Saturday, 12 November 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1988: Alec Guinness in Little Dorrit

Alec Guinness received his fourth and final acting Oscar nomination for portraying William Dorrit in Little Dorrit.

Little Dorrit is probably the longest film ever to be nominated for an acting award running over six hours in its telling of the Charles Dickens's story of Little Dorrit about a young girl who is born and grows up in a debtors prison.

Alec Guinness plays William Dorrit the father of Little Dorrit. He was the once wealthy man but do to many debts ended up in the debtors prison bringing his family along with him. Guinness in the chronological early moments of his performance shows a depressed man. Guinness shows that William can barely believe that he has ended up in such a place, and has fallen to such a lowly position in which he must raise his children in to.

What amazes me always about Alec Guinness is the way he so naturally portrays almost all of his parts despite the fact there certainly must have been a great deal of calculation below the surface. The part of William Dorrit is no exception for Guinness. In his early scenes where he basically sits in a room rather depressed he shows various facets of William Dorrit. One important facet the fact that he was once wealthy. There is always the indication of Dorrit former situation in the way he talks, and acts, but Guinness shows he has ceased in the same way his luck has.

In the debtors prison he shows different shades of William Dorrit from when he is dealing with two of his less quiet children. In these scenes he still has an attempt of a fatherly strength to mold the children but it is clearly very much weakened because of his overall depressed state. He also when with his brother Guinness suggests that earlier in life William was the more successful brother, whom his brother looked up to, but not he no longer is. Guinness effectively though attempts to show his brother he still is a role model, although in an appropriately weak effort.

Guinness only seems to really show the honest to truth William when alone with Little Dorrit. When with Little Dorrit he is just a sad sad man, who really can barely believe how he has come to be the way he is. Guinness mixes in a great deal of regret and a sort of acceptance brilliantly. Guinness also effectively brings a poignancy to these moments in a quiet subtle fashion. William loves his youngest daughter very much and Guinness shows a genuine love, but it is never only that, because Guinness always adds an underlying shame William feels as well.

Guinness shows almost a complete transition though when William suddenly becomes wealthy again. Guinness is just perfect in his change that is almost instant. It is seemingly unnatural almost, but Guinness makes it work showing that the patrician in William was always there just waiting for the chance to come out. Guinness is no longer somber and modest in his performance, but becomes domineering and always in control. He goes from the perfect poor man to the perfect rich man basically instantly it is a fantastic transformation that few actors could have pulled off with such ease as Guinness is able to.

Although Little Dorrit is much much to long at six hours Guinness managed to keep my attention than managed to hold in my memory better than any aspect of the film. Guinness creates a unique portrait of William Dorrit that in the wrong hands could have been a complete failure, or just fallen into obscurity as much of the supporting cast does in this film. Guinness though instead creates fascinating characterization of man who always a victim of his situation whether he is rich or poor. As with most of Guinness work this performance only improved the more I thought of it, and it really is great work from Alec Guinness.

10 comments:

dinasztie said...

Wow, I should have known, I guess. :)

mrripley said...

Where can I get the film?

Louis Morgan said...

I don't know if this helps you but it is on Netflix.

dshultz said...

Boom! Proof that Guinness can do no wrong! Even in a six hour film, he shines all the clearer!

Sage Slowdive said...

Ugh, 6 hours - that sounds like quite a challenge.

moviefilm said...

Just a crazy stupid director can do a six hours lasting film. That´s a suicide. I can´t imagine myself going to see so long picture into the theatre...

RatedRStar said...

So its see Little Dorrit or go on holiday to an exotic country, I pick the latter lol =)

Louis Morgan said...

Yes this film certianly needed some serious editing. I find it probably should have focused on the most interesting parts, and forgotten the needless characters. This means it probably should have focused most around the story lines of Alec Guinness' and Joan Greenwood's characters since their performances were by far the best in the film and in turn their characters were by far the most interesting.

Tom said...

Sounds like he has a decent amount of screen time. It would be interesting if he only appeared for 10 minutes in a 6 hour film.

Louis Morgan said...

I did not measure his screen time, although he does have a descent amount of scenes it probably does not amount to the that great of percentage of the film.