Her 'Wings' warmed hearts


Solveig Dommartin, the French actress who dazzled moviegoers as Marion, the lonely trapeze artist in her lover Wim Wenders' film "Wings of Desire," has died. She was 45.

She died Jan. 11 of a heart attack in Paris.

Dommartin's acting career began in the theater with Compagnie Timothee Laine and with the Theater Labor Warschau. She had her first experiences with film as an assistant of French underground filmmaker Jacques Rozier.

"Wings" (1987) was her debut as a film actress, and she learned the challenging circus acrobatics in only eight weeks, performing the full role without using a stunt double and without a net. She fell once but was not hurt.

"That was a miracle," she said. "I fell 10 meters on my back and should have been injured. I opened my eyes, and there was dead silence on the set. But I didn't seem to be hurt. My trainer told me to go straight back up, and I did. But when I came down again, I just cried and cried."

As Marion, Dommartin wore chicken-feather angel wings as she flew on the trapeze above the center ring of a decaying European circus. Bruno Ganz, one of the overcoat-clad angels who watches over Berlin's mortals, finds her so desirable that he trades in his wings.

"It is after all a film that tells people: Remember your child heart and don't forget your childhood," Dommartin said. "And remember that you can live with your heart and that you can see with your heart. And that being a woman makes no difference."

Dommartin co-authored "Until the End of the World" (1991) with Wenders and traveled around the world with him in search of locations for the project. Wenders managed to smuggle her into China to scout locations.

"Solveig Dommartin and I had written the story of our film together," Wenders said, "and we thought that we only had the right to enter into such a sacred area like a person's dreams if we would bring something into the work that was sacred to ourselves."

Said Dommartin: "Wim is always like a child when he is shooting a film. He's like a fish in water. It's impressive, because he is otherwise a somewhat distressed or serious person. But as soon as he begins to shoot, he takes on a kind of grace, everything becomes simple, everything becomes harmonious. It's a wonderful experience, being on his film set."

Although Dommartin occasionally appeared on Gallic TV series throughout the 1990s, her big-screen work was sparse. She acted in two Claire Denis films, "No Fear, No Die" (1990) and " I Can't Sleep" (1994), in addition to 1990's " The Prisoner of St. Petersburg."

Dommartin directed "If There Were a Bridge" in 1998 and edited "Tokyo-Ga" in 1985.