Eran Guter

The Human Art of being in-Between: Cross-Medium Translation in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire

In this paper I probe into the conceptual relation, which obtains between Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies (1922), in order to show how the cross-medium translation of Rilke’s poetic vision into Wenders’ cinematic vision informs and shapes the philosophical argument of the film. For Wenders, as for Rilke, the ephemerality of human existence is set against the infernal eternity of angels, on the one hand, and an undying longing for metaphysical childhood, on the other. Interjected between the child’s heaven and the angel’s hell, earthly life poses a unique problem for both authors: the promise and peril of love as conceptual mending for being in-between. I argue that by employing this threefold scheme, which Damiel —the fallen angel, who is the film’s protagonist— traverses in the course of the film, Wenders sets out to offer a dialectical response to the perennial preoccupation of both Rilke and Wenders with the difficulties of living in the world. I conclude that this dialectic resolution not only lends artistic unity to Wenders’ hybrid artform, but also yields a philosophic insight into Damiel’s final provocation in the film: “I now know what no angel knows”; an insight into the practical know-how of being in-between.