Thursday, 29 July 2010

Best Actor 1984: Albert Finney in Under the Volcano

Albert Finney received his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Geoffrey Firmin an alcoholic British consul in Mexico in Under the Volcano.

Under the Volcano is not a great film, but not an outright terrible film either, but one that really annoys me because it looks like it might go somewhere but it never does.

Albert Finney plays an extreme alcoholic here one who is always constantly drinking, and the film basically follows him as his drinking gets worse and worse along with his mental state. Albert Finney first off does not get into the negative things that can come from an Alcoholic behavior. Finney does not do overacting with strangely trying to go for laughs, and does try to internalize the pain of Firmin in this film. He does his best to show that his alcoholism is something that merely is something he cannot stop, and it is a disease for him. He never forces alcoholism of him it is just clearly has been part of him for a very long time. He internalizes the pain showing it very carefully making it work far more effectively. This part of his performance is very well handled since it is able to stay properly consistent throughout the film.

There is a fascinating part of his perfromance is that Albert Finney's Firmin is suppose to be seeing also sort of hallucinations but the film never shows them to the viewer therefore it is up to Finney to show them through his performance. He actually is able to accomplish this partially which is interesting. He does suggest that Firmin sees things that we the viewer or the other characters never see. He does this through small very well done indications which show his character's mental troubles perfectly. He is not perfectly consistent with this because the film does not always have his character properly consistent. He does not make us see what he sees, if he did that his performance would be amazing rather than just very good.

Finney I find is always strong in his performance and if the film was better I think he could have given a truly perfect performance, but it is not. Problems with the film result in some problems involving his performance. The problem is I did not feel the film really fully fleshed out his character making it so Finney was unable to do the same. It never fully developed his character's history well enough, I felt, leaving Finney to try and do everything which he is able to do.

His performance is sort of interesting though because even when the film requires him to do things that are strange or make little sense Finnney does try his best with them. Such as one scene about his own hell where Finney is incredibly strong in his speech even if this part of the story does not really come together with other parts of the film. Another great scene of his is when he is found face down in dirt by a fellow British man and they have a very British like conversation despite him being in the middle of the road because of his drinking. I liked how he should that Firmin kept his British ways even at a time like that, but again this character trait is only really in this scene and it fails to be consistent because of the film.  This really is a performance weakened by the film it is in, it is the best part of the film, but Finney is unable to fully overcome the problems the film makes for him, causing him to have scenes of great acting even they do not perfectly add up into one character.


Tom said...

Interesting. I never did see this one. Also, I heard a few people might do posts on this movie for the John Huston Blogathon next week.

Sage Slowdive said...

A consistent performance, that was well worth watching that slow movie. 4 from me too...

joe burns said...

Sounds like an interesting performance. I think he'll come in third or fourth.

Anonymous said...

The character's background and all the context and history is there if you pay attention. You really have to listen to the dialog. There is the context of what happened in the previous war and the ominous foreboding about the one about to come. There is the context of betrayal by the wife and brother. Finney's performance is absolutely brilliant, and very nuanced. It is not an easy film to understand. It's very layered and not everyone's cup of tea, but your review shows you only got it on a very superficial level.
Finney definitely deserved the Oscar for this performance.

Louis Morgan said...

Perhaps I should have been a little more clear, I did understand the dynamic between the brothers and the wife, but I just felt that the behavior of Finney's character was not fully consistent. I felt some of what he did factored into his history well but not all of what he did, leaving his character perfectly played but not perfectly written.