Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver, from ‘The Summer Day’
What do we look for in an actor? Perhaps, first and last, after our distractions with spectacle and fantasy have passed, we are searching for a companion: someone with whom we can travel, as we move through life – surviving, hopefully thriving, trying to understand the mystery of existence, its meaning and our place in it.
This person then, by definition, would need to welcome us – as we would greet them. They would be hospitable. We would meet as equals and walk together, in conversation.
Because the vast majority of our encounters with actors take place in films, where focus and frame and exposure are all, and whose stories we can revisit repeatedly through the course of our lives, it is profoundly important that we trust this person to whom we have given our time and attention.
There is no actor I would trust more with these important questions and concerns than Bruno Ganz.
Over many decades, numerous award-winning films and major stage performances, he has inhabited the roles he has played so fully and convincingly that, not only are the projects and the parts impossible to imagine without him involved, but many of the resulting works are among the most important and compelling of our times.
This short season will celebrate this deeply humane and engaged actor by showcasing half a dozen of his most acclaimed performances, and wherever possible, to show these works in their original 35mm or digitally restored presentation. Working with many of the greatest directors in cinema (here Angelopoulos, Herzog, Tanner and Wenders among them), Bruno Ganz has chosen roles that speak at once to the challenges we face, revive the great tradition of filmic storytelling, innovate and expand genre narratives, incarnate pivotal moments of history and deliver stunningly imaginative, often overwhelming cinematic experiences.
It is also a great pleasure and privilege to announce that Ganz will attend a career Q&A following Wings Of Desire, which screens in its 30th anniversary year. This remarkable work, a masterpiece of the medium, is among the most beloved of films. Certainly, for me, it is that singular work that speaks most tellingly to the trials and triumphs of being human. Bruno Ganz’s presence literally colours this film; it couldn’t exist without his astonishing passage through it.
Wings Of Desire + Bruno Ganz Q&A
Director: Wim Wenders. Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Peter Falk. Germany 1987. 128 mins. German with English Subtitles.
Part romance, part comedy, part meditation on matters political and philosophical, Wenders’ remarkable movie posits a world haunted by invisible angels listening in to our thoughts. Such plot as there is concerns two kindly spirits (Ganz and Sander), posted to contemporary Berlin, who encounter a myriad of mortals, including an ageing writer blighted by memories of a devastated Germany; actor Peter Falk, on location shooting a film about the Nazi era; and a lonely trapeze artist, with whom Ganz falls in love, thus prompting his desire to become mortal at last. A film about the Fall and the Wall, it’s full of astonishingly hypnotic images (courtesy veteran Henri Alékan), and manages effortlessly to turn Wenders’ and Peter Handke’s poetic, literary script into pure cinematic expression. (Time Out)
Bruno Ganz will join us after the screening to discuss his career with Gareth Evans, writer and Film Curator of London’s Whitechapel Gallery.Mon 9 Oct, 7:30pm
The American Friend
Director: Wim Wenders. Starring: Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz, Lisa Kreuzer. Germany 1977. 125 mins. German, English & French with English Subtitles.
Superb adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Ripley’s Game, with Hopper as her amiably cynical hero, asked to find a non-professional for a killing or two, and – in echo of Strangers on a Train – drawing an innocent family man (Ganz) into the game by persuading him that the blood disease he is suffering from is not merely incurable but terminal. Good Highsmith, it’s even better Wenders, with Ripley, an American expatriate in Germany, first seen keeping a rendezvous with a dead man, then confiding his disorientation to a tape recorder (‘There is nothing to fear but fear itself… I know less and less about who I am or who anybody else is’). Ripley, in other words, becomes the quintessential Wenders hero, the loner travelling through alien lands in quest of himself, of friendship, of some meaning to life. Emerging enviously from his solitude to wonder at the radiating warmth of Ganz’ family circle, he is irresistibly attracted; but he is also condemned by his own self-disgust to approach only someone on whom he can already smell the scent of death, and by destroying whom he can complete his drive to self-destruction. (Time Out)Mon 16 Oct, 6:30pm
In The White City (35mm)
Director: Alain Tanner. Starring: Bruno Ganz, Teresa Madruga, Julia Vonderlinn. Germany 1983. 108 mins. German, English, Portuguese & French with English Subtitles.
Ganz, that great loner of modernist cinema, here plays a Swiss seaman who jumps ship in Lisbon, gets involved with a barmaid, and sends reels of home movies back to his wife. Adrift in the exotic White City, he is robbed and then stabbed, loses the barmaid after a passionate fling, and finally hitting rock bottom he raises the fare home. The home movies, accompanied by Jean-Luc Barbier’s beautiful, hard-edged jazz score, terrifyingly reflect the disintegration of a man in flight from himself. But this is no idling tract on alienation, more an intrigue built around silences, blankness, deceptions of space and time. A teasingly simple film that compels and stimulates. (Time Out)
In The White City is preceded by a rare screening of Alain Tanner’s short film Nice Time. This montage of the night-life of Piccadilly Circus was shot in the area surrounding Picturehouse Central 60 years ago.Mon 23 Oct, 6:30pm
Nosferatu The Vampyre
Director: Werner Herzog. Starring: Bruno Ganz, Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani. Germany 1979. 101 mins. German, English, Romany with English Subtitles.
Jonathan Harker (Ganz) leaves his young wife Lucy (Adjani) at home in Wismar and travels to Transylvania to meet the mysterious Count Dracula (Kinski), who is buying a house in Wismar opposite his own. After a terrifying ordeal in Dracula’s castle, Jonathan returns home a broken man, leaving Lucy to contend with their death-dealing new neighbour in the only way she can. In many ways a remake of F. W. Murnau’s horror masterpiece, Herzog’s film nonetheless owes more to the tradition of German Romanticism than to Murnau’s Expressionism, with long, lush sequences in the Carpathian Mountains, darkly luminous images of the Count, and ghastly scenes of the plague-stricken town. Kinski gives an exquisite performance as the weary Count; his languid glide through the darkness underscores this beautiful film’s sinister, dreamlike atmosphere. (Time Out)Mon 30 Oct, 6:30pm
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara. Germany 2004. 155 mins. German with English subtitles.
Nominated as Best Foreign language film, Downfall faced huge controversy as well as acclaim in its native Germany. Adolf Hitler’s final stenographer, Traudl Junge, tells of the Nazi dictator’s final days in a Berlin bunker as his world slowly crumbles around him. His advisers Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels are wrought with conflict as Hitler clearly begins to lose his grip on reality. At the centre of the film is the towering performance of Bruno Ganz (Wings Of Desire), who not only bears an eerily uncanny likeness to Hitler, but manages to both absorb and emanate the seething mass of contradiction that this most destructive of historical figures must have been. (Time Out)Mon 6 Nov, 6:30pm
Eternity And A Day (35mm)
Director: Theo Angelopoulos. Starring: Bruno Ganz, Isabelle Renauld, Achileas Skevis. 1999. 137 mins. Greek, English, Italian with English subtitles
A dying author (Ganz) prepares to leave his beloved family home by the sea, and settle things with his daughter; his feelings of despair are interrupted, complicated and finally, to some extent, banished by memories of happier times with his wife (Renauld) and by an encounter with a young Albanian orphan. Angelopoulos’ film, a deserving winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes ’98, is a characteristically elegant, eloquent and idiosyncratic meditation on the relationships between personal and political histories, and between life and art. More intimate than, say, The Travelling Players or Ulysses’ Gaze, the film nevertheless reaches out, as its long, fluid takes escort us through space and time, to universal themes and broader topicalities, effortlessly fending off charges of hermetic aestheticism. (Time Out)Mon 13 Nov, 6:30pm