Word has just come across the German news wires that Otto Sander has died, aged 72. The actor best known to international audiences for his performances as the angel Cassiel in Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire (1987) and Faraway, So Close! (1993) and as Kapitänleutnant Philipp Thomsen in Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot (1981) was also greatly admired in Germany for his work on stage and as a voice actor and narrator.
Sander will also be remembered for his performances as the brother in Eric Rohmer’s The Marquise of O (1976), the perpetually drunken trumpeter in Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum (1979), Karl Liebknecht in Margarethe von Trotta‘s Rosa Luxemburg (1986), Bruno Levy in Joseph Vilsmaier’s The Harmonists (1997), and Professor Steinach in Rosa von Praunheim’s The Einstein of Sex (1999).
Update: From the AFP: “Born in 1941 in the northern city of Hanover, Sander became one of the top theater actors in West Berlin and later the reunited capital. His distinctive baritone was put to good use in dubbing work and narration, and in the gritty television crime show Polizeiruf 110. Sander was also a fixture of Berlin social life with his family of actors: wife Monika Hansen and step-children, Ben and Meret Becker. ‘We have lost one of our greatest artistic personalities and an unforgettable speaking voice,’ Mayor Klaus Wowereit said.”
Update, 9/14: Focusing on Sander’s theatrical work, Hugh Rorrison notes in the Guardian that Sander “made his name as one of the members of Peter Stein’s Schaubühne theater in Berlin, where he developed a versatile but precise stage presence that he brought to all kinds of roles…. In its first post-Nazi phase, the West German theater had cultivated symbolism, rhetoric and artifice. In the 1970s a new generation, notably directors such as Stein, Peter Zadek and Claus Peymann took over and, in their different ways, cultivated a style that was realistic, uncompromising and sometimes irreverent. Sander was recruited at this transitional stage by Stein for the new Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer in Berlin, which in the 1970s and 80s was to supersede the Berliner Ensemble as the flagship of German theater…. Sander was an ideal interpreter of Botho Strauss, the house dramatist at the Schaubühne, whose plays anatomised West German society in the Wirtschaftswunder—economic miracle—years…. His Tati-esque mastery of serious slapstick was unique in recent German theater…. His dazzling swansong at the Schaubühne, after 25 years, was as a suave ladykiller in Sacha Guitry’s Faisons un Rêve, directed by Luc Bondy.”