I think that Wenders is perhaps the poor man’s Fassbinder. He clearly has many similar abilities: this film has some absolutely spectacular (and ballsy) shots in it, and has a pretty great sound design, both things Fassbinder was also extremely adept at. But where Fassbinder grabbed you with his very human dramas – despite his characters sometimes being so eccentric as to be unlikeable – Wenders’ films seem to almost always lack the kind of compelling – and often difficult – stories that Fassbinder liked to tell. And this is as true of this film, where Wenders gives us a story about… angels.
Now, I don’t know if it’s just because of my complete lack of interest in a supposed alternate reality or what, but frankly I just can’t relate to immortals. I can’t relate to transvesties and transsexuals either, but at least they are human beings. (And Fassbinder always winds ways of forcing me to relate to these human beings.) Wenders gives us angels that are vaguely human but obviously not human in important ways. Leaving aside the question of whether beings from a reality greater than our own would resemble human beings, we are still left with pretty boring angels who merely yearn to be human. Being human myself, I have problems empathizing with such characters, despite the beauty of the shots. Without these characters, the story – such as it is – lacks any kind of pull.
The second major issue is his pacing: it takes a very long time for the story to start and though I get the idea of that – he is trying to set up the monotony of the angels’ existence, no doubt – it seems like it could be a little more compelling, a little better paced. The bigger pacing issue comes with the climax. I love The Bad Seeds, but I don’t really see how hearing them perform two songs is necessary to the film, which is already very deliberately paced.
I must say I generally enjoyed the Peter Falk angle, tehehe… until I found out his true nature, and then I sighed and resigned myself to admiring aspects of this movie but generally not liking it very much.