If you've not seen it, be warned: this is a difficult film to embrace. Some will find its pacing punishingly deliberate, its language obtuse and stilted. The film's script, co-written by Peter Handke, an avant-garde Austrian novelist and playwright, relies heavily on dreamlike voiceovers and poetry. And its plot, no doubt hampered by Wender's well-documented dissatisfaction with traditional storytelling methods, is a "barely there" compilation of loosely connected scenes and musings. For some, it will seem to personify the over-indulgent and hopelessly esoteric pretentiousness that gives modern art films such a bad name.
And how can one forget the very premise upon which this entire edifice is constructed? The notion that angels are nothing more than witnesses, relegated to cataloging the endless list of human suffering without raising a finger to prevent them? How is that to be taken seriously?
The reason Wenders' peculiar (and for some, perhaps, offensive) theological suggestions are so easily forgivable is simple: the film he has created isn't really about angels at all; it's about humans. The notion of jealous and dissatisfied angels seeking to emancipate themselves from a desire-less world by becoming human is ludicrous. Yet there is a lesson here to be learned about the importance of desire, and about how interwoven and fundamental desire is to our human nature. If Wenders' angels wish so desperately for desire, perhaps we should not cast it off so lightly.
Countless saints and spiritual advisors have warned against the dangers of inordinate and improper desires, and ordering them correctly is a never-ending challenge for each of us. Yet some of our desires are essential to the working out of our salvation: our desire for knowledge, for example; or for truth; or beauty. God has given us these desires for our own good; they are some of the most transformative agents for change and self-mastery in all of human existence. It is the power of these desires—right-ordered and guided by His Grace—that is one of our greatest strengths.
Today's feast of the Sacred Heart is the perfect opportunity to reflect that God has given us these desires for our own good. They are some of the most transformative agents for change and self-mastery in all of human existence, and it is the power of these desires—right-ordered and guided by His Grace—that is one of our greatest strengths.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Ps. 37:4)