21 March 2006

Wings Of Desire

A couple of years ago I went through a phase of taking photographs of the sky. However, photographs of the sky can look pretty boring unless you are an exceptional photographer, so I started to frame the sky with trees, buildings and monuments. This is one I took outside Buckingham Palace in London the last time I was there. I’m not really a big fan of London but I do like to pack a backpack with some food and my camera and just jump on the tube and get off at random spots to see what awaits me. So I was out doing that very thing when I thought to myself I hadn’t see Buckingham Palace since I was a child. I decided to go there to try and frame a photograph that captures the farce that is the monarchy. I was hoping to perhaps juxtapose the grandeur of the palace with some tragic/humourous/sad/derpressing/mundane aspect of daily British life. That did not happen. Instead I found the complete opposite, a vision of liberation within the grandiose monument that is the Victoria Memorial. I don’t know much about the memorial, other than that it was to commemorate the memory of Queen Victoria and obviously celebrate Britain’s sordid Imperial past. Much of the horror on the current world stage is a direct result of that era. It is nothing to celebrate. The division of post-colonial Africa and the Middle East has ensured decades worth of conflict and war and will continue to do so. The memorial is little more than a symbol of the wealth of the British ruling elite and the broken backs of the colonies that is was built upon. However, looking up at it and wanting it and everything it represents to melt in the unusual London heat, I was suddenly reminded of one of my favourite films Wings Of Desire by Wim Wenders.

Parts of Wings Of Desire are pretty hard to stomach but the opening scene is perhaps the most awe inspiring thing I have ever seen on film. It is a completely uncut sequence from the perspective of an angel watching down on the human populous of the still divided Berlin. I’m not religious and neither, it seems are Wenders’ angels. They just occupy another plain of existence to us, always have always will. They spend their days dwelling on the tragedy and comedy of the human condition. They follow us around listening to our thoughts. They enter libraries so they can listen to us read. We are a curious puzzle to them but they are content to stay immortal observers, with the exception of one. This angel decides he wants to taste coffee, smoke cigs, see colour, read Shakespeare for himself, fall in love and so on. So he decides to ‘fall.’ There is no explanation as to how, he just ‘falls’ which is great. He is then able to partake in all the joys of being human but as a result also has to suffer all the crap as well, including time and mortality.

I could go on about this film as I have a minor obsession with it. However, one of the greatest aspects of this film for me is a scene that isn’t even in it. My good friend Iain who is Christian who is also obsessed with angels introduced me to it and told me about the angel’s fall. He said the angels are unable to touch humans because if they do, they will ‘fall’ to the lowly status of ‘human being.’ Then one of them falls for a suicidal acrobat, literally. He falls in love with this acrobat and happens upon her one day as she is about to kill herself, so he reaches out to stop her and in consequence becomes human. He made a split second decision to surrender his immortality for this person. That sounded pretty fucking cool to me and so I set out to watch it. It took me about three years to find a copy and to finally realize that this scene never happened. I never could work out how Iain (who is a close reader of books and film) conjured up such a sequence.

Anyway, that was how and why this photo was taken, and because it framed the sky that day perfectly.

Beauty from the filth. Prettiness in the shittiness.