Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1961: Dirk Bogarde in Victim

Dirk Bogarde did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Bafta, for portraying Melville Farr in Victim.

Victim is a decent enough film about a English barrister who attempts to find someone who has been blackmailing homosexuals by threatening to out them at a time when it was illegal.

Victim is a notable film from this time as it deals with the issue of homosexuality going so far as to even saying the word and even has some homosexual characters who, although do not want to be outed due to the law against them, are obviously very comfortable with their lifestyle. Dirk Bogarde plays the lead role of the barrister Melville who follows the case after an acquaintance of his commits suicide after stealing money to pay for the blackmailing. Although Melville Farr is a lawyer this is not a simple case of him just wanting to find justice for a friend, and as the film proceeds it becomes fairly obvious that Farr and the man were not merely acquaintances. Farr tries to go about the case as some sort of outside observer but it soon becomes clear that, despite that he is married, Farr himself is a closeted homosexual as well.

It is interesting that Dirk Bogarde took on such a role since he himself was apparently a closeted homosexual in real life. There are many gay characters in the film but you won't find a single one of them playing the character with any obvious mannerisms to suggest this, Bogarde included. Instead most of the performances, Bogarde's included, are very withdrawn performances emotionally speaking. Melville Farr is a repressed man and that can be seen through Bogarde's performance. There is always a certain intensity that Bogarde carries himself with and suggests the secret of Farr in subtle and effective fashion before we even learn the truth from the story. Bogarde creates the right tension within Melville Farr that simply is a part of him due to his life where he is constantly hiding a part of himself, a part that is being prodded by these blackmailers.

The film is much more of a procedural than I really expected it to be as Farr goes from one closeted man to the next in an attempt to try and find who caused the death of his old lover. Bogarde is completely fine in the more standard moments as Farr investigates because even this Bogarde brings a certain subtext. In these scenes Bogarde suggests a visible efforts from Farr to try to act as though the case is a distant thought for him, while still suggesting that underlying tension in the man over his very direct connection with this problem. As it proceeds though Farr is not able to stay distant forever as some of the men he interviews seem to notice his interest is far more than that of the observer and his wife as well seems notice that perhaps his old tendencies never truly went away.

Bogarde shows Melville Farr as a man who is not happy to be gay as found in his violent outbursts at the other closeted men when they confront him. Bogarde does not make this simplistic though as shown in the scene where Farr's wife confronts him. Bogarde portrays incredibly well the extreme conflict in the man as when Farr reveals the truth about himself Bogarde suggests the desire in the man quite strong yet all covered with a self-hate. This could be seen as the film trying to get off easy, for the time, by making the man not want to be a homosexual. Bogarde thankfully does not play the part that way. He gives a greater depth by creating a fuller portrait of this sort of repression found in the man. Bogarde shows the want but also the hesitation making the confusion in the man fully realized.

This is a strong performance by Dirk Bogarde although I do wish the film had been structured differently. The whole blackmail procedural just never becomes that interesting, and is a pretty simple bad guys need to be stopped type of plot. The most fascinating aspect of the film is the exploration of the central character and Bogarde certainly does his best to bring the complexity needed for such a character. It is obvious though that there was far more to explore with the character than the film takes him simply since it pretty much gives favor to the plot over the character study. The film could have still kept the plot but it needed to work more closely with delving into Melville Farr's personal connection than it ends up doing. Nevertheless Bogarde still gives a rather remarkable performance that only seems to be held back by the limitations set upon him by the film itself.


RatedRStar said...

=D I think Victim is what I would call an important film, that needed to be made.

Deiner said...

Great review! By the way, did you like Monroe's performance in The Misfits?

Louis Morgan said...


I thought Monroe had the weakest character in the film as she just felt the least authentic, but I felt that was entirely due to the writing. I actually rather liked her performance as she did her best with the overbearing moments given to her character, yet had a real allure in his performance that I actually found far stronger than in her glamorous roles.