Sunday 26 June 2011

In praise of Peter Falk & Wings of Desire

So, farewell Peter Falk.  You are a King in this household.

Let’s face it, nothing much can top the comfort combo that is jimjams, cup of tea, bit of toast + reruns of Columbo. 

… all those 50s A-List actresses with false eyelashes, kaftans and drink problems, all those hearthrobs … like Ricardo Montalban or Johnny Cash in varying degrees of orange.  It was the 70s … 

See, you’re smiling already aren’t you?

But Peter Falk was so much more than Columbo to me.

He was also in my favourite film of all time - Wings of Desire, 1987, directed by Wim Wenders, and written by Wenders and Peter Handke


For those of you who’ve been visiting a while, you’ll know that my 1958 Novum is named Damiel, after Bruno Ganz’s angel, who craves the experience of feeling what it is to be human, to exist, and to feel.

This film is beautiful and calm, philosophical and poignant, bleak and romantic. It’s in German/English, black & white/colour. Here's the breathtaking library scene with all the angels, you don’t need subtitles:

Peter Falk plays himself. His role is pivotal to the whole story.  He facilitates Damiel’s transformation.   In reality he wasn’t even cast until the film had started shooting … yet it's impossible to imagine the film without him.

In this scene, Damiel (Ganz) meets Falk (Falk) at the imbiss stand …   How bleak Berlin looks … beautiful and bleak all in one film. Yum.


If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand.  If you haven’t seen it, then there are no real spoilers there … give it a well-deserved viewing.

This is  Handke’s poem, which winds itself through the film, and is a fitting farewell to Peter Falk, who charmed my socks off with the open child-like honesty of his acting …

Song of Childhood (click here for original German)
When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.

When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.

When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.

When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?

When the child was a child,
It choked on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding,
and on steamed cauliflower,
and eats all of those now, and not just because it has to.

When the child was a child,
it awoke once in a strange bed,
and now does so again and again.
Many people, then, seemed beautiful,
and now only a few do, by sheer luck.
It had visualized a clear image of Paradise,
and now can at most guess,
could not conceive of nothingness,
and shudders today at the thought.

When the child was a child,
It played with enthusiasm,
and, now, has just as much excitement as then,
but only when it concerns its work.

When the child was a child,
It was enough for it to eat an apple, … bread,
And so it is even now.

When the child was a child,
Berries filled its hand as only berries do,
and do even now,
Fresh walnuts made its tongue raw,
and do even now,
it had, on every mountaintop,
the longing for a higher mountain yet,
and in every city,
the longing for an even greater city,
and that is still so,

It reached for cherries in topmost branches of trees
with an elation it still has today,
has a shyness in front of strangers,
and has that even now.
It awaited the first snow,
And waits that way even now.

When the child was a child,
It threw a stick like a lance against a tree,
And it quivers there still today.

What are you waiting for?  … Go throw your sticks or find your trees, people …


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