This is closer to a being a tone poem than a narrative, so there is hardly any plot as such. We move through Berlin in the company of angels. They can hear our thoughts, but they cannot interfere or feel the physical world. Two of the angels — Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are increasingly disenchanted with their existence, and Damiel, falling in love with a trapeze artist, wants to become mortal. This simple story is built on very gradually, and most of the film consists in our hearing the innermost thoughts of various characters, and all these thoughts are presented in poetic (often elliptical) words. The cinematography is quite extraordinarily beautiful.
For once, the case suggests less than is actually the case. While the sound as listed seems to be merely 2.0, there is also a 5.1 mix. Though there are a couple of odd fluctuations in the music, for the most part the sound is gorgeous, especially when it comes to the music (and even more especially Laurie Anderson’s piece with angelic voices). The sound effects are low key,but do come into their own at some very effective intervals (one notable example being the library scene, where whispering voices suddenly surround you).
The format is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. There is a little bit of edge enhancement visible, and a couple of grainy moments. The layer transition is a bit awkward as well. That said,the image is startlingly crisp, and both the black and white scenes and the colours sequences come through beautifully. The colours, when they show up (most of the film is B&W, to simulate the angels’ limited perception), leap out of the screen, and the B&W, though effective in its creation of a monochromatic world, is simultaneously a treat for the eyes.
The menu is fully animated and scored, right down to full transitions to each page. The commentary is provided by Wim Wenders and Peter Falk. Wenders has the most to say. A very soft-spoken gentleman, he is meticulous in the detail he covers, which even includes the reason for the hand-lettered look of the opening credits. Wenders also provides a (non-optional)commentary for the deleted scenes. “The Angels Among Us” is a 45-minute documentary. While covering some of the same material as the commentary, this is still a fascinating look back at the film, and includes some helpful explanations about certain story elements that, I must confess,eluded me. An interactive map of Berlin shows footage of the film’s principle locations. The package is rounded out by promotional material: ad art, the German trailer, a German ad for a Wenders retrospective, the theatrical trailer, and trailers for six other MGM releases.
A beautiful film, given a beautiful transfer, and backed up by some thoughtful extras. A very fine release.