Faraway, So Close
1993, PG-13, 140 min. Directed by Wim Wenders. Starring Otto Sander, Peter Falk, Horst Buchholz, Nastassja Kinski, Bruno Ganz, Willem Dafoe, Solvieg Dommartin.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 8, 1994
Faraway, So Close is not so much a sequel to Wenders' brilliant, poetic Wings of Desire as it is a separate film with characters brought in from both Wings and Until the End of the World. Wenders may be the savior of German cinema to some, but to others -- and Faraway will doubtless drive home the point -- he is merely another talented director subject to the filmic misfires that occasionally plague everyone else. Faraway starts out fine, as we see the angel Cassiel (Sander) standing watch above the reunited Berlin. He misses his friend Damiel (Ganz), who, since his fall to earth, has opened a sublimely named pizzeria and is raising a family with Marian (Dommartin), the French trapeze artist. When Cassiel opts to trade in his wings to save the life of a young innocent, he finds himself out of his league, unable to cope with the pressures of the human world: it's too bright, too colorful, too loud, and too confusing, and not even close counsel from Damiel can help him as he lapses into an endless drunken stupor. And that's just the first 30 minutes…. Intermingled with the story of Cassiel, Damiel and the rest, are a number of convoluted subplots involving spies, corrupt buisnessmen, and Willem Dafoe as Emit Flesti (read it backwards), a mysterious stranger who exists in both the angelic and human planes. If this is Wenders' bid for mainstream attention (and it feels like it, especially the last 30 minutes of the film), he couldn't have chosen more unwisely. Gone is the visual and stylistic poetry of Wings of Desire, replaced by an absurd kidnapping subplot and tedious expositional dialogue. Guns are drawn and redrawn, Dafoe tries his best to look menacing, but it all feels like someone else was calling the shots. Above all, it doesn't feel like a Wenders film; the tone is all wrong, as if Joel Silver had gotten control of the production and hired Walter Hill to direct (I was waiting for the Ahnold to plod through at one point, but thankfully he never bothered to show up). It's a mess, but it's Wenders' mess, and that means that there are any number of salvageable parts to the whole. His use of crisp black-and-white cinematography for the angelic shots remains startling and reinforces Cassiel's bewilderment once he is earthbound, his holy armor tucked beneath his arm. People who were waiting for Wings of Desire II can exhale now, though. It's not going to happen, and when you stop to think about it, once really is enough.