Thursday, 31 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1973: Max von Sydow in The Exorcist

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Father Lankester Merrin in The Exorcist.

Max von Sydow actually opens the film as Roman Catholic priest who is the head of an archeological dig that unearths an artifact that represents an ancient demon. These early scenes are basically silent and set up the mood of the picture. Sydow helps sets up these scenes with his performance as Merrin. Despite not saying anything Sydow establishes Merrin quite well here  as we see his reactions to the demonic symbols. He portrays a certain fear in Merrin that set up his past knowledge of the demon. His haunted expression in Merrin creates the appropriate dread, but as well suggest that Merrin most likely has a personal history with this particular evil.

Max von Sydow does not appear again until late in the film when Merrin is called in to exorcize the demon that has possessed Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). Sydow despite only showing up for a few scenes near the end of the film makes a considerable impact. What works well about his performance is the dynamic between his portrayal of Mirren and Jason Miller's portrayal of Father Karras. Where Miller portrays Karras as a hesitate priest filled with doubts, as well as being quite lost when it comes to dealing with the possession, Sydow portrays Merrin as man with a full grasp and command of the situation. When he first comes in telling Karras about the Demon Sydow makes Merrin a man with a clear understanding of the situation.

In the actual exorcism scenes Merrin goes directly at the demon. In the scenes Sydow is a constant of strength as he shows no hesitations as he fiercely goes against the demon. Sydow's performance is very effective portraying a passionate force for good against the demon. He brings the appropriate power to the situation from the front of the priests and stands as a man of conviction within the chaos of the demon. Within all the insanity of these scenes it would have been easy frankly to get lost within the craziness that is going around them and be completely forgotten in face of the possessed girl. He and Miller both stay in the scene and their realistic reactions add greatly to the film.

Sydow in his few scenes makes Mirren exactly what he should be which is almost a comforting factor in the film, to show someone who seems to be able to stand up against the evil of the demon. Sydow is moving in the way he is quietly reassuring in his scenes, particularly when he attempts to explain why the demon uses the girl to Karras. Sydow acts as the steadfast faith in the pivotal moments against Miller's doubting Karras. When Sydow leaves the film suddenly it has the proper disconcerting affect it should because of Max von Sydow's proper portrayal beforehand. In the title role he delivers the precise spiritual reinforcement required of him through his quiet but forceful performance.

7 comments:

RatedRStar said...

does Max Von Sydow age lol, he looks amazing for his age nowadays, as for this performance its good, as always, is Von Sydow capable of giving a bad performance?.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

... Really? It's such a... nothing performance. There is too little characterization to make his role compelling.

mrripley said...

Agreed there's not much too it and Miller and Burstyn are the mvp anyway but he is solid,i prefer him in the opening scenes actually.

Michael Patison said...

Very true it's a paper-thin role but he does so much with it. I've always loved him and Tom Courtenay. They're at their best when expressing suppressed emotion. Also, von Sydow has such an expressive face.

RatedRStar said...

if ur a Tom Courtenay fan ( I am 2), then Billy Liar is a great choice of expressed emotion from Courtenay and it came straight after his career great performance in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner.

RatedRStar said...

Also, Martin Balsams undeserved oscar win has been posted on Youtube, and oh my god listen to the reaction when he wins lol he doesnt exactly get a massive ovation like most actors did in them days, wonder who the audience was rooting for =).

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: He is an actor who tends to give it his all, heck he was good in Judge Dredd.

Kook160: Well I feel this is a case of Max von Sydow making the most out of very little.

mrripley: Well I don't disagree in that they do give the best performances in the film, I feel Sydow offers fine support though.

RatedRStar: The crowds tended to be a little more muted back than, although there it looked like they were very muted.

That is such a strange win. I think he probably won because of the fact he was not a foreigner, which sometimes happens. Michael Dunn was also American, but he possibly could have been discriminated against.