Saturday, 6 September 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2004: Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside

Javier Bardem did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Ramon Sampedro in The Sea Inside.

The Sea Inside tells the story of the Ramon Sampedro a quadriplegic from an accident who fought to allow himself to be euthanized. It's an effective film even though I do feel some scenes are a bit too telegraphed, and although a film does not have to be even handed it should avoid have straw men at all costs, which unfortunately this film does not adhere to entirely. 

I have not been overly positive about some of more "sensitive" performances by Javier Bardem despite praising his villainous turns in No Country For Old Men, and Skyfall. Bardem once again plays a "sensitive" sort of role to so to speak although thankfully I had a much different reaction than the other leading performances of his that I have reviewed. Bardem once again plays a man who you might describe as constantly downbeat, considering the fact that he wishes to die, but Bardem in this case approaches the role in a lot less of a dour fashion. Bardem technically is rather restricted here in his performance in that he plays a quadriplegic therefore Bardem only really has his face at his disposal everything else remains dormant for almost the entirety of the film. The only scenes where we see Bardem move is a brief flashback that details the injury which is very much to the point and does not allow Bardem to explore the younger Ramon. There are also a few fantasy sequences where Ramon dreams of moving and basically flying with the physical freedom he once had, but again these sequences are very simple.

The rest is just Bardem in a bed, and that's all he really needs to make Ramon a compelling character. Although I might argue that the film perhaps attempts to make Ramon out to be something more than he was, but thankfully Bardem always undercuts this with his portrayal of Ramon. When we first meet him we are introduced directly to the way that Ramon deals with things from a day to day which Bardem shows with a smile. He often reacts to most things in a slightly positive way, and it is interesting how Bardem handles this. It might seem that Ramon might not want to kill himself if he seems happy, but Bardem makes this manner in Ramon completely believable. His smile is not one of great happiness, although there are moments where he definitely is completely genuine, instead Bardem plays it as though Ramon is often almost laughing constantly at his predicament, as if the injury is a joke by fate. Bardem seems to suggest Ramon has basically created this as his way of dealing with this life he hates for such a long time, and is quite effective in suggesting how over time Ramon has developed this mechanism of making life tolerable.

Bardem is immensely charismatic in the role and it is fascinating how much he can do with just his face. Bardem honestly never wastes an expression as he keeps Ramon a constantly intriguing figure no matter what despite the fact that we never see Bardem leave his bed. The charm Bardem brings is something he really gets across especially well. The way so many seem to love and look up to him, despite the nature of his goal, is made utterly convincing by Bardem's work. Even if Ramon may even be repeating some of the same exact statements about wanting to have his own freedom to do as he so chooses Bardem always makes them have a certain power to them. There is never a scene where Bardem fails to carry it despite his confinement to a bed at all times. When there is moment of remembrance of the good in his love that he loved so dearly there is such poignancy in Bardem as he expresses the dreams of man solely through his face.

What I really like about Bardem performance though is that he does not make Ramon some sort of otherworldly figure as if he was more of a concept of beliefs rather a person. No Bardem is excellent in always showing the man who holds these thoughts. In the scenes where someone goes to question Ramon about his wish to die, usually stating that either life just has too many things worth living, or there are too many who love him, or that other people with the same condition don't view things the way he does. Ramon quiets all of them sometimes by simply restating his case as merely his own, or if they persist he may in fact show a less positive side to the man as he often attacks the ones who continue to question his own logic. Bardem is great in these scenes because he uses them to show that to a certain degree the charm and that smile are a facade. In these moments he shows the intense bitterness in the man as he basically is forced to think about his personal loss, and in this moments Bardem is terrific because he very forcefully expresses the despair that is underneath all of his charm.

Due to my rather extreme reactions to the performances of Bardem's that I have reviewed so far I was not sure what to expect with this performance. It is safe to say though that Bardem won me over completely with his exceptional performance here this time. Where I thought Bardem focused far too heavily on stressing single emotions in the other performances of his that I have reviewed and he never seeming to really drive into realizing the character fully as an individual. Here Bardem realizes a far more complex and compelling character despite only having his head and face at his disposal. There were many traps in the ways Ramon could have been portrayed as he very well could have been one note of passionate resolve, depression, or too heavily focused on being charming, but instead Bardem is successful in realizing all the various emotions Ramon is going through in his situation. There is a striking sadness in Bardem's portrayal of he man beneath it all, but still he creates an inspirational performance still by at the same time showing the man's love of life as well. It seems a strange thing to have a suicidal man who loved to live, but Bardem achieves the strange dynamic of this with his beautifully realized performance.  

16 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Well. I can honestly say I wasn't expecting this.

Michael McCarthy said...

Huh, interesting. The fact that Carrey's the last review kinda worries me though...

Matt Mustin said...

He's the last review because he's the most anticipated, I think.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Eh, wasn't that big on this performance. It doesn't help the film is a glorified Lifetime movie. I always felt a weird disconnect with his performance that I could never quite put my finger on.

moviefilm said...

I liked him a lot and I thought you WOULD like him, just not as much, as you actually did. This must have screwed everyone's predictions. LOL

luke higham said...

Well.... as long as you gave Ganz a 5, I'm happy enough with my prediction being wrong.

Lezlie said...

Wow. This was the first performance I requested here on your blog, because I wanted to make sure you review him. At first I was a bit worried about how you might react to him, but I'm very glad that just like in the case of Sean Bean's Boromir, we once again share the same feelings towards a great performance. Thank you for your great review.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Although Carrey's last to be reviewed, I highly fucking doubt he's going to be the least liked out of the 5, despite some other years, where Louis reviewed the least interesting performance on the line-up last.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Again, if Carrey doesn't get a 5, I'm going to cry harder than the end of 12 Years a Slave.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I actually liked the performance but this did NOT deserve to win Best Foreign Language Film over Downfall, in my opinion.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Myself & the general consensus agree with you 100%.

Louis: Did You prefer this or Downfall.

Louis Morgan said...

I preferred Downfall as a film.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Top Fifteen Television Productions, (Series, Mini-Series or TV Film.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Ali McGraw in Love Story?

Psifonian said...

*nods approvingly*

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I knew it, this was Psifonian's doing. How much did you pay him?