Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1996: Armin Mueller-Stahl in Shine

Armin Mueller-Stahl received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Peter Helfgott in Shine.

Mueller-Stahl plays the father of the troubled pianist David Helfgott. This is the sort of performance that only unfortunely seems to be held back by the somewhat lacking script in the film. Peter is just basically a tyrant in the film who wants just what he wants out of the children. He believes that they should all work as hard as possible as well as be tough in order to survive. He harsh toward his children but insists on them particularly David recognizing how lucky they are since he lets them (forces them) to play music, something his own father never allowed.

Mueller-Stahl does his best being the tyrant father of his children. He does not overplay this even though the script really does. Stahl effectively shows a strange combination of coldness and warmth that Peter has for his children. Coldness in the way he refuses to ever give his children any sort of slack or really honest show of love toward them. There is a warmness technically though in Stahl does effectively show that Peter does believe what he is doing is only for the good of his children.

The problem with the performance comes with the film's refusal for Peter to be anything but the tyrant. He is almost always the tyrannical father at all moments, he only lets up ever for the briefest of moments. When he does let up Stahl does not show it as ever being easy, but only being a difficult choice, becuase he has basically no other option. This is a performance that I do like, but I only wish that he has been written as more than basically just an advisory to David's independence but rather a little fuller of a character on his own terms. This is a good performance but held back by the limits of his part.

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