Richard Burton received his seventh and final Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Martin Dysart in Equus.
Richard Burton plays the psychiatrist who must try to help a disturbed boy Alan Strang (Peter Firth) who blinded several horses. Richard Burton's performance is not of a reactionary character to the boy, but Dysart examines his whole life and psyche throughout the film. Throughout the film there are many scenes in which he looks directly at the screen and examines himself in a several long monologues. I must say this use of monologues is something that seems far more written for a play than a film, and I think could have very easily stopped the film completely but are not because of Richard Burton.
First of all his voice is outstanding, and completely perfect for these scenes, because his voice is able to always hold ones attention due to the incredible strength of it. Burton though not only speaks well in these monologues but also acts just as well. He suggests a man really at the end of edge of his life. He is unable to fully comprehend what he has done, or has now known. He makes these scenes very strong, even though some of what he is saying sometimes seems smart, but is written rather poorly actually. Burton though still gives these scenes as much strength as he can, simply because of the haunting nature of his performance, which I will admit is probably unfortunately added by his real life physical deterioration from his alcoholism.
Richard Burton certainly was a very interesting actor though because of his ability to be both a loud actor, but somehow a subtle actor at the same time. He is able to give his very obviously dramatic speeches, and reactions but somehow he does always add more to his performance through simpler suggestions through his face. He can gives loud speeches, but quiet talks both just as well, and he somehow interweaves both styles somehow so it works.
I will say that Dysart is a problematic character since the film wants us to know him yet it does not actually take enough time for us to truly understand the man. It did not need to give a biography of the character but the character was most certainly missing something to fully realize him, but the film instead chooses to tell almost there is to tell about Alan Strang. Burton though still tries his best to get around this and still does his best to create a man, and his best to make him understood. Burton though is incredible interesting despite his role being in thankless in a whole lot of ways. Such as he is reduced mostly to small reactions to his scenes with Peter Firth. Still despite the fact that Burton still stays interesting in these scenes and never becomes overshadowed by Firth even in these scenes, which is a great accomplishments on Burton's part. He is actually capable of making this film watchable due to his performance, which I think could have been more of a failure, after all imagine the long monologues with a lesser actor.