Wings of Desire and the Value of Mortality (Critical Essay) Post Script ebook - epub
Plato simply takes it for granted that immortality is a desirable thing, that mortality is a deficiency and that it is in the nature of every mortal being to crave immortality: "For among animals the principle is the same as with us, the mortal nature seeks as far as possible to live forever and be immortal" (Plato 54). Because the instinct for self-preservation seems so basic and universal, Plato does not even argue immortality's value. He goes to great lengths to argue that humans are, despite appearances, immortal and simply assumes this conclusion will be comforting to us. If something is good, then lasting longer will be even better and lasting forever, best. I want to contest the validity of this assumption by analyzing Wim Wenders' much discussed film, Der Himmel uber Berlin (Wings of Desire)" (1987). The premise of the film is that there are angels who invisibly inhabit our world as observers and witnesses, though they see it only in black-and-white. They have human form and wear contemporary clothing, but are seen only by the camera (and certain children). These immortal beings are not subject to material restraints and can move with the speed of thought. They also can overhear the private thoughts of the humans they move amongst. Although they have no direct power to "do" anything in the world, they can spiritually encourage and console those humans who are open to them. One of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) falls in love with a circus performer, Marion (Solveig Dommartin) and the plot turns on whether Damiel will decide to renounce his immortality and enter the human world of risk, danger and death. Since Damiel's decision goes against the Platonic grain, his arguments offer a challenge to Plato's assumptions about the value of immortality.
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