Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Best Actor 1975: Maximilian Schell in The Man in a Glass Booth

Maximilian Schell received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Arthur Goldman in The Man in the Glass Booth.

The Man in the Glass Booth is an odd film, although certianly intriguing about rich Jewish Businessman who is arrested and abducted by Israel to stand trial as a Nazi, but who is he the Jew or the Nazi.

Maximilian Schell's performance is a performance I think is best described as completely insane. Also this will be a spoiler filled review since it is rather difficult to talk about this performance without going from beginning to end with it. An insane man though who has quite the ability, and reasoning to his insane plan that he implement in this film, a plan he implements that is quite strange, and the reason for is left to interpretation by the film, although apparently the play this was based on.

Schell begins the film as a rich Jewish businessman, he is the type of cynical, but successful man who may have a severe case of survivors guilt or maybe he doesn't. Either way though Arthur Goldman is a rather strange, and flamboyant fellow, who may be paranoid, and insane, but maybe he is not. Schell really has a challenge to dealing with the mystery and as well as contradiction of the character of Arthur Goldman.

I really do not know who Goldman is at the beginning, I felt he was a bit like Rod Steiger in the Pawnbroker for the most part. Schell indeed does a interesting job of suggesting more than just a cynical Jewish man, but as well excels as the cynical man, who seems most interested in his own intelligence and ability, with his constant control, sway, and his distinct manner he interacts with everyone around him.

What about Goldman though, why does he seem to have more such as kicking his own foot in on a statue, and burning himself with a candle, or suspecting that people are after him. Why is he doing all this, well there is more to him than just being cynical. What is it, I still do not know exactly, but Schell certainly suggests something quite well, with still keeping the right mystery about his character.

Goldman is eventually captured by the Israelis. He is revealed to be former concentration camp commandant Dorf, or is he? well more on that later. He certainly says he is Dorf, and says he is most certainly a Nazi who killed thousands and loved doing it. Maximilian Schell was already pretty insane in the role, now he goes totally nuts in the role, when he becomes Dorf.

Dorf loves being a Nazi, and being evil apparently, since Schell plays him with almost too much gusto. A guy who is supposedly guilty of such crimes should not be as entertaining as Schell is when he goes nuts. In his trial Schell holds every moment every scene with his mad man approach, which is hard not to watch.

Schell suggests that Dorf is pure evil, and saw nothing wrong with what he had done. He still suggests though that he is hiding something since where he is questioned if he actually is Jewish he foes completely vicious, in trying to say he is not Jewish because how could he be since he killed so many Jewish people without mercy.

Well soon enough the truth is revealed, well I guess it is the truth, he really is not Dorf, he is Goldman after all, and wanted to be believed as Dorf, why, well it is hard to tell exactly why perhaps it was because he was driven insane by the real Dorf, perhaps it is his survivors guilt, or maybe something else entirely. Schell allows all options to be possible, in fact he suggests maybe it it many of the reasons combined.

Schell performance is over the top sure, but that does work incredibly well, and Schell suggests that that was Goldman's way of showing how insane the Nazis were. Also Goldman clearly was insane, and perhaps he never could never face reality again after his experiences Schell also seems to say with his final chilling scene, where perhaps Goldman finally does see everything for what it is, and can no longer hide himself.

Schell's performance is one that it is hard to judge it is such as scatter shot, completely off the wall approach, but I found his completely insane off the wall approach actually did work for the part. I really think this is a part that could have extremely easily been completely wrong, but Schell manages through his insanity to make this one intriguing character. This is hardly a perfect performance, but I think no actor could really find a way to play this odd a character perfectly, Schell instead probably handles this character as well as one could possibly handle him.


dshultz said...

This performance is a favorite of mine, it's so fun and quirky.

dinasztie said...

I haven't seen him.

JamDenTel said...

A shame only one performance out of the entire American Film Theatre series got a nom...especially when Robert Ryan got the NBR Best Actor award for The Iceman Cometh, Zero Mostel recreated his Tony-winning role in Rhinoceros, and Alan Bates had his tour de force in Butley.