Literary Analysis Essay: Wings of Desire and Antigone
The author, LA MacKay through this article has provided a comprehensive insight into the themes of revolt and conflict illustrated through the characters and sentiments of the play, Antigone and hence proves to be a valuable resource for the study of the same. The article has been published by the Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association and the author has composed various analytical essays, particularly on the subject of Creon and Antigone which lends great credibility to this article.The authors of “Handke’s and Wender’s Wings of Desire:
Transcending Postmodernism”, David Caldwell and Paul Rea disclose the polarities demonstrated in the film Wings of Desire through this article. While the focus lies primarily on categorizing the film into the bracket of Modernism or Postmodernism, the article also elucidates the conflicts and opposite nature of things in Wings of Desire. By revealing the opposing elements within the film, the article becomes an important source of study for this paper. The authors are renowned professors who have published various works. Their knowledge and experience in the study of humanities is what endows the article with credibility and accuracy.
Art and literature are rife with works that employ opposing characteristics and elements in order to demonstrate the conflicts and struggles that individuals experience. These opposites essentially represent not only the tendency of this world to possess conflicting images but also one individual’s propensity to have conflicting emotions as well as the struggles between individuals. Antigone and Wings of Desire are two exceptional works of art, that although seem vastly diverse in terms of setting, form and style, are however, linked through their portrayal of the struggles experienced by individuals as well as the demonstration of conflicting images and forces in the form of differing characters, attitudes, settings and motifs.
Antigone is a play that was first written by Sophocles in 442 BC and later adapted and rewritten by Jean Anouilh. The story follows the epic tragic heroin Antigone and her downfall through her opposition against the King Creon. Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders is a 1987 Franco-German film. It revolves around two angels, one of who named Damiel falls in love with a human. He wishes to renounce his immortality for a chance to be with the woman he loves and to experience human emotions and sensations.
Unlike most Greek tragedies, Antigone is not essentially about the opposing powers of good and evil. Instead, the play demonstrates the conflict between one’s duty towards their family and their country and social expectations. “Antigone presents a conflict between family loyalty and loyalty to the state, between demands of the state and the will of the individual” (MacKay, 166). The king of Thebes Creon, although wishes to, cannot allow Polyneices’ corpse to be buried, as the latter had attacked Thebes and is a traitor. Polyneices is Antigone’s brother and she is adamant upon endowing her brother with a proper burial, even at the risk of facing the death penalty. While Creon is bound by his responsibility towards what the crown demands of him, Antigone is bound by her social and familial obligations. It is important to understand these opposing sentiments as they are the very essence of the play and demonstrate to the reader the differing natures that people possess. Some persons, like Antigone, choose to place their will above all else, as demonstrated by her statement “I can say no to anything I say vile, and I don’t have to count the cost”. On the other hand, some individuals like Creon choose to honor their duties even if it against what their heart actually wants. Although he does not wish to execute Antigone, he must do so as he is bound by the duties of the crown.
The nature of conflict exhibited in Wings of Desire is an internal one. The author has used Damiel to illustrate the concept of internal struggle, signifying that the struggle in the story is not between two persons, but within one individual himself. Damiel is divided between his responsibility towards the purpose he serves as an angel and his love for Marion. The conflict here is also between the physical and the metaphysical. While humans are reduced to experience and sense only that which is physical, Damiel can merely experience the spiritual or ethereal. As Damiel states, “to live by the spirit, to testify day by day for eternity, only whats spiritual in peoples minds.” His desire to surrender the mystical world for the physical is evident as he avers, “sometimes Im fed up with my spiritual existence. Instead of forever hovering above Id like to feel a weight grow in me to end the infinity and to tie me to earth.” This denotes that these two disparate aspects of existence cannot be united as Damiel must choose between the two forms and can never exist in both.
Antigone also possesses the element of opposing and contradictory images, mainly in the form of Ismene and Antigone. These two characters serve as a means to illustrate the polarity between strength and valor and weakness and resignation. While Antigone is prepared to stand up for what she believes in, Ismene states, “It’s horrible business, of course, and I feel sorry for Polynices too. But I do see Creon’s point of view (Anouilh, 11). This very clearly reveals her willingness to yield to force and her lack of boldness, as opposed to Antigone’s bravery and spirit of defiance. Ismene appears quite nonchalant and casual with regard to her brother’s death, while Antigone is burning with a passion for getting him what he deserves.
The reader can also discern overtones of gender conflict in the struggle between Creon and Antigone. Creon interates, “We will have no women’s law here, while I live” (Line 526). This statement reveals dispute based on gender through the opposing forces of male and female as it reveals the mindset that a man can never bow to the will of a woman.
Wings of Desire contains many opposing images as that of “earth and sky, child and adult, angelic and human, black-and-white and color, past and present, war and peace” (Caldwell & Rea, 46). These opposing images essentially endow the film with a sense of conflict. The earth and sky and the angelic and human are representative of the presence of conflicting elements in the world. Damiel’s transition from angel to human, and of his world from black-and-white to color represents another set of opposing aspects, which cannot be reconciled. In order to attain a human form, Damiel must sacrifice being an angel and the world cannot appear in both black-and-white and color. One must be forgone in favor of the other.
Moreover, it is noteworthy that the film comprises of not only the contrasting images of angels and humans, but also divergence in the images of the angels themselves. Much like Antigone and Ismene, Damiel and Cassiel symbolize the conflicting impressions of defiance and courage as against acceptance and resignation. While Damiel, like Antigone, is driven by love to challenge the state of affairs and stand up for something he feels strongly about, Cassiel resigns to his fate as an angel and does not wish for any confrontations. They are, in essence, antitheses of each other.
Antigone is an epic Greek tragedy adapted by Anouilh, while Wings of Desire is a classic Franco-German film, both of which have left everlasting impressions on the world of art, literature and cinema. An examination of the two works reveals that, although they appear quite varied, they are in fact linked through their portrayal of conflicts and opposing images and forces. The conflict in Antigone is represented primarily through the struggle between Antigone and Creon and the contrasting images of Antigone and her sister, Ismene. In Wings of Desire, the conflict is characterized by means of Damiel’s internal struggle and the opposing representations of such elements as earth and sky, angels and humans, black-and-white and color and the characters of Damiel and Cassiel. A study of these contrasts and conflicts helps in better comprehension of the depth of these works as well as bestows them with greater profundity and admiration.
Anouilh, Jean. Five Plays. New York: Hill and Wang, Inc. 1958.
Caldwell, David & Rea, Paul. “Handke’s and Wender’s Wings of Desire: Transcending Postmodernism.” The German Quaterly 64.1. (1991): 46-54. Web. 19 Mar 2012. JSTOR
MacKay, L.A. “Antigone, Coriolanus and Hegel.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 93 (1962): 166-174. Web. 19 Mar 2012. JSTOR
Wings of Desire. Dir.Wim Wenders. Basis-Film-Verleih & Orion Classics. 1987. Film.