflexivity that characterized many of Wenders's earlier works, and that has led Kathe Geist and others to see his films as postmodernist.

Not only do Handke and Wenders find ways to emphasize both the visual and the verbal in their film, they also make parallel refer- ences to widely divergent cultural sources. Allusions to Rilke and the German literary canon occur in the same fithat features a contemporary American character actor best known for his work in a popular television series. Moreover, by populating the fi with angels Handke and Wenders inevitably forge a link to that genre of popular film in which celestial visitors interact with mortals. Tmer (1937), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), and It's a WonderfulLife (1946) are a few exam- ples. Again, a postmodern sensibility is evi- dent in the range of cultural references so broad in scope and time that it lacks a clear center.

Handke and Wenders are asking how best to understand both the past and contemporary cultural crosscurrents. Words and images are bearers of culture, the means by which cul- tural literacy is acquired and transmitted. Rus- sell Berman has traced the recent commin- gling of German literature and fi, and the Handke-Wenders team figures prominently in his study. The general tendency toward video- based comprehension, Berman notes, might seem most difficult for literature to accom- plish, yet Handke in particular has shown re- markable ingenuity in breaking down bound- aries (220-21). But film as a visual medium would seem to have the least difficulty with rendering word into image. Certainly the in- terest in language has soared to new heights in Wings of Desire: it is both very literary and very cinematic. Handke and Wenders ascribe ascendancy neither to word over image nor to image over word.

Taken as a whole, this dynamic of the two media suggests that neither should be granted primacy in our understanding of reality -indeed it suggests that both are subject to man- ipulation and distortion, and that both are in their own ways limited. Language is less universal than imagery, and film was never more able to cross linguistic boundaries than when it was silent. Since words are tied to historical contexts and since they evoke different im- ages in different individuals, they are more subject to multi-intepretations -as Derrida has pointed out. The shortcomings of the vis- ual are, in David Harvey's words, inevitable in the cinema because "the very act of using it well always entails reducing the complex stories of daily life to a sequence of images upon a depthless screen" (323). Brecht's fa- mous comment concerning the photograph of a factory is a case in point: such a photo, he wrote, presents reality subsumed in function- ality. The human relationships that make up the factory system become reified in a photo- graph, making the photo little more than ar- tifice (Brecht 161-62). Yet Brecht understood how contexts empower images, and he pro- vided for the use of photographs in his plays, whether in concert with or in contrast to words.

The characters in Wings of Desire demonstrate that over-reliance on one means of com- prehending reality distorts our understanding of past and present. Homer's name suggests that he is a blind poet, a man of words; indeed he cannot make much meaning from the pic- tures he examines in the library. (Wenders apparently enjoys ironic reversals such as hav- ing the blind man of words, abandoned by his listeners, seek refuge in the library where he looks at pictures!) The amount of time the film devotes to Homer's quest for stories from the past might give the impression that Wen- ders sees language as the only way to make meaning. Marion, however, counterweights Homer's tendency to equate stories with words, for a cluster of photographs encapsu- lates her life, and she considers finding a new identity in a photomat. Falk is a good talker, but he also sketches. Neither words nor im- ages alone suffice.

Wings of Desire searches for ways out of the postmodern condition, the contemporary malaise of fragmentation and disconnected- ness that the fi represents by the incom- pleteness of both images and words. The snatches of language that the angels overhear in the library are no more useful than the fragmented television images that Damiel later observes as they flicker across TV screens in a shop window. Similarly, the poig- nant words heard in voice-over laments are just as memorable and anonymous as the shots of the silent faces of subway passen- gers. Wenders leads up to the climax of Mar- ion's and Damiel's quest for each other by insisting that the viewer spend long minutes in the disconnected atmosphere of the rock club, where humans stand unaware of each other like tombstones.

But unlike typical postmodern works, Wings of Desire is anything but a dead-end film. In an unusually light moment, Derrida parodies these end-of-the-line tendencies of postmodernist aesthetics:

It is not only the end of this but also . . . the end of history, the end of the class struggle, the end of philosophy, the death of God, the end of religions, the end of Christianity and morals . . . ,the end of the earth, Apocalypse Now, . . . the fundamental earthquake, the napalm descending from the skies by helicopter, . . . the end of literature, the end of painting, art as a thing of the past, the end of the past, the end of psychoanaly- sis, the end of the university, the end of phallocentrism and phallogocentrism and I don't know what else. (20-21)

After the slow sequence of stark alienation at the club, man and woman enter the more traditional decor of the Esplanade. The warm lighting and sumptuous interior, the woman in the red dress meeting the stranger at the bar, all arouse expectations of traditional ro- mance. Like the film as a whole, this scene exploits tensions between opposites: black and white versus color, past and present, ro- mance and reality, man and woman. But con- trary to filmic conventions, the woman does the talking, affirming the need for a companion but affirming more strongly her need to grow, explore, and become. In doing the talking, however, Marion assumes the allegorical man- tle of "the new woman." Marion seeks a way of coming together that offers a more univer- sal meaning, a way of saying "my man" that will enhance understanding. Even more signif- icantly, neither sight nor sound leads the lov- ers to turn toward each other; instead, they are propelled by forces that emerge strongly during the second half of the fi: intuition and Ahnung.

Nietzschean romanticism is working here in the form of an opposition not between man and woman, but between old and new relation- ships. Marion's and Damiel's quest leads to- ward a relationship with future implications: "Wir sind die Zeit," she soliloquizes. "Sie sind das Bild der Notwendigkeit, der Zukunft aller auf dem Platz." Paradoxically, as she speaks she affiis the visual. As David Harvey notes, Nietzsche and others paved the way for mod- ernism with notions of "creative destruction," by which a new world can be ushered in without destroying the old. It is sigdicant that Wenders and Handke fail to provide a complete resolution-clearly they believe that this new synthesis has not emerged fully -for the film ends with the anti-conclusion "To Be Con- tinued." In a recent interview in Cineaste Wenders remarked: "1 felt the fi ended with its beginning" (Fusco 17). Ongoing processes and future developments help to form the con- text for concerns with old and new, past and present, enabling the fhnakers to transcend both modernist and postmodernist beginnings and endings.

Operating on the margins of the Damiel- Marion union, Homer and Peter Falk comple- ment and amplify the nature of that union, expanding the possibilities for defining it and giving it less distinct boundaries than are typ- ical of either modernist or postmodernist dis- course. Similarly, the gentle, sensitive angels elide the usual boundaries between genders as they affirm new notions of manhood- much as, by demonstrating abilities at both aerial spirituality and earthly physicality, Mar- ion extends conceptions of womanhood. Falk's uncertain descent into Berlin to make a movie is matched by Homer's belabored ascent of the library stairs, where he looks back on a German past in which "peace had no enduring appeal." Neither man is complete; one is limited by images, the other by words. Falk and Homer, as descending and ascending figures, as figures to whom both wissen and ahnen apply, together suggest new dimensions of insight and creativity beyond the limits of post- modernism. "To be continued" invites our continued growth toward new encounters with Dead End situations like those met by Homer at the Wall, by Falk with his sketch- book, by Damiel with his jottings about hu- mans, and by Marion upon the closing of the circus.

In the final scene of the film Marion has resumed her place in the air as an upward- looking acrobat, with Damiel steadying the line from below. Wenders and Handke are operating in a realm where it is possible not just to swing backward and forward in the historical continuum but also to move up and down, to spin about and gain new perspectives on familiar polarities. At the end Marion's pre- carious performance on the rope is possible because she remains connected to the earth. In fact, the film challenges usual Western as- sumptions about up and down, literally stand- ing conventional notions of "higher" and "lower" on their heads.

Wings ofDesire, then, moves beyond most postmodern films in that it celebrates growth and implies a positive future. Unlike even such a visually creative film as Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Wings does not seem to mark time, to wait for the aesthetic rnillenium. Rather, it begins with a colorless world of exhaustion, disconnection, and decay, then transcends the condition of postmodernity, using it as an impetus for rebirth. Like postmodernists, Wen- ders and Handke have eroded the borders of modernist polar opposites, but they have also used postmodern conditions and aesthetics such as the wasteland and allusiveness to move beyond postmodernism. By transcend- ing supposed oppositions in a divided city Wen- ders and Handke have anticipated an era of reconciliations, celebrating life and affirming a future.

During the 1980s increasing numbers of people became painfully aware that humans hold the power to undo themselves with weapons or through environmental abuse. Seizing the historical moment, Handke and Wenders understood what Carl Jung had per- ceived as both a responsibility and a challenge:

He can no longer wriggle out of it on the plea of his littleness and nothingness, for the dark God has slipped the atom bomb and chemical weapons into his hands and given him the power to empty out the apocalyptic vials of wrath on his fellow creatures. Since he has been granted an almost godlike power, he can no longer remain blind and unconscious. docobi 353)

While Wenders and Handke do not dwell on the opposition of the conscious and uncon- scious dimensions of the mind, lie Jung they do suggest that with its end in sight, the world can begin again.

Considering the astounding changes occur- ring in recent years and the real possibility of a reunified Germany and a unified Europe, it appears that European civilization may again be undergoing what Thomas Kuhn has called a "paradigm shift." While redrawing political boundaries or collapsing distinctions between capitalism and communism do not in them- selves constitute a paradigm shift, they may be metaphors for the dissolving of old habits of mind. In Wings of Desire Wenders and Handke not only resolved some of the prob- lems in their cinematic art but apparently par- ticipated in historic changes as these began to occur.

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