Actor Peter Falk has died at the age of 83. He was best known for playing the disheveled homicide detective who was the central character in the ’70s television series Columbo, but my favorite role of his was in the 1987 Wim Wenders movie Wings of Desire. In that film, he plays himself, actor Peter Falk, who seems as rumpled and trustworthy as Lieutenant Columbo of TV. But this Peter Falk is a former angel who gave up immortality to become human, even though that means he’ll experience illness and death. Falk can’t see conflicted angel Damiel (Bruno Ganz) observing him, but he senses Damiel’s presence and encourages him to experience the pleasures of life too:
“I wish I could see your face. Just look into your eyes and tell you how good it is to be here. Just to touch something. To smoke and have coffee, and if you do them together – it’s fantastic! or to draw, you know, to take a pencil and you make a dark line, then you make a light line, and together it’s a good line. Or when your hands are cold and you rub them, like so, together. See that’s good, that feels good. There’s so many good things…”
I saw that movie in the theater when it first came out. When Falk was revealed to be an ex-angel, everyone around me said, “Oh!” as in “Of course!” Peter Falk as an angel should have been as obvious to us as George Burns as God. There was no one better suited for the part.
As Peter wings his way home to rejoin his angel friends, take a few minutes to enjoy his performance in Wings of Desire. You’ll never try on a hat the same way again.