Three jaded women traverse the German countryside on their motorcycles. Michaela and Gabriela are on the verge of welcoming Lucy to their exclusive group, but first she must prove herself to them. They question her attitudes, her past, and her commitment to the ideals of the group. Lucy rises to each challenge, shedding all her inhibitions along the way. She seduces men without the slightest effort, becomes the star attraction of the strip joint where she works, and eventually learns the truth about her mysterious companions.
Angels with Dirty Wings offers another take on the theme of angels living in contemporary society – a ponderous existential journey through which the angels achieve catharsis, and the mere mortals in the audience are urged to dwell on what it means to be human. There is no violence whatsoever in the film, but loads of bonking – all performed with relish by the fiery-haired and exuberant Antje Mönning, in the role of Lucy.
Many viewers will find the film alienating or off-putting due to the frequent dispassionate philosophical discussions – delivered in the kind of stilted, theatrical style associated with loved and loathed indie mavericks like Godard or Hal Hartley. The two supposedly enlightened members of the group, the sombre duo Michaela (Mira Gittner) and Gabriela (Marina Anna Eich), constantly pick apart their eager recruit. Their efforts to force her to prove herself worthy are not unlike the pressures launched upon a naïve freshman hoping to join a pitiless college fraternity, no matter what the cost.
Lucy responds to the endless judgement and disapproval with unquenchable vigor, however, never allowing the criticisms and insults to slow her down. She accepts that her peers are pushing her to first discover who she really is, and then to commit herself completely to whatever strengths and flaws comprise that identity. After listening to her stories and reading her diaries, they label Lucy “a lying, horny slut” and “a narcissistic, greedy little whore”. They then command her to live her life unconditionally as such, in search of the highest personal truth – rather than common morality, which they define as “the excuse of those who don’t dare to live out their truth.”
This is followed by scenes of a newly empowered Lucy riding a buggy through traffic in her underwear and a Viking helmet, seducing every man she encounters, taking to the pole onstage in a strip club before graduating to a dildo, and banging bikers and bar patrons alike – in accordance with her newfound motto: “I f*ck, therefore I am”. While actress Mönning bares all, as Lucy strips off, masturbates and moans in front of a motionless (from the waist up, at least) audience, there is no doubt that Lucy is always the one in control. The sex scenes are not particularly explicit; in fact, some of them are quite tender, and it is clear that sleaze is not the order of the day on this menu.
With a budget that you could probably squeeze into a piggy bank, German writer/director Roland Reber has fashioned a probing, unconventional ode to the perils of the voyage of self-discovery, using angels as his symbol of success: the state of enlightenment. More attached to the grubbiness of earthly existence than most films about celestial beings, Lucy believes in angels as the embodiment of lust, claiming that “dirt is life – and I want to live.” This bears an intriguing similarity to the shameless ethic of the work of Marian Dora, another German filmmaker – albeit one whose own angel-themed film took the material to ferocious extremes.
While the stoic nature of her companions would not be out of place in Wim Wender’s classic Wings of Desire (1987), Lucy would cut through the haze and upset the delicate balance immediately with her lively nature, hungry instincts and adorable landing strip. There is unfortunately little focus given to the contrasting personae of her counterparts though, and perhaps too much time devoted to endless shots of the girls tearing around on their motorbikes. And like their vehicles, the film’s score tends to veer off in all directions, often outstaying its welcome. To its credit, Angels with Dirty Wings weaves a sturdy philosophical fabric, even commenting on the current generation of people whose experience of much of their lives is filtered through screens. The only problem is that it’s kinda hard to concentrate on thematic complexities when the alluring lead actress is constantly getting her holes filled.