# CINEMA /// Der Erzähler (the storyteller) in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire


The magnificent movie Der Himmel Uber Berlin (strangely translated into Wings of Desire) released by Wim Wenders in 1987 is an ode to our humanity via the testimony of the weight of the bodies, but also the weight of life and history (in the individual and collective sense) that facilitates the enclosing of the self and the defiance of the other. As a taxi driver thinks in the film:

Are there still borders? More than ever! Every street has its borderline. Between each plot, there’s a strip of no-man’s-land disguised as a hedge or a ditch. Whoever dares, will fall into booby traps or be hit by laser rays. The trout are really torpedoes. Every home owner, or even every tenant nails his name plate on the door, like a coat of arms and studies the morning paper as if he were a world leader. Germany has crumbled into as many small states as there are individuals. And these small states are mobile. Everyone carries his own state with him, and demands a toll when another wants to enter. A fly caught in amber, or a leather bottle. So much for the border. But one can only enter each state with a password. The German soul of today can only be conquered and governed by one who arrives at each small state with the password. Fortunately, no one is currently in a position to do this. So… everyone migrates, and waves his one-man-state flag in all earthly directions. Their children already shake their rattles and drag their filth around them in circles.

Many characters are introduced in this movie but one strikes us as embodying the role of the director himself, and by extension, any poet, writer or other storyteller: Der Erzähler. In Wings of Desire this character is old and weak as he is the witness of the origins of the Berlin situation at the end of the 80’s, the war and the partition. W.Wenders introduces indeed Berliners and the urban space as entities that cannot manage to forget the war and its horrible damage and it is through the Erzahler that he attribute this misery to the flags i.e. the increasing success of nationalist ideology in Europe and more specifically to Nazism in Germany. We see him in the library, struggling his way up as his body does not seem to be able to carry him anymore:

Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman. With time, those who listened to me became my readers. They no longer sit in a circle, bur rather sit apart. And one doesn’t know anything about the other. I’m an old man with a broken voice, but the tale still rises from the depths, and the mouth, slightly opened, repeats it as clearly, as powerfully. A liturgy for which no one needs to be initiated to the meaning of words and sentences.

Then later, he wander along the wall, looking for the Potzdamer Platz that used to be a prosperous part of Berlin and disappeared at the end of the war and during the partition. Through this physical wandering, he also goes from thoughts to thoughts wondering what his role is in society:

Must I give up now? If I do give up, then mankind will lose its storyteller. And if mankind once loses its storyteller, then it will lose its childhood.

As it is immediately understood in this film, childhood is indeed the state of humanity that embodies the most a rousseauist interpretation of life and its playfulness is celebrated by W.Wenders by his recurrent psalmody Als das Kind Kind war… However, through this movie, Wim Wenders also questions his role as a storyteller  and deduct the conclusion than this role is fundamental for society as the old Erzähler finishes the film with this sentence:

Tell me of the men, women, and children who will look for me – me, their storyteller, their bard, their choirmaster – because they need me more than anything in the world. Nous sommes embarqués