Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1994: Gary Oldman in Immortal Beloved

Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ludvig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved.  

Immortal Beloved as a film about a composer stands far better than the likes of A Song to Remember and A Song Without End, but nowhere near as good as Amadeus. This does not really say much though because the Song films are quite unremarkable, and Amadeus is one the greatest films of all time. Immortal Beloved stands as an interesting effort as it tells the story of Beethoven through his biographer's investigation of who tries to find out who Beethoven was referring to as his Immortal Beloved in his last will and testament. The film definitely has problems particularly with its very questionable ending and its final  revelation regarding the mystery, but it also has strong points through the music of the man as well as in the aspect of the film I am reviewing here.

Gary Oldman despite being the lead of the film actually does not speak for about twenty minutes, and we only receive some short glimpses of the man, that is all that is needed to see that Oldman's performance will be a memorable one. As Beethoven there is an incredibly emotional intensity in Oldman particularly through his eyes. In one of his earliest scenes we see an angry and despondent Beethoven although we are not aware of what it is, Oldman establishes the emotional state and emotional style of the composer. There is such a fierceness of his emotions it is greater than that of a usual man fitting for both what Beethoven's handicap is, but as well fitting for the expressive music he wrote.

As the film progresses we slowly get to know Beethoven through Oldman's performance. Oldman's Beethoven in some ways like Tom Hulce's Mozart in Amadeus in that both make the composer stand out just as his music does. There is a difference though as Beethoven is not seen as an eccentric youthful celebrity like Mozart in Amadeus instead Beethoven is looked as much more of a curmudgeon, a brilliant one but nevertheless a curmudgeon. Oldman gives Beethoven an imposing demeanor that is forceful not only in his feelings toward others in which he will express without hesitation, but as well there is a force in his tremendous talent that is imposing in its very own way.

Gary Oldman might not be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks what actor should play Beethoven, but Oldman is described as a Chameleon for a reason. With his baritone accent, posture, and most importantly his conviction to his role Oldman quickly allows one to only forget his very different appearance from the actual man, but as well lets one embrace whatever he does in the role. Oldman does not try to make us deeply sympathize with this man as an artist in some humble portrait, instead he fascinates with his very emotional and sometimes even abrasive performance. He does not care if we like Beethoven instead he aims to show us Beethoven.

Oldman does just that with his performance with his incredible dynamic he creates in the man's life. On one hand he shows the very worst there is of Beethoven. Oldman never sharpens the soft edge of the man and he is quite effective in the sometimes quite extreme vitriol the man is able to express. Oldman is always uses this to allow us in part in the mind of Beethoven and just with this hate in him comes from. He does not simplify it though. In part Oldman suggests there is a degree of self importance as the man as his personality is not one to be ignored even if it should be. In his behavior to his brothers Oldman shows a man whose personality that keeps himself unable to ignore his own demands over the needs of any other.

His personality is not all that keeps him at a distance and Oldman always allows us to see another explanation which comes form Beethoven's deafness. Oldman is excellent in portraying what the deafness does to him as man. On one hand Oldman has Beethoven actively the issue and often not trying to act deaf or in an angry outbursts tries to compensate when the his disability leaves him unable to deal with either his people or even properly run a concert. Oldman is very moving actually as he shows how Beethoven's disability slowly takes more from him than just his hearing and he is very powerful in showing the distance this creates between the man and almost anyone he is with even people he only wants to love.

A great deal of time of this film is spent delving into Beethoven's relationships with various women. These scenes are particularly great examples of the strength of Oldman's performance. He is able to convey both why the women would love him as they do, but as well why he and the women never would be able to connect in the way they should. On one side of the man their is such a genuine passion in Gary Oldman work where he brings the power of this man's genius as well as the love he is capable of. On the other hand Oldman is just as effective in showing the insufferable qualities of the man that makes it so that although their relationship will be fervent yet in the end far more apathetic then it should be.

The most powerful relationship though comes in Beethoven's relationship with his Nephew. Oldman creates such a beautiful portrait of a man who wants to be a loving surrogate father to his surrogate son, but never actually bothers to connect to the boy he should. It is a heartbreaking relationship that Oldman makes because on one hand he shows how much he does love the boy and how much he desires for him to have a better life then he did, on the other hand though Oldman does not compromise and shows the way that Beethoven can barely see the way he drives the boy insane either. It is amazing the way Oldman manages not only not to come off as despicable, but also rather poignant as he is entirely honest in portraying Beethoven's blindness of his own behavior.

Gary Oldman that actually manages to overpower some of the weaknesses of the film. For example a late scene depicts the performance of his ninth symphony, the scene is put together oddly that fails to bring together the elements at play all that well. Oldman still is terrific in his expression as he shows exactly what the "Ode to Joy" means to Beethoven as a man even well the film fails to do so. Another instance is his last death bed scene that again is troubled by the questionable revelation of the titular Immortal Beloved doesn't really work even in the context of the film, but Oldman again absolutely delivers the final scene selling the scene for all that its worth through his portrayal of Beethoven's final emotions that is a wonderful as well as tragic mix of heartbreak and happiness.

This film has some rather troublesome elements in it, but Oldman's performance makes it easy to ignore many of these flaws. Oldman gives such a tremendous work as Beethoven and manages to bring to life this man with all of his problems but as well all of his genius. As Beethoven in the film says music allows one into the mind of the composer Oldman's great performance does the same. Oldman composes an astonishing piece that opens with a mystery and unveils itself into distressing yet joyous opus into the mind of this man.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. He might actually win this. Gary Oldman is one of my absolute favourite actors ever. He always gives it 100% and it seems like this time is no different. I was wondering, what's your favourite Oldman performance, Louis?

RatedRStar said...

Gary Oldman looks more like a vampire in this than he did in Dracula lol.

RatedRStar said...

I know lots of people over here in England say that Daniel Day Lewis is Britains greatest actor but I don't no, maybe Oldman could beat him for that title

Lezlie said...

I love Oldman very much, but no, I would never rank him higher than Daniel Day-Lewis. I would even dare to say that DDL is the greatest actor currently working.

RatedRStar said...

maybe,, I think Oldman is more likable in general as a person, Day Lewis doesn't seem to have a personality at all lol I think his Oscar speeches verge on being a bit ass kisserish lol.

Lezlie said...

I don't think that's true, I believe he's just very modest and sophisticated. He's probably a little introverted too, but listening to/reading interviews with him doesn't suggest to me at all that he doesn't have a personality :D He also has a sense of humor which -based on some award ceremony reactions and interviews- not all actors do.
Alright I'll just stop my DDL-raving, you'll have to forgive me since he's prolly my favourite actor :)

RatedRStar said...

=D its fine lol hehe

I had a little day dream where the people that usually appear on this blog would be in like a superhero battle against their most hated actor on the blog like for example

Sage Slowdive against Johnny Depp
Louis Morgan against Sean Penn
RatedRStar against Joaquin Phoenix

Im trying to think who everyone else would be against like Michael, Koook160, MrRipley, Lezlie =D lol =D

RatedRStar said...

actually with Louis it could be anyone lol I would say Penn would be a good choice =D.

Lezlie said...

I don't know who could be my nemesis, I don't know who I hate intensely for their acting. If acting is not a factor, then I would gladly slay Mel Gibson.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@RatedRStar: There are few actors that I have real biases against. Even when there's ones I have major reservations about (Sean Penn, Russell Crowe), they at least have given performance that even I admit are great (Milk for Penn, Crowe in The Insider). Hell, even when I think there's an actor of little-to-no talent like Hayden Christensen or Keanu Reeves, they'll pull out something like Shattered Glass or A Scanner Darkly to prove that even they aren't completely terrible.

The only actor I can say is truly bad is also completely irrelevant. Seriously, does anyone even know who Billy Zane is anymore? No? Good, let's keep it that way.

Michael Patison said...

Same as koook. I more have reservations about some people. I think Clooney underutilizes his talent, though I disagree with pretty much everyone here and think he was great in the wonderful Up in the Air. I also hope he's great in Monument's Men this year as the book itself was written by an alum of my high school. Tom Cruise who's voice I can't stand but whose performances in Magnolia and Jerry Maguire almost resolve the issue altogether. Honestly I haven't seen enough movies to truly be able to hate any one actor.

I do have a favorite actor and actress though. I'm jumping on Lezlie's bandwagon here and choosing DDL. He's just so good in everything, even things that were terrible (he wasn't amazing in Nine but he was quite a bit better than the film itself). His speeches aren't ass-kissing in any way. They're incredibly heartfelt and emotionally inspiring for me. How can you ass-kiss to your wife? Also Bette Davis is my favorite actress. That will never change.

Michael Patison said...

Yes I know who Billy Zane though I only just found out I did. He's dreadful

RatedRStar said...

ok =D, surely everyone can agree that Joaquin Phoenix comes across as an ass in interviews lol, just saying =D.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Hard to say about Oldman as I love a many of his performances, but I guess at the moment I'll say Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

RatedRStar: I suppose Oldman does look a bit like a vampire here. It probably doesn't help that the title sounds like a vampire movie.

As for Oldman and Day-Lewis I would say they are on a very even keel for me. The major difference is that Day-Lewis is so selective so its rare that he would be an awful film, but Oldman can be in some very terrible films even in the same year that he is in a great one due to the frequency that he works. Like how he was in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Red Riding Hood in 2011. I would say off screen Day-Lewis comes off just fine, although Oldman is particularly likable in interviews.

Anonymous said...

This is an odd request but would you be open to reviewing performances in TV movies? Or at least including them in the overall ranks? I think that would be interesting.

Louis Morgan said...

I suppose I am not completely opposed to the idea of reviewing a performance from a TV movie, but I would not want to include them in my overall rank as I think its best just to keep things only to theatrically released films.

Anonymous said...

That makes sense.

Michael Patison said...

I'd been wondering the same thing every so often actually. I'd be interested on knowing your opinion of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra when/if you have the chance to see it.

Louis Morgan said...

I've been meaning to watch that, I just haven't gotten around to it.