Thursday, 20 May 2010

Best Actor 1964: Richard Burton in Becket

Richard Burton received his third Oscar nomination for playing Saint Thomas Becket the martyred Arch Bishop of Canterbury in Becket.

Becket I found to be a very effective period piece, and sometimes very entertaining. I liked the film the whole way through really, and it was helped overall by the two leads.

Becket is an example where both of the leads did deserve their nominations, and one does not just make the other seem pointless. They both are important to the film, and they both handle their roles very well but in massively different ways. O'Toole gives a very loud performance, and Burton gives a very quiet performance.

Burton has the title role who goes through several changes throughout the course of the film from King Henry II's (Peter O'Toole) loyal council to his fierce rival at the end. Burton is effective throughout the film, and I thought there was particular strength in the early scenes that show his friendship with Henry. O'Toole and Burton work fantastically together, they share the scene rather than trying to steal it from each other. They play off each other well with O'Toole being so loud and Burton being very quiet and withdrawn. His reactions to what O'Toole says are always superb. Particularly strong moments are when Burton reflects about a old Saxon's life and another scene where he realizes the King's rather pitiful request of him.

Burton though changes and advances Becket as he becomes the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and begins to realize his duties must cause him to strive away from King Henry. I felt Burton handled his conflict well without ever over doing it, since he showed a little bit of it beforehand making it so it was not a sudden and unrealistic change. Burton handles his changed ways very well. He never over plays the goodness of the character and still shows him to be man. Burton shows excellent command and gives the proper power to the character. The scene where excommunicates the noble is perfectly done by Burton.

As Becket slowly determines his fate Burton brilliant conveys this realization with perfect subtlety, never just openly saying it but rather perfectly showing through his face. His final scenes are all brilliant, particularly the final two. His last scene with O'Toole is truly effecting and his very last scene holds incredible emotional strength due to Burton's performance. His whole performance until he meets his fate is incredible. Burton creates a perfect and effective portrait of man, and succeeds fully with every challenging aspect of Becket.


Sage Slowdive said...

Wow, it's been a couple of years since I've watched it, but I remember Peter O'Toole being the standout...maybe I should watch again.

joe burns said...

Great review! I think he might win.......

Louis Morgan said...

Thanks Joe. This is another year that may be very hard to determine my choice.