Thursday, 1 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 2002: Ralph Fiennes in Spider

Ralph Fiennes did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dennis "Spider" Cleg in Spider.

Spider is an interesting psychological thriller about a mentally disturbed man who relives his worst memories after he has been released from a mental institute and moved into a halfway house.

Ralph Fiennes plays the role of the very troubled man. This is the sort of role that stays on a specific note as he portrays man whose mental derangement makes it so he can barely function. These sort of roles, which Oscar often loves, usually are time for some very obvious acting Fiennes puts most of those performances to shame as there is nothing theatrical about his performance here. He creates him as a man constantly hunched over, always troubled, and barely able to speak beyond some random garbled words. Fiennes creates Cleg as a man whose recovery is not something that will happen soon if ever as he has been troubled for so long.

Fiennes although plays the type of part that is often described as showy this is a very withdrawn work actually for two reasons. One reason is that Fiennes develops all the mannerisms of Cleg's mental state in a natural fashion that makes him an appropriately withdrawn figure fitting for his character who has been closed off for his entire life. The other reason though comes in that this is an almost silent performance by Ralph Fiennes. Throughout the film particularly in the scenes where Cleg watches his childhood memories play out which are the majority of the film actually. At most he will just say a word or two and even then the words are quiet and rather quick.

Fiennes even though he is mostly silent Fiennes is very effective in all of the scenes as he watches the memories play out. Even though he technically is the observer of the scenes for the most part, but despite his placement in these scenes he never is overshadowed by them. Fiennes brings a certain poignancy and power to all of the memories as we see how Cleg feels about the memories. They do not bring just one emotion to his mind but instead they flood into him as their are moments of confusion, of hatred, of intense sadness, and even just a little bit of happiness. We see how the scenes play out, but Fiennes adds the extra layer by expressing exactly what each moment means to Cleg, and how it lead to his current mental state.

Fiennes role technically is fairly consistent in that he will not be changing his behavior all that much. Fiennes does allow for a minute change as the disturbed Cleg moves back to his full derangement. It is obvious that Cleg did not have far to go so the transition is not the longest nevertheless Fiennes handles it admirably. In each of the memories there is something that moves Cleg further toward his more violent insanity, it is kept very subtle by Fiennes and he never overplays or underplays the change. Fiennes brings Cleg back to original state all still within the jumble of the man that Cleg is anyway, it is difficult to show such small changes especially in this type of man yet Fiennes pulls it off incredibly well.

I have to say not knowing much about this film before watching it this work was rather surprising to see such a character lead the film, but also lead in such an unassuming fashion that seems to stress his observances far more than his actions. It is very compelling work by Ralph Fiennes who manages to make an impact through the meek position his character holds within the film, and even with the character who is very much in a world of his own. It is refreshing to see such a character without any sentiment as character's with mental disability are almost made out to be cute sometimes like Sean Penn in I Am Sam for example. Fiennes doesn't compromise giving an unusual and searing performance.

7 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

Darn, only 4.5, there goes my predictions for this one :/

Psifonian said...

He is quite exceptional, but I do feel his performance is hindered by the film around him, much in the way Williams was. I do think it's a better film than "One Hour Photo," but also one that felt much more convoluted than necessary. "Spider" gets in its own way a lot. Miranda Richardson is my Supporting Actress win, though.

So far, my predictions aren't too far off the mark. :)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I won't lie, this movie lost me at the 20 minute mark and I stopped watching. I guess I have to give it a second shot.

Psifonian said...

Robert, it is definitely worth the watch, but it's also a film that works best if you're in the mood to watch it. It's a film that requires the audience to actively follow it.

RatedRStar said...

I think its worth watching simply because of Fiennes who is extremely skilful not to play the character as charming and sweet.

Im I the only one who gets annoyed when people just call him Voldemort as if that's his best performance.

Psifonian said...

I've never heard anyone call him "Voldemort." I get a bit annoyed when people call his "Schindler's List" performance the best supporting actor turn of all time, though, when it isn't even the best of 1993.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Psifonian: Yeah, I was expecting something more like Cronenberg in the 80's I guess.