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Faraway, So Close!

Out of a career filled with brilliant films, the 1988 Wings of Desire is arguably Wim Wenders' masterpiece, a beautiful, monochrome parable about the duality of East and West Berlin as embodied by the duality of the human spirit. Eventually the Berlin Wall came down, and in 1993 Wenders gave us Faraway, So Close! — not a sequel, he insisted, but a followup — which examines the way humanity has changed in the aftermath of the Cold War. Former angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) is enjoying his human life as a pizza chef, living with Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and their multilingual daughter. When angel Cassiel (Otto Sander) saves a young girl's life in direct defiance of their heavenly edict of non-involvement, he too loses his armor, his angelic pony-tail and his invisibility, and when he mistakenly gets involved with a racketeer named Baker (Horst Bucholz), he discovers how easy it is to stumble into the dark. Where Wings shimmered with the possibilities of a Wall-less future for Germany, Faraway shows us, with palpable regret, the disarray which actually came to pass. Wenders' post-Wall Berliners are free, but the dream is less than perfect. Meanwhile, the angels (including Nastassia Kinski, luminous as Raphaela) listen in on humans' thoughts and dreams. Mikhail Gorbachev — who devoted three hours to Wenders for his scene because he happened to be in town during filming — ponders a poem by Tyuchev and thinks to himself, "I'm sure that a secure world can't be built on blood, only on harmony. If we can only agree on this, we will solve the rest." And a new presence among both angels and humans is Willem Dafoe, whose true purpose is undefined in the film — is he a demon, a dark angel, a representative of Berlin's new reality? Faraway, So Close! is a greatly flawed film, never nearing the greatness of Wings of Desire, but it's a necessary companion piece nonetheless, and its poignancy is especially sharp since Wings had an unusually happy ending (happy for Wenders, anyway) and our return to the scene finds that the future didn't turn out so bright after all. Good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), commentary with Wenders, trailer, notes. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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