Although Wenders’ film is masterfully crafted, with some absolutely glorious camera movements, use of light, black and white, and colour, the script reeks of pretense. Wender’s narrative, well intentioned as may be, is too self serious to convey fantasy, yet too imaginative to convey philosophy. Besides its religious overtones and pomp, elements of spirituality are presented as absolutes, and done so through a patronizing narrative which insults the viewer’s capacity to imagine a world any different from that which is presented. The narrative is surreal, the themes heavy-handed, and yet it glories at reveling before certain truths of the human condition which are recounted rather than artfully conveyed.
Beneath the surface, admittedly, is something beautiful about the human spirit and existing in a troubling world. But to reach beneath the surface requires quite a great suspension of disbelief, as the narrative fails in sharing truth, the poetry fails in sharing depth, and the philosophy fails in sharing meaning.
What this film does best is gesture at something spiritually significant which the viewer inherently understands and thus conjures on their own. And for this reason its viewing will be remembered with pleasure in spite of its failures. We believe the film had that power, but really it was us who had that power.
It is an impressive film in many rights but to call it a masterpiece on its own rights is a major misstep in film history.
72/100 – Good.