×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wim Wenders’ ‘Wings of Desire’ Soars to Screens After Restoration

It’s been 30 years since the release of Wim Wenders’ signature film “Der Himmel über Berlin” aka “Wings of Desire,” and the premiere of the newly restored version in Berlinale Classics is a way of kicking off its anniversary theatrical re-release in Germany this April by Studiocanal, via their Arthaus Classics label.

The Wim Wenders Foundation has already restored 16 of Wenders’ films, including “The American Friend” and “Alice in the Cities,” but it was only then that Wenders felt ready to tackle what he knew would be the biggest challenge.

“‘Wings of Desire’ was so much more complex because we shot three-quarters of it in black & white and one-quarter in color,” Wenders explains. “They were intercut in each and every reel, and that’s where the trouble began.” In order to marry the two formats, including seamless transitions, the film had to go through several generations of interpositive and internegative, losing quality with every step, to create the final negatives used for release. “As beautiful as it might have looked in Cannes ’87, Wenders adds, “every print ever since is six generations removed.”

Wenders remembers that his cameraman, Henri Alekan, famous for his black & white photography on Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast” “suffered terribly because his beautiful black & white was printed on color negative. And he said, ‘Why can’t I get it right?’ and I said, ‘Henri, you will never get it right because it’s color negative and that’s the condition of the film.’ And also in the six generations, we lost some of the sharpness and contrast.”

While 2010 already saw a state-of-the-art HD mastering by Criterion for it’s Blu-ray edition, Wenders felt that “we needed to go deeper, because we needed something that was going to survive forever.” That meant getting back as close as possible to the original negative.

It took some time to hunt down the material, which was scattered among several archives, but all the elements were located in good condition. Everything was scanned at 4K and pieced together, with every effect not done in the camera being digitally re-created. The black & white and color sequences were reassembled, frame-identical to the original film with no generational loss, which revealed an image quality that had never been seen.

The painstaking work on the color correction became for Wenders an emotional experience, “I thought of Henri a lot and to regain that first generation brought such an enrichment of each and every shot,” he recalls. “Even before it was all put together – seriously, I sat there and cried. Because I so wished Henri could see it.”

But arguably his greatest collaborator was Berlin itself. “I always had a close relationship to the city of Berlin,” he says. “And I always felt throughout the making of ‘Wings of Desire,’ that the city was carrying the film, the city had sort of co-invented the story — the whole idea of the angels was something that I always felt that the city itself had suggested.

“And then of course two years later it became a whole different city,” he continues, “so I felt I had preserved a part of it that was very rapidly disappearing. Berlin changed in two or three years after ’89-’90, as if there was no tomorrow. And I realized I had just caught it in the nick of time, that strange, legendary island of a city that had made Berlin unique for 30 years. ‘Wings of Desire,’ more than any of my films, was a sheer gift. I was given this film as a gift from this city.”

Studiocanal has also acquired rights to a number of other Wenders films and additional releases will be forthcoming.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is

    Film News Roundup: Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is Hard to Find' Bought by Film Movement

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” and “After Parkland” find homes, Jack Johnson is honored, AGC closes deals on Neill Blomkamp’s latest and Paramount is in talks for a “Power to the People” project. ACQUISITIONS Film Movement has bought North American rights to the thriller “A Good Woman Is [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Chris Butler Looks At The Magic Behind Animating 'Missing Link'

    Laika’s latest feature “Missing Link” raises the bar once again for the world of stop-motion, pushing boundaries in scope and visuals. The story of an unlikely friendship between Mr. Frost and his 8-foot yeti buddy Link is one of hope. “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner says the message of the film was to “leave people [...]

  • Jonah Hauer-King Prince Eric

    'Little Mermaid' Live-Action Movie Finds Its Prince Eric

    Jonah Hauer-King will soon be a part of the “Little Mermaid” world. The newcomer has been tapped to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic. At one point, Harry Styles was is in early talks for the role, but ended up passing. Hauer-King has had two screen tests, with the most [...]

  • Peter Caranicas

    Variety's Peter Caranicas to Receive 1st HPA Legacy Award

    Peter Caranicas Variety managing editor, features, will be honored with the first HPA Legacy Award. Caranicas joined Variety as features managing editor in 2008, and currently serves as both deputy editor and managing editor, features. He has developed the editorial franchises Dealmakers Impact Report, Hollywood’s New Leaders, Legal Impact Report and Business Managers Elite. Caranicas also [...]

  • Jack Ryan

    Richard Rutkowski on ‘Jack Ryan,’ Costa-Gavras and Being Nice Abroad

    TORUN, Poland – Speaking at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday, Richard Rutkowski praised the work of Costa-Gavras, offered sage advice for filmmakers working internationally, and offered a glimpse of the fast-paced work faced by cinematographers on high-profile TV series. Rutkowski, whose credits include “Jack Ryan,” “Castle Rock” and “The Americans,” discussed the methods, [...]

  • 'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With

    'Honeyland' DP on Low-Fi Shooting With High-Powered Storytelling

    Filming the Sundance-awarded “Honeyland” in a remote North Macedonia locale without roads or electricity, it was easy to get lost, confesses cinematographer Fejmi Daut. “It was too hard to decide what would be the storyline in the beginning,” said the debut DP, speaking at the 27th EnergaCamerimage cinematography festival in Torun, Poland. The editing process [...]

  • Q A_Joker_Lawrence-Sher_CKK-Jordanki_fot-Maria-Kowalska_11

    'Joker’ Cinematographer on Joaquin Phoenix’s Transformative Performance

    TORUN, Poland – “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher received a rockstar welcome at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival on Monday as attendees struggled to squeeze into a standing-room only conference room for a lively and in-depth Q&A session on the making of the box office sensation. Sher appeared equally excited to be at the event. “Obviously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content