He began acting in about 1960, but it was only in the 1970s that he came into his own: Lumière (76, Jeanne Moreau); the Count in The Marquise of O (76, Eric Rohmer); The Wild Duck (76, Hans W. Geisendorfer), with Jean Seberg; as Jonathan in The American Friend (77, Wim Wenders); The Left-Handed Woman (77, Peter Handke); obsessed bv chess in Black and W hite Like Day and Night (78, Wolfgang Petersen); breaking up in Knife in the Head (78, Reinhard Hauff); The Boys from Brazil (78, Franklin M. Schaffner); as Harker in Nosferatu (79, Werner Herzog); The Girl from Lorraine (80, Claude Goretta); Lady of the Camélias (81, Mauro Bolognini); Circle of Deceit (81, Volker Schlondorff); Hands Up! (83, Jerzy Skolimowski); never better than as the man increasingly lost in Lisbon in In the White City (83, Alain Tanner); an angel in Wings of Desire (87, Wenders); brilliantly irresponsible in Strapless (89, David Hare); Especially on Sunday (91, Giuseppe Tornatore); The Last Days of Chez Nous (92, Gillian Armstrong); Faraway, So Close (93, Wenders); as Saint- Exupéry in Saint-Ex (97, Anand Tucker); Bread and Tulips (00, Tornatore).
For twenty-five years, Bruno Ganz has been the ideal melancholy angel, watching over sad times even if there’s little he can do to improve them. Though Swiss, he seems to link hands with the ages of Harry Lime and George Smiley. He is the kind of actor who might have been trained bv Trevor Howard or Gérard Philipe—which is a reminder that both of those actors could ignite a love story and knock women off their feet.
Ganz can be battered, hangdog, at the end of his tether, but he has charm and humor just beneath the surface. He has been a wandering actor, with much work done for German television (including a Faust as recently as 2000). He is modest and restrained in most of what he does, as if touched by a Graham Greene-like realization that we are too far gone now for tragic heroes. He has a way of watching more showy actors that rivets attention.