Spoilers below, dontcha know. If you have not seen Wings of Desire or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou then please do. I’ll wait …
Wings of Desire is about angels who roam about the world listening in on the thoughts (hearts?) of the living. Their senses are limited. They see in black and white, cannot smell, everything is muted. What they have is the thoughts of those who are near. Imagine if you knew someone from their thoughts and inner emotions, as opposed to what is filtered for external consumption? In Wings of Desire an angel falls in love with one of the living. The angel discovers he can crossover into the mortal world, and he chooses to do so in order to experience life with his love.
The scene in question is when the angel first crosses over. We have seen Berlin from his perspective: black, white, gray, muted. After he crosses over the world comes alive. He walks down a street taking it all in. The noise. The color. All of the sensations. He is overjoyed with the sensory overload. Upon first viewing (in a theater) I was right there with him. Like I was actually looking at the world for the first time, and not just seeing it fuzzily pass in my peripheral vision. I had a wonderful feeling of delight and curiosity.
On the second viewing I wanted to feel that again. I did not. I was also viewing with someone else, her first time to see it. She didn’t much like the movie, and of course had no similar feeling towards that scene.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou concerns an ocean exploration group searching for the previously unknown “jaguar shark” that killed one of their crewmates, Steve’s friend and mentor. Steve Zissou is their leader and while most of the story is his, there is an eclectic group of characters involved. The movie is about the choices we make and the consequences we experience, including the effects on the people in our lives. Steve Zissou’s search for the shark becomes a quest for the talisman of his self-actualization, and the acceptance of loss and the perseverance of kinship.
The scene in question is when Steve Zissou and virtually all the other characters cram into a submersible to descend upon the jaguar shark. They are all with him; with all of his personal and emotional baggage in tow. Will they act as ballast and sink him to the bottom? Or will they be the buoyancy that redeems him? It is a great moment. I found myself envious and jealous that his friends have joined him and support him on this journey; on his life’s journey. He is not alone.
The Life Aquatic stands up much better than Wings of Desire. In fact, I own The Life Aquatic and have watched it in many times. As much as I enjoy it, that one scene has never been as moving as the during the first viewing.
In each instance my first viewings were when I attended a movie theater alone. Just me, a small audience, the dark, and the story. I seemingly cannot relive those virgins moments of movie watching. I simply await the moment when it happens again with a new movie.