When actor Bruno Ganz passed away in February, like many I was surprised and saddened. I have watched many of Ganz’s films and yet, I realized while planning German film posts for 2019, he had never been featured. So ubiquitous to German language cinema, I had always assumed I’d written a German film post about Ganz. Now here we are with a posthumous German film post, honoring the man and his remarkable career. German language learners looking to practice with film will be delighted by the works starring Bruno Ganz, so let’s get going!
About Bruno Ganz
Bruno Ganz was born in Zurich, Switzerland on March 22, 1941. The son of a Swiss father and an Italian mother. By the time he was entering university, Ganz had already set his heart on a career as an actor. He made his big-screen debut in the Swiss film Der Herr mit der schwarzen Melone (The Man in the Black Derby) from 1960 as a hotel page boy. The following year, Ganz made his stage debut. Although Ganz continued to act on stage, he built a successful career on his film work.
Films of Bruno Ganz
Bruno Ganz’s film breakthrough was in 1976’s Sommergäste (Summer Guests), a big screen version of Maxim Gorky’s play Summerfolk.
During his nearly six decades in film, Ganz wasn’t limited to the Swiss film industry. He made a name for himself internationally. American audiences may be familiar with 1977’s Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend), where Ganz starred with Dennis Hopper in Wim Wenders‘ adaptation of the novel Ripley’s Game, or 2008’s The Reader, starring Kate Winslet in a film version of famed German author Bernhard Schlink’s novel of the same name.
Ganz’s filmography is full of famous names and exceptional films. For this post, I’m focusing on three of his most popular and well-known roles.
Die Fälschung (Circle of Deceit)
Director Volker Schlöndorff‘s 1981 film Die Fälschung, or Circle of Deceit, focuses on a German journalist, Georg Laschen, who travels to Beirut to cover Lebanon’s civil war amid troubles in his own marriage. After meeting a local photographer, Laschen begins to have a much deeper understanding of the implications of war.
Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire)
Wim Wenders’ iconic film Der Himmel über Berlin, also known by its English title, Wings of Desire, stars Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander as angels (Damiel and Cassiel, respectively) who watch closely over the people of Berlin. The angels can even listen in to the very thoughts of the citizens.
When Ganz’s character falls in love with one of those people, a beautiful trapeze artist, it becomes a difficult journey between the lives of the living and those we can no longer be with. The film alternates between color and black and white, depicting the point of view of the angels with the living.
Ganz reprised his role in the film’s sequel In weiter Ferne, so nah! (Faraway, So Close!).
Der Untergang (Downfall)
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel depicts the final days of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in 2004’s Der Untergang. Hitler is surrounded by some of his ministers and military leadership but he seems unwilling to accept the inevitable and lashes out at his advisors.
Der Untergang received critical acclaim. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and ranked #48 on Empire’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema.
Ganz took seriously his job portraying one of the worst monsters humanity has known. He took four months to research and prepare for the role. Believing that Hitler had Parkinson’s Disease, Ganz even visited and observed patients suffering from the disease.
Heino Ferch appears in the film as Nazi official Albert Speer. Actress Alexandra Maria Lara portrays Hitler’s private secretary, Traudl Junge, whose later memoir served as a basis for the film.
Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.
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