Montgomery Clift did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sigmund Freud in Freud.
Montgomery Clift gives his penultimate performance in a film here, and where his apparent damaged state often coincided with the nature of his characters after his accident, this is not exactly the case for Sigmund Freud, who is stable for the most part. Nevertheless Clift does seem right for the role, not that he wholly hides himself so to speak, but his work finds a way for these attributes to actually seem fitting to Freud's character in the film. Now Freud for the most part is a confident and healthy enough man who wishes to explore his own theories about illnesses that stem from the mind rather than the body, despite the scientific community giving little credence to these views, so the film is mainly about Freud's attempt to try to find the truth of the human mind through various test cases though the main focuses on a troubled young woman Cecily (Susannah York). Now Clift does not exactly try to reflect an exact copy of the real Freud, but his work instead tries to uncover the mind of such a man which seems rather fitting. Clift is able to position though Freud as a sort of soulful man in the way he interacts with his patients, even early on, and whenever he attempts to describe his beliefs.
Clift portrays very well this certain understated yet palatable passion in Freud to attempt to tap into whatever it is that exactly makes the mind work, as well what exactly the mind can reveal to discover past pains. Clift internalizes this incredibly well and in turn helps dial the film back a bit as Huston's direction sometimes does become a bit bombastic. Clift's performance often is reactionary and Clift never fails to make use of these reactions. Clift finds in Freud the right fascination as he brings this excitement in Freud at any given moment, particularly when it seems they might uncover something wholly new to the world in regards to the human psyche. This constant inquisitive nature of the man is very well realized by Clift's portrayal, but importantly Clift avoids making Freud become some sort of man who simply is interested in the suffering of others. Clift instead brings a powerful vein of empathy in his work as in his reactions there is not that distance of a scientist observing nature. Clift instead creates the sense of a man genuinely caring for these people's inner torments, and Clift helps amplify the intense emotions of any scene by showing Freud's own emotional exhaustion at delving into such dark places that are only found within the subconscious.
Although the film is called Freud, it rarely narrows in the man himself. There are a few scenes between him and his wife though they are only brief. To Clift's credit he is good in these scenes because he presents Freud in a less intense fashion, showing that the man is not always captured by his work. Oddly enough the more personal story almost seems to go to Freud's colleague played by Larry Parks. Freud's own psychological problem is found in the film through his troubled reaction to the death of his father. This element of the film is not deeply developed though, and even the conclusion is left on a quick silent note near the end of the film. Clift though is excellent in the brief scenes that cover this as he brings about such a haunting quality in his depiction that effectively represents Freud's own inner turmoil quite well. Even that quick final moment is actually a great moment for Clift because he does not simplify it as an easy fix, showing a bit of solace in Freud along with still a searing grief in reflecting on the relationship with his father once more. The majority of the film squarely keeps to Freud psychoanalyzing others, especially Cecily which the film uses as its dramatic climax as he seems to uncover exactly what troubles her so deeply. Clift makes this often passive act though so compelling to watch by making Freud's method never lose that personal connection in the moment, and in a way develops his technique by becoming specifically active in certain moments. This is a very strong performance by Clift as he artfully elevates the material while carefully avoiding its pitfalls. His portrait of Freud is an engaging one not through mannerisms or a form of imitation, but rather by finding the core that was the key to the emotional motivation of the man.