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The Homer of Potsdamerplatz—Walter Benjamin in Wim Wenders's Sky Over Berlin/Wings of Desire, a Critical Topography

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Author: Jonathan Bordo
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Abstract

The essay explores the deep and pervasive influence of Walter Benjamin in Wim Wenders's Der Himmel über Berlin (The Sky over Berlin under the English title Wings of Desire). The essay draws its title from the Benjaminean storyteller named “Homer” in the film, whose search for the lost Potsdamerplatz is the theme of his principal recitation. The text offers a chorography of Potsdamerplatz to show why Wim Wenders needs Walter Benjamin as his companion in order to recover the heart and soul of the then divided city of Berlin, still submerged in the nightmare of its recent Nazi past. Wenders's dependency on Walter Benjamin sheds light on and gives content to the filmmaker's ambition to make film as an art of memory. Without making any obvious declarations about the Holocaust, Himmel über Berlin points a way toward a civic remembrance that goes beyond the piety of the monument and the politics of identity to fuse urgency with inwardness in a treasure house of memorable images.

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