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Solveig Dommartin, 45; actress in `Wings of Desire' also wrote, edited and directed

February 03, 2007|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

She made her feature film debut as the lonely circus trapeze artist in "Wings of Desire," German director Wim Wenders' haunting 1987 fantasy-drama about angels who invisibly roam through Berlin listening to the thoughts of the then-divided city's inhabitants.

As Marion, French film actress Solveig Dommartin, who died of a heart attack Jan. 11 in Paris at 45, wears a costume with chicken-feather angel wings as she performs on the trapeze above the center ring of a small, seedy circus.

One of the overcoat-wearing angels (played by Bruno Ganz), who has grown weary of his spiritual existence and yearns to experience life's simple joys and pleasures by becoming human, falls in love with Marion, who craves someone to fill her heart.

The "radiant" Dommartin, as former Times film critic Sheila Benson described her when the film was released in U.S. theaters in 1988, trained extensively with a trapeze coach for her role and earned Wenders' praise for her risk-taking.

"She did everything," he says in his director's commentary for the DVD of the film. "There's not a shot that we used somebody else on, and when the movie was finished she actually had offers to work with the circus."

Dommartin, Wenders' girlfriend at the time, worked without a net. She fell once but was not hurt.

"That was a miracle," she told London's Evening Standard in 1994. "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."

The Paris-born Dommartin, who began acting on the stage, entered films as an assistant to director Jacques Rozier.

Dommartin, whose survivors include her daughter, Venus, appeared in seven feature films, including Wenders' 1991 futuristic work "Until the End of the World," co-starring William Hurt (for which Dommartin and Wenders shared the story credit); and "Faraway, So Close!" Wenders' 1993 follow-up to "Wings of Desire."

She also directed the 1998 short film "It Would Only Take a Bridge" and was an editor on Wenders' 1985 documentary "Tokyo-Ga."

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dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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