Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1972: Max von Sydow in The New Land

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Karl-Oskar Nilsson in The New Land.

The New Land is a very eloquently straight forward film depicting the lives of Swedish Immigrants settlers in America.

Max von Sydow leaves his roots of the existential angst filled world of Bergman for a much simpler world, although certainly no less grim technically speaking. Max von Sydow's performance is quite unassuming in nature as Karl-Oskar is a very unassuming man. The film opens as he and his family move into the new land that he purchased out in American west. von Sydow's performance early on is that of an uncontrollable enthusiasm. There is such a genuine joy in von Sydow's expression as he sees the place that he will call home. In every one of these moments as he looks over every piece of this life of his von Sydow's creates such a palatable optimism in the man as he boasts what he will make out of the untamed land. von Sydow shows a man who has the thrill of a man who is genuinely beginning the living of his dream, and in these early scenes von Sydow kinda personifies the American dream through his depiction of Karl-Oskar's view of what the New Land means to him. Of course a dream can only be so long before reality must set in.

The reality setting in is not necessarily a bad thing, well at least not at first. von Sydow though does well to just naturally portray the enthusiasm in Karl-Oskar slowly diminishes over time. It is not as though Karl-Oskar even has to suffer serious hardship at first rather von Sydow nicely shows just falling into a basic comfort with the land therefore technically speaking making the experience less special. von Sydow's performance becomes no less special though because of how consistently authentic his performance feels as he begins to just simply show Karl-Oskar relax in his surroundings. The film then proceeds to mostly depict just the day to day lives of Karl-Oskar and his immediate family. von Sydow thrives well within in the relatively simplistic story he lies in for awhile. There is something wonderful in the way von Sydow depicts Karl-Oskar manner in life. He is quietly compelling here as he always keeps Karl-Oskar alive as a man, he's not simply just there to be viewed doing various takes. There is always a personality and a life being lived because of von Sydow's very effective performance of Karl-Oskar as an average man though not a forgettable one.

von Sydow is particularly good in realizing the relationships of Karl-Oskar in a humble though very honest feeling fashion. There are just the well handled slight moments such as the certain awkwardness in Karl-Oskar when he deals with the local shopkeeper and has to deal with the language barrier, or just the moments where he basically just shoots the breeze with the other Swedish settlers, von Sydow just beautifully depicts another facet of Karl-Oskar lives. A more substantial relationship though is found between Karl-Oskar and his younger brother Robert (Eddie Axberg). von Sydow's is quite good as he establishes the difficult dynamic between the two. He shows Karl-Oskar as almost trying to lord over his brother constantly as though he is his father and that Robert should just listen to everything he says. von Sydow does well to not really bring any warmth in this respect needed to be a father figure which he's not because he's his brother not his father. von Sydow finds a certain harshness in his manner towards him finding that Karl-Oskar is almost too quick to judgment since he trying to be a father than really being one.

Then of course there is his most important relationship which is with his wife Kristina (Liv Ullmann). It's an interesting relationship between the two because they really don't have many overtly romantic moments between one another. Technically their relationship is one of few words, but that does not mean it is a cold one. von Sydow and Ullmann have any absolutely flawless chemistry with one another. They manage to create the love between the two so it is always felt even though it is not truly often stated. Their interactions with one another though suggests a certain comfort in one another and the question of whether they love one another never must be asked, it is simply the truth from the performances from both of the actors. There is a sweetness and warmth that is so delicately earned that it is something to behold all on its own. von Sydow is outstanding in creating that underlying sense of tenderness that Karl-Oskar quietly exudes towards in his interactions to her particularly whenever she may be in distress. They find the relationship of two people who have loved each other for so long that it seems as though it will always be that way.

As the film progresses von Sydow is especially effective in depicting the continuing aging in Karl-Oskar and how he changes with his changing life as well as the changing landscape around him. von Sydow's transition is a marvel to behold as such a subtle and so honest feeling portrayal of a man going through life. von Sydow articulates every moment of the life in such a wonderful way whether it be one of considerable happiness, or sadness or all that lies between von Sydow makes it genuine. This makes Karl-Oskar's perhaps worst moment particularly powerful. That being when his wife is slowly dying because of internal problems brought upon by too many pregnancies, and despite warnings that another will be her death she indeed becomes pregnant once more. The final scene between von Sydow and Ullmann is absolutely heartbreaking as the two still keep within the nature of their characters yet find such poignancy in the final moment they share together. von Sydow is incredibly moving as he realizes just how devastating the loss is Karl-Oskar, as even in the few scenes afterwards he portrays Karl-Oskar as a man who will no longer be the same without his devoted wife by his side. I loved every face of Max von Sydow's work as he achieves greatness within what seems like such simplicity.

33 comments:

Deiner said...

Great review Louis. Can you give your thoughts and rating of Liv Ullmann as well.

Deiner said...

By the way, can you also give your thoughts and rating of Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love

Michael McCarthy said...

1. Klaus Kinski
2. Max von Sydow
3. Robert Redford
4. Jon Voight
5. Burt Reynolds

I hope Ullman's also a 5, I actually thought she was even stronger than von Sydow.

Anonymous said...

I just recently discovered that this is a sequel to The Emigrants. Have you seen that one and, if so, what are your ratings and thoughts on Von Sydow and Ullmann? Also, can I ask you what are your thoughts and ratings on Rita Moreno in The King and I?

John Smith said...

It gives me joy knowing how that you really like this performance, do you consider this to be Sydow's best?If you like him here you should se him in the prequel of this film The Emigrants.

Also your toughts and ratings on Eddie Axberg in the film and do you think this movie should have won the oscar for best foreign film and you own toughts on the film itself?

Thanks in advance Louis (:

luke higham said...

Louis: I'm glad, that you loved his performance, I'm generally a lot happier when a foreign language performance gets a 5 from you than an English language performance. Another good thing about your review, is that we may get a full 5 for 1971 Lead in the bonus rounds, with Sydow in The Emigrants alongside Oliver Reed in The Devils, Jon Finch in Macbeth, Al Pacino in The Panic In Needle Park and Gian Maria Volonte in The Working Class Goes To Heaven.

John Smith said...

Im also happy, especially since im born in Sweden (:

Eddie Axberg should be reviewed in the bonus rounds to and i hope that you review Sydow again in The Emigrants (:

luke higham said...

John Smith: Is Axberg Lead Or Supporting, If the latter, he could be reviewed for the alternate lineup soon after this.

GM said...

Luke: I wouldn't disconsider Seymour Cassel in Minnie and Moskowitz, he's terrific.

Kevin said...

1. Kinski
2. Von Sydow
3. Redford
4. Voight
5. Reynolds

And I have finally decided upon my winning request, it will be a review for Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus for the 2011 Best Actor bonus round

John Smith said...

I think he is supporting in The New Land and The Emigrants even tough he has alot of screentime. In many ways all actors get moments to shine in both flm so it is hard to decide if it might be an ensemble film...

luke higham said...

Kevin: Thanks for requesting Fiennes.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

God, so many great underseen performances from 2011, and people request Gyllenhaal and Fiennes? I can't even fathom that.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: I'm planning to request Mullan & Smiley, You do what you have to do, to get 5/6 reviews up to 10 for 2011 Lead.

luke higham said...

1. Kinski
2. Sydow
3. Redford
4. Voight
5. Reynolds

luke higham said...

Louis: Can I have your ratings & thoughts on the cast of The New Land, as well as your thoughts on Miranda Richardson in The Crying Game, Emily Watson in Punch-Drunk Love, Uma Thurman in Les Miserables & Dangerous Liaisons and Cate Blanchett in Bandits.

John Smith said...

For 2011 Louis should review Patton Oswalt amazing performance in Young Adult

luke higham said...

GM: I have no problem with Cassel being reviewed, It's Sydow, Reed and Finch, that I want the most.

Louis Morgan said...

Deiner:

Thanks.

Ullman - 5(I loved her performance as well perhaps even more so than von Sydow. Ullman's work is also a seemingly effortless so natural feeling realization of her character. Her work is just lovely in also just so well finding in Kristina's own way in which she changes and adapts to life in the new land. She's especially great in the scene where Kristina attempts to mediate between the brothers. She exudes a certain grace and kindness in such a honest way. This make it particularly harrowing in her equally genuine feeling portrayal of her character's mental and physical degradation later in the film.)

Cheung - 4(Essentially I felt just about the same about her as I did Leung)

Anonymous:

I have not watched the first film.

Moreno - 2.5(I think she managed to be a little less awkward than some of the actors playing the natives in the film, but not to any extraordinary degree. I did not mind her performance, but I think there was potential for more given her's character's arc.)

John Smith:

This may be my favorite of his. I'll save my thoughts on Axberg for the moment. I have not seen all the nominees but I did prefer this film over The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. As I wrote in the review I like just how eloquently it told the simple story which remained compelling throughout. The film is very interesting in that it captures a certain hopefulness yet does not stay away from brutally depicting the horror that can also come from reality (I'd say this film actually has one of the most disturbing images found in a fictional film). It is very remarkable in the way it captures the emotion of the story in such a palatable fashion, and manages to create the whole environment of the west while still giving the needed focus to the lives of the individual characters.

Luke:

Richardson - (An interesting counterpoint to Jaye Davidson's performance as Davidson's character is not as they seem though truthful emotionally, yet Richardson presents someone who obviously is who she is, but there is nothing truthful about what she says. Richardson is effectively devious in presenting the seductive qualities of her character with a venomous edge reflecting her real nature)

Watson - (She technically is that quirky female romantic character set for a romantic comedy though done in a far less obvious or potentially obnoxious fashion. Watson has a quiet charm about herself, while still having something slightly off about her that she works naturally into her characterization. Most importantly for such a film though is her chemistry with Sandler is actually quite good making an off-beat though memorable couple0

Thurman - Les Miserables - (Easily the most emotionally resonate performance in that version of the story, and I'd say the only part that really seems to quite get the character. Thurman is appropriately moving as Fantine though and most importantly has a certain earnestness within the suffering rather just being a one note character)

Dangerous Liaisons - (She quite nicely goes from just the lovely young maiden, to being particularly effective in the scene where she is mentally twisted by Malkovich. It's rather sudden change but she's also quite good at being the corrupted version of her character as well)

Blanchett - (As a film I find Bandits suffers from Bruce Willis doing "I'm too cool" style of performance which I never care for. I found Blanchett though consistently entertaining though in portraying such a lovable depiction of someone obviously suffering from a bit of Stockholm syndrome)

luke higham said...

I have a question for everyone, whenever, Louis finishes the alternates, as well as the bonus rounds over the next 3-4 years, Which actress do you think will have the most 5s from Louis overall, plus the amount of 5s, you think she may have. I thought about Sissy Spacek with 5 for awhile, but at this moment in time, I think its going to be Liv Ullmann with 6.

Anonymous said...

Who is your pick for 1972 Lead Actress? Ullmann or Minnelli?

Anonymous said...

Louis can I ask what that disturbing image was?

Louis Morgan said...

Ullmann.

The image is that of an almost fully formed fetus that's been speared through a pike.

luke higham said...

Louis: Is Minnelli sill a 5.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Yes.

luke higham said...

Louis: What's your rating for Leung in In The Mood For Love.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Oh Dear lol =D.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I know what you're alluding to and I'm not going to talk about it, We were shit tonight and that's the fucking end to it.

John Smith said...

Definetely Ullmann she has given several great performances... Persona, Scenes From A Marriage, The Silence, Cries And Whispers, Face To Face, The Emigrants and The New Land

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Changing my predictions:

1. Kinski
2. Sydow
3. Redford (have finally watched the Candidate and regardless of what Louis thinks I think he's miles ahead of Voight and Reynolds)
4. Voight
5. Reynolds

Also, Louis, and anyone else, who are some actors who've never done Shakespeare onscreen, whom you'd have liked/would like to see them try, for me it'd be Sidney Poitier as Othello, Christoph Waltz as Titus Andronicus, Tom Courtenay as Hamlet.

Matt Mustin said...

Sidney Poitier would be an amazing Othello.

luke higham said...

I'll go with actors that are currently active.
Richard II - Eddie Redmayne
Richard III - Gary Oldman
Henry VIII - Damian Lewis
Hamlet - Tom Hardy
Romeo - Tom Holland
King Lear - John Hurt

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: 4