Saturday, 8 September 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1960: Max von Sydow in The Virgin Spring

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tore in The Virgin Spring.

The Virgin Spring tells the story of a prosperous man who avenges his daughter after her murder and rape at the hands of a group of herdsman.

Max von Sydow portrays the prosperous man who actually has a very simple role for about two thirds of the film. In the scenes before his daughter is murdered von Sydow is only briefly in the film. He is properly stoic as the patriarch of the household. In his manner at the table he shows a certain low key power as the head of the table. He also has one brief but important scene with his daughter. Sydow is effective in this in just portraying a warm but genuine relations between Tore and his daughter that properly establishes his love for his daughter that brings about his actions later on.

Sydow appears very little during the middle portion of the film. When he is on screen he keeps up the same strong presence, and he is entirely appropriate in his performance. He stays that way until he learns of the fate of his daughter which leads him to seek revenge. Sydow's first reaction of Tore's finding out about exactly what happened to his daughter is very effectively portrayed. It is rather fast, and Sydow handles it well by showing the emotions of despair quickly reigning on him, but portrays it along with a drive in Tore for vengeance.

Sydow portrays Tore's vengeance as something quite efficient. Sydow makes it a passionate moment for Tore even though it is rather quietly handled passion actually. The hatred, and anger toward the three people who were involved with act is embedded into Sydow's face, but he keeps it very much focused as Tore's goal never becomes forgotten for a moment. When Tore does murder all three of the them Sydow's gives it a certain efficiency. There is not a hint of hesitation in Sydow during the attack, he goes about one by one never giving a second thought for a moment. Sydow becuase of the lack of hesitation makes it a particularly brutal scene.

After the killing though Sydow finally shows Tore realizing his actions, as he simultaneously grieves over his daughter as well as is pained to a certain degree over his killing of the men. In his final scene where he simultaneously tries to make peace with God over having killed the men, but as well hates toward God over allowing the original act to happen, Sydow is quite powerful. He is able to still fairly quietly convey the complex internal struggle in this man, and movingly shows the deep hurt within the man over his horrendous experience.

This is not the most complex performance ever given by Max von Sydow, and his screen time is fairly limited as he only comes into the lead role for the final third of the film, but it certainly is a strong early work from him. He fully realizes his character the warm patriarch and father, and it is because of this that he is able to really give the appropriate impact to the scenes of vengeance. It is a very specific performance that effectively does the most with his role.


Michael Patison said...

What'd you think of the film?

Louis Morgan said...

It is an effective film I would say, very atmospheric.

dshultz said...

Can't wait till '57, I wonder what you'll think of him in The Seventh Seal.