14 Wolfson - PoMo Desire?: Authorship and Agency in Wim...

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© 2002 by Nathan Wolfson (nathan_wolfson@yahoo.com) http://www.nathanwolfson.com page 1 of 17 PoMo Desire?: Authorship and Agency in Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin [1987] ( Wings of Desire ) Nathan Wolfson 1 And that's really the only thing I have to say about stories: they are one huge, impossible paradox! I totally reject stories, because for me they only bring out lies, nothing but lies, and the biggest lie is that they show coherence where there is none. Then again, our need for these lies is so consuming that it's completely pointless to fight them and to put together a sequence of images without a story -- without the lie of a story. Stories are impossible, but it's impossible to live without them. --Wim Wenders 2 For the first quarter of Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire , the viewer lives within the monochrome world of angels in the sky, and on the streets, of 1980s’ Berlin. 3 The viewer is introduced to a set of angels -- timeless, body-less beings who act as silent witnesses to the history of humanity and to the individuals that inhabit Berlin. The angels re-appear consistently
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© 2002 by Nathan Wolfson (nathan_wolfson@yahoo.com) http://www.nathanwolfson.com page 2 of 17 enough that two (Damiel and Cassiel) emerge as characters within the narrative that begins to emerge from the seemingly endless, random encounters between these otherworldly beings and a ceaseless parade of living humans, whose thoughts the angels (and viewer) can hear. By the latter half of Wings of Desire , three humans have emerged as significant characters within the narrative: A former angel (played by Peter Falk), who became human before the film's action began; a circus performer named Marion (played by the director’s wife, Solveig Dommartin); and one of the angels introduced early on, who chooses to become human, ostensibly to be with Dommartin. This "angelic" portion of Wings of Desire deliberately invokes in the viewer a set of specific responses. These responses provide the foundation for the transformation that Damiel and Marion participate in. The film prepares the viewer for an analogous transformation, and invites the viewer to participate in this process, through an exploration of authorship and agency. * * * Roland Barthes's work -- especially S/Z -- provides a useful reference point in this context for processes involving agency and interaction. Wenders appears to model his ideal viewer's interaction with Wings on the relationship he depicts between Damiel and Marion, itself a metaphor for the relationship between a person and the world around her. Barthes speaks of texts (Wenders' film is one) residing along a continuum between the "writerly" ( scriptible ) and the "readerly" ( lisible ). 4
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This note was uploaded on 07/27/2010 for the course ARCH 4040 taught by Professor Mical during the Spring '10 term at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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14 Wolfson - PoMo Desire?: Authorship and Agency in Wim...

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