Friday, 11 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 2006: Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond

Djimon Hounsou received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Solomon Vandy in Blood Diamond.

Hounsou here actually could easily be described as supporting or lead, and it would not have been category fraud either way. His story is the one we begin with and end with supports the idea that he is lead with DiCaprio, but the fact that he certainly loses a great deal of focus in the middle of the film makes it easy to put him in the supporting category as well. Anyway Djimon Hounsou is a bit of a strange actor for me since he quite good at tricking the viewer into thinking he has a far greater range than he actually does. I say this as he does not seem to be a limited actor in the traditional sense, since a limited actor usually can only fill a tiny emotional range. Hounsou is limited in that he only ever seems to go for two very different emotional places, which is true for most of his performances including this one and his other nominated work for In America.

Hounsou only seems to do to things with his performances, when his character is calm he talks in this extremely warm and soft fashion. When his character is not calm he screams at the top of his lungs with a manic intensity, or just gives a very intense look if he is not screaming along with it. It is very odd but watching this film once again I noticed this mostly what he does. He is either this calm calm man, or this intense intense man there is not much in between. Luckily I will say for Hounsou here, this approach was certainly less effective in In America, this does actually work for his character, and at times he can actually make his limitations seem less noticeable because they do sort of work for Solomon Vandy. Vandy after all is only suppose to be a simple good man who simply wants to find his son, and undergoes many traumatic situations and hardships faced through his path to doing this. That is why Hounsou's two sides do work for him here.

When Hounsou needs to show how honestly Solomon does want to find his son, and just how much he loves him his calm approach works for such a thing. When ever he needs to talk and ask rather simple questions to either DiCaprio's Diamond hunter, or Jennifer Connolly's journalism his simple quiet style certainly works for that as well. Also when he does go into his intense mode of acting it also does work even though it is sudden. It works because the situations he finds himself in are sudden in nature, and his rather extreme reactions to them are not improper. His screams do show us the fear, and trauma Solomon undergoes from every one of his troubles. Also when he is not screaming, again his intense look does convey Solomon's hate for the evil that others commit around him and against him.

Even though the performance could almost be described as tailor made Hounsou rather limited style, the problems with it can still be found even in this performance. The best example of this would have to be when he sees his wife and children, but not his son in a refugee camp. This scene is very poorly handled by Hounsou because when Solomon hears that they do not know where his son is he goes off on his intense routine that only conveys hatred like he wants to kill his wife or something. He fails to show the complexity of what should be a very bittersweet scene, he is seeing his family, but not his whole family. Hounsou's way of playing it suggests that Solomon only really cares about his son, but I really don't think that was his intent. This scene really shows the limits of his performance.

Due to limits of Hounsou the performance never reaches the heights that it might have otherwise. Yes there is a drive to get his son, but that is only told through his intense looks not much more. His relationship with DiCaprio's Danny Archer also stays relatively limited because of Hounsou. When Solomon distrusts Danny he makes his intense face, when he trusts him he makes his overly calm face.  There just is not a successful or meaningful transition brought by Hounsou. No aspect of his performance ever brings to life the struggle of Solomon as powerfully as it really could have been due to Hounsou's own limitations. This is not a bad performance by any means, as I said Hounsou's limitations can be excused much of the time because they actually work for the character, this is not a great performance though because every time their is an especially difficult scene that requires more complex emotions Hounsou is not up to the task.


RatedRStar said...

I actually laughed when he started screaming haha lol =D.

moviefilm said...

I am shocked. You used to like these types of performances.

Oscargrouching said...

Did not like him much , My reviews will be soon on , been busy , my first will be in about 30 mins .

mrripley said...

he was ok but agreed he is either dead dead quiet or liza loud!!!