Thursday, 22 November 2012

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1993: Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List

Ben Kingsley did not receive an Oscar nomination , although he did receive a Bafta nomination for portraying Itzhak Stern in Schindler's List.

Ben Kingsley despite being nominated two years before along with Harvey Keitel in his wholly uninspired performance in Bugsy was not nominated along with Ralph Fiennes for this film. This is perhaps a little strange as the academy loved the film, clearly loves Kingsley, but since it was probably Peter Postlethwaite who took his place I am not going to complain too much about the oversight. The reason his performance perhaps though was left off is just how understated he is in the role of Itzhak Stern an accountant who takes most the responsibility in setting up and maintaining Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson)'s factory that ends up saving many Jews from the Nazis.

Ben Kingsley early on the film portrays Itzhak Stern as a man who tries to be almost a nonentity acting around Schindler. Stern does not only set up the factory for Schindler, but while doing so he helps many people find work at the factory who would otherwise likely be sent to a death camp. Kingsley is very good here as Stern is quiet around Schindler in that early on his task of saving others is really something that is hidden from Schindler who only really desires the Jewish workers to save money. Kingsley goes about his performance showing Stern as a man very much of his task, and going up trying to bring as many people to the factory carefully and cautiously.

There are many scenes where Stern is a man among others quietly observing as he stays out of the way of death, such as a certain scene where he slowly walks as someone is killed by sniper fire near him. Kingsley is always very powerful in these scenes. He is able to create this man who is a powerful internal strength that keeps him together through all of the horrible events that transpire around him. Kingsley poignantly though does portray the very honest small reactions of Stern as he sees the horror. A great deal of credit must be given to Kingsley as he does convey the emotions so genuinely yet handles them in the appropriate restrained fashion caused by the precarious circumstances his character is in.

Kingsley is effective in that he does not show Stern as a man who changes during the film, whereas that is the main focus with Schindler in the film, instead he portrays well the slowly changes how Stern views and reacts to Schindler. At first Kingsley has Stern treat Schindler in a business like fashion, even though he does well to portray the very real concerns that always weigh on Stern, but he is rather cold to Schindler who he is using in the same way Schindler is using him. Kingsley eases into Stern treating Schindler as someone who can be exploited, for good ends but exploited nevertheless, to something a little more.

The change in the relationship is brilliantly handled by both actors. Kingsley does well because he never does rush it as first really Stern comes closer to Schindler in that the situation for Stern and the other Jews becomes more and more dire. Kingsley is terrific in emphasizing the earnest want in Stern to save as many people as he can, as well as his very serious concerns due to the deaths all around him. He shows well the pressures Stern is under as well as the way he channels these pressures to Schindler as keeping safe becomes slowly more difficult.

Stern stands as a constant of morality during the film. Kinglsey is able to effortlessly bring to life this genuine goodness throughout the film, and in a way his performance actually allows the transformation of Schindler entirely earned. At the end of the film the two really become true friends, and Kingsley is moving in showing how he finally opens up to Schindler in his beliefs in regard to what is right. Kingsley is very powerful in the moments of realization for Schindler, as he stands firm and reminds Schindler what a great thing he has done, as well as what his actions truly mean. Kingsley simply is outstanding through the film bringing to life the righteousness of his character in all honesty without having a single false moment in his entire performance.


RatedRStar said...

his greatest performance in my opinion, im not usually a fan of Kingsley, he comes under the overated legend category for me like Anthony Hopkins as opposed to underated old legends like Terence Stamp and Ian Mckellen.

Anonymous said...

He was good, but I think the Academy did the right thing nominated Postlethwaite over him.