I read that a heart attack took Solveig
Dommartin, the luminous star in Wim
Wenders’ Wings of Desire, at age forty-five.
How is that possible?  How could that
golden trapeze angel who in the film
tempts an actual angel into life
in the flesh with her beauty and
solitude, have herself fallen to
earth so young?  Once I saw Solveig appear
in person with Wim in Minneapolis
at the Walker Art Center screening
the movie they’d written together in
’91, Until the End of the World.
Until the lights in that room went down,
all eyes were on Solveig in her black crushed-
velvet dress and blaze of blond hair, everything
you’d hoped she’d be from your memory of Wings
and frankly one of the most beautiful
women I’d ever seen.  After learning
of her death, I’ve learned other things about
her, as well:  that she acquired her stunning
acrobatics for Wings in a mere eight
weeks, performed them without a stunt double
or net, a feat that became the daring
and graceful heart of the film for many;
that in life Solveig was something of a
good-time girl, not unlike the one we see
the night after her last performance,
singing and drinking with her fellow circus
performers.  In a voice-over we hear her think:
Just to be able to say, like now,
‘I’m happy.’  I’ve a story, and I’ll go on
having one.  A little later, over-
hearing her again:  Now in this very place
a feeling of happiness that I could
always have.  Wasn’t there a time when we
were young and, comfortably or not,
free and no one had fallen for us yet,
when we also longed to know that our story
would go on?  Did we view the future then
as a road that stretched on before us,
to the next place where surely we would
find the one we’d been waiting for, the one
who would see and choose us from the crowd,
and there we would find the fulfillment of all
we wished to be?
                                 Golden trapeze woman,
who honeyed us with your beauty that night
in Minneapolis, I have watched you
so many times struggling with your fate,
freeing yourself to be just who you are,
freeing yourself from gravity to fly:
angels may choose to fall to earth, but you
were meant to shine above.  No doubt the old
story of a woman and man, but I am not
done living in that story, and in my heart
I don’t believe that you are either.





Thomas R. Smith






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