Variations on a Theme, No. 7: Wings of Desire (1987)

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Jürgen Knieper – Wings of Desire (1987, dir. Wim Wenders)

Winner at the 1989 Academy Awards: Dave Grusin, The Milagro Beanfield War (1988, dir. Robert Redford)

Wings of Desire looms large in my perspective not only because of Wim Wenders’ storytelling and the two brilliant concert scenes but also because of Jürgen Knieper’s original score. “Der Himmel über Berlin” (1), from the beginning of the film, gathers a slew of voices, both the angelic sounds of a choir and the buzz of thoughts from humans on Earth, and organizes the chaos. “Der Sterbende auf der Brücke” (2) is an austere, restrained piece that accompanies a man’s dying moments after a motorcycle crash on a Berlin bridge. “Urstromtal (The Glacial Valley)” (3) is another elegant, stirring composition that communicates the beauty of the film’s story. It should be noted, though, that another of my favorite parts of Wings’ soundtrack was composed not by Knieper but by Laurent Petitgand: the jazzy “Zirkusmusik” that plays in the circus performances by aerialist Marion (Solveig Dommartin). Any way you look at it and no matter which instruments and/or voices are heard, the music in Wings of Desire is exceptional.

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