Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Best Supporting Actor 1961: Montgomery Clift in Judgment At Nuremberg

Montgomery Clift received his fourth and final Oscar nomination for portraying Rudolph Peterson in Judgment At Nuremberg.

Montgomery Clift here gives a one scene incredibly short performance, there are two kinds of one scene or close to one scene performances which can be represented by the Supporting Actress nominees in 1976, there is the Jane Alexander type or the Beatrice Straight type. The type that leaves no impression or at best barely serves its function and the type that stands out incredibly well, and contributes very well to the film it is in. Luckily Montgomery Clift is most certainly the Beatrice Straight type.

Montgomery Clift plays a man who is one of the former victims of the Nazi regime who testifies against German judges involved with Nazism. Here is one of the performances where the actors personal life gives an another level of depth to a performance. The man he plays is a broken man in many ways as Clift was at this time in his life. Clift clearly is not a well man but surprisingly it not distracting and oddly adds to his performance here. Clift uses an effective German accent here that works very well with his character, showing the somewhat slow and off nature of the man without forcing it at all.

When Clift's character is first called in I instantly was interested in him. He instantly shows Peterson as a man who is nervous, scared, and not a complete man with just the way he walks and sits down at the witness stand. His way of demeanor and moving is compelling and instantly shows the nature of Peterson before he says a single word. Clift does not stand still constantly moving showing Peterson's nervousness but moving a caution fearful fashion, not in a shy fashion. Peterson is questioned at how he was mistreated by the Nazi's which he reveals that he was sterilized due to being determined as a simpleton by the Nazis. Clift perfectly shows how Peterson has incredible difficulty in retelling and even thinking about his troubled memories.

Clift shows so much of this poor man in 12 minutes than many actors do in more than an hour. He is excellent in portraying that Peterson tries not to be a victim, happily telling about his family and even jokes briefly about his dealings with the Nazi, but Clift always clearly shows this man is not complete and has clear problems dealing with his situation. His performance really is heartbreaking because how honestly he shows this simple man who was wronged by cruel people, especially when he is also mistreated by one of the judges defense attorneys (Maximilian Schell). His inability to deal with the pressure of the court is incredibly effective, and when he tries to gain sympathy by showing a picture of his mother, is as emotionally powerful as possible. His movements and face are perfect, when he wags his finger at the attorney saying he is wrong, it feels as real and powerful as film scenes get. Clift never rings a false note, every movement seems true and real despite the difficult nature of the character. Clift's one scene here is by far the best scene of the film, his performance left a far greater impression than the film possibly could.

7 comments:

dinasztie said...

I looooove this movie though I saw it more than two years ago. It's incredibly upsetting and harrowing. My Best Picture pick. I remember that I was very impressed by Clift but I would have given the Supporting Actor award to Burt Lancaster (who could be leading too, but I think nobody is leading in this except for Tracy). BTW Best Actor 1961 would be great for your next year. Just a thought.

Sage Slowdive said...

Very good performance...

joe burns said...

He'll probably be your choice. It looks like a really interesting film/filled with interesting performances too. What did you think of Garland?

Louis Morgan said...

Dinasztie: I thought Lancaster was good but I still prefer Clift. Since Fritz, Joe and you have all suggested 61, I will try to find The Mark as soon as possible.

Joe: I actually have some problems with the film, but I do really really like Clift's scene. Garland like Clift has another dimension to her performance also due to her personal life, and she is quite good although not as good as Clift.

Sage Slowdive said...

I know who Louis's choice is...but I won't tell ;)

Anonymous said...

He was perfect, and you're absolutely right, that's the best scene of the film and the most memorable one for sure! I've heard so many good things about this performance, and after I saw it I couldn't agree more!

vinnieh said...

One of the most emotionally powerful and harrowing performances I have ever seen.