Sunday, February 17, 2019

Godspeed Bruno Ganz

Bruno Ganz, who played the angel Damiel in Der Himmel über Berlin (1987--known in English as Wings Of Desire) and Jonathan Zimmerman in Der amerikanische Freund (1977--literally The American Friend), died yesterday, February 16 2019, at the age of 77. He reportedly had colon cancer.

Bruno Ganz was born on March 22 1941 in Zurich, Switzerland. He took to acting when he was young and began his career on the stage, making his theatrical debut in 1961. He was soon appearing in film, in such movies as Es Dach überem Chopf (1962) and Der sanfte Lauf (1967). He would become one of the most respected actors in European cinema. He played the Count in Éric Rohmer's The Marquise of O (1976). The following year he appeared as Jonathan Zimmerman, the picture framer dying of leukaemia who befriends the notorious Tom Ripley (played by Dennis Hopper), in The American Friend (1977). In addition to German language cinema, Bruno Ganz also appeared in English language films. In 1978 he appeared as cloning expert Dr. Bruckner in The Boys from Brazil. The following year he appeared in a German language film that would be familiar to English speaking audiences. He played Jonathan Harker in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).

It was in 1987 that Mr. Ganz appeared in what could be his best known role, that of the angel Damiel in Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire. The film centred on angels in Berlin, one of who, Damiel, falls in love with a mortal. He would reprise his role as Damiel in Faraway, So Close! (1993). He played author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the 1996 BBC telefilm Saint-Ex.

Bruno Ganz's career continued unabated into the 21st Century. He played another one of his most famous roles in Downfall (2004), that of Adolf Hitler. His portrayal of the dictator in his last days would receive critical acclaim. In The Reader (2008) he portrayed Holocaust survivor Professor Rohl. In the 2008 film The Baader Meinhof Complex he played another historical figure, German Federal Criminal Police chief Horst Herold. He would later play the grandfather, Alpöhi, in a 2015 adaptation of Heidi and Sigmund Freud in The Tobacconist (2018).

Bruno Ganz was an incredible actor and he had a host of accolades to prove it. Over the years he had received such awards as the Hans-Reinhart-Ring, the Iffland-Ring, and even the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Mr. Ganz could transform himself into a variety of characters with ease. Over the years he played a diverse number of historical figures, including Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Adolf Hitler, Horst Herold, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, and Sigmund Freud. He played a staggering array of different types of fictional characters, from picture framer turned killer in The American Friend to an angel in Wings of Desire and Faraway, So Close! to spiritual healer Gottfried in The Party (2017). For his ability to play a wide variety of roles,  he will be remembered as one of the greatest European actors of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

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