Friday, 2 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1968: Max von Sydow in Shame

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jan Rosenberg in Shame.

Shame is an excellent film that follows a couple through a war torn country.

The film follows Max von Sydow as Jan with his wife Eva naturally played by Liv Ullmann. The two seemed as though they specialized in playing married couples in a few years also doing so in Ingmar Bergman's other film from 1968 Hour of the Wolf, and later on in The Emigrants and its sequel The New Land. The reason for this seems rather obvious when watching the two together as they have such an authentic chemistry with one another. A chemistry that quite honestly covers whatever part of a married relationship they may need to be in. This is particularly essential in Shame since the two almost share all their scenes together and their relationship is rather symbiotic here. The film actually begins in an unassuming enough fashion as the two just go about what seems a normal day though in the normal day we do see what makes them who they are as a married couple. von Sydow and Ullmann have that ease in each other presence that offers the years together. The two though are equally effective though in sort of portraying the same ease in conflict as when they fight over their past difficulties that too feels so natural and so a part of what they've done to each other over the years such as Jan's infidelities in the past. The two though so elegantly create that rich history as they never define the relationship only on a single facet of their lives.

Their convincing portrayal of the married couple is essential to the film as the two together lead us through their experience through the war, which is depicted here in a unique fashion. The war never exactly happens, we see the military uniforms, the trucks, but it seems almost in the background until the other army begins to show up. This happens without warning with Jan and Eva finding themselves in the middle of it all. The two of them are excellent together in portraying the needed visceral intensity of the moments really as the film takes such a barrage of them which von Sydow and Ullmann have to stay with. Both actors capture the rapid fire confusion in the moment as they reveal the struggle just to keep up what is happening, portraying actually the fear with the lack of comprehension reinforcing the dire nature of the situation. One particularly effective moment in this is when they are suddenly approached by a propaganda crew for a interview and von Sydow and Ullman convey the complete loss of sense in their eyes and delivery as the barely know what is going on. Both are terrific in how natural they in revealing how unnatural the situation is. They are both just two normal people there not soldiers.

I love their physical performances in these scenes as the two of them show so well the two grip one another attempting to hold onto to each other for any source of solace and in the most harrowing moments reveal a particular striking connection than was not nearly evident during peacetime, hidden usually by their various squabbles. The two do not cheat the idea or show that this in anyway truly improves their relationship by any measure. What they instead show is the way the two basically come closer together the more dire the situation given that in their embrace the two show them searching for any comfort in the arms of each other. The two though reveal the desperation in this in that they do not always reveal any success in this act, only the attempt for it and to hold onto something throughout their trials. Again what is so remarkable about this is just how natural the two are together and make every scene have all the greater impact due to that. They pull the viewer right into their struggle as there never feels a hint of acting within either of their performances that offers such a strict authenticity in every scene. The create the needed focal point within every new purposefully random thing that comes from the war.

Now where their performances separate most strongly is within the portrayal of how each of them are changed as individuals through their experiences. von Sydow so effectively keeps Jan an average man in his situation, an average man who isn't quite a coward but also just wants to survive. There is nothing early on duplicitous in this whatsoever through the  genuine fear and confusion he portrays that almost overwhelms the man. This changes though when they are offered some reprieve by an official of one of their armies unfortunately the official requires sexual favors in return. von Sydow is heartbreaking in his depiction of the moment where the implications of this seem to finally dawn on him. The object grief he reveals is palatable as he so quietly just brings to life such earnest devastation in the man. A devastation that is not alleviated by Eva's cold reaction to his sorrow. This soon leads to the other army gaining favor again where they encourage Jan to execute the official. von Sydow is brilliant in the scene as his performances captures such an awkwardness in the moment of a sort of vengeance. He shows the anger within it but also the hesitations of a man who is not a killer. There is something so broken in his performance that fits so well to the average man doing something he should never had to do. The change to the harder man is not a simple transition but rather von Sydow makes it a horrible mess as it should be for a man like Jan. It seems he kills again and von Sydow makes sense of that because of this approach. von Sydow reveals a man on a edge that he barely even understands revealing just this impulsive reactions from moment to moment presenting someone trying to find a way past his breaking point. When Jan in finding his "escape" even suggests Eva need not come, von Sydow makes the brutality in the statement honest by showing it to come from the detached state for survival Jan has fallen into. von Sydow shows the narrow view of the man just looking for any way to depart from his troubles. Their return as a couple at the end is muted and haunting moment as Ullmann and von Sydow leave on the two with each other but lost in the turmoil of their experiences.

21 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Same for Hour of The Wolf.

Charles Heiston said...

I'd give him an easy 5. I love this film and his performance. My #4 in a strong year.

94dfk1 said...

Just watched Wonder Woman. A solid step in the right direction for D.C. I really liked the cinematography and set design but the third act is, once-again, a hodgepodge of special effects. Nice action scenes. Weaves in a coming-of-age story of Wonder Woman gracefully.

Gadot-4
Pine-4 (He looks too modern to fully convince as a World War I pilot but eventually I warmed up to it.)
Wright-3
Huston-2.5
Thewlis-3.5
Nielsen-3.5
Candy-3
Anaya-3.5
Bremner and Taghmaoui- 3




Robert MacFarlane said...

I'd actually go 4.5 for Pine. Then again I've always liked him.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography of In Cold Blood and Bonnie and Clyde.

Calvin Law said...

London is in complete disorder now, prayers with all affected by the London Bridge incidents.

Luke Higham said...

My prayers are with the victim/s and the injured.

Anonymous said...

This world is so evil that sometimes I just think offing myself would be better, why is that the 2010s have been shitter than any other decade?

Charles Heiston said...

England can't catch a break. Talk about shame...

Luke Higham said...

Westminster Bridge, Manchester and now this, Britain haven't had it this bad since the Troubles.

Luke Higham said...

Though 7/7 was awful too.

Anonymous said...

Seems like the world can't catch a break. My heart goes to all Londoners.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could I have your thoughts on Jaime's confession scene from Game Of Thrones.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside in Starship Troopers.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

What's happening in London is absolutely dreadful, I can't possibly imagine what it must feel like to be there right now. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 10 Peter Dinklage acting moments.

Luke Higham said...

Gilliam has finally finished The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

Calvin Law said...

I saw A Ghost Story. Has some lovely moments, but a bit aimless. Not really an actor's film but Affleck and Mara are both decent.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Ullmann - 5(Again all that was mentioned in von Sydow's review holds true for her but amplified all the more. Ullmann just seems incapable of a false note which makes her performance so very harrowing here in her own depiction of the woman dealing with the world falling down around her. She reveal the emotional desperation but is also heartbreaking in portraying the compromises of her character in such a natural way. That cold moment where she encourages von Sydow's Jan to cry is so powerful because Ullmann shows it to be the natural state the world has left her in. Ullmann's work is incredible throughout as she so embodies this normalcy without feeling vague or distant for a moment. She makes it feel all so real right until her final speech which is so beautifully and poignantly delivered by her. An amazing performance as usual.)

Bjornstrand - 4(He's a terrific unassuming creep. In that he presents such a nice charming persona yet within that he shows this quiet lust in his person and realizes so effectively the temptation that seems to come from his power. Even when he is just making small talk with them Bjornstrand conveys the way Jacobi is placing the ideas in his mind to take advantage of his position and even in the way he says his niceties he places an well hidden sleaze yet a sleaze nonetheless.)

von Sydow - 4(This film very much belonged to Bergman, even more so than usual I'd say. von Sydow in particular is but a part of many scenes though a pivotal aspect in all of them. Once again his chemistry with Ullmann is great though here it is effectively distant as they once again show a completely different type of married couple here. von Sydow does well otherwise to portray the painful underlying unease that slowly grows to such a powerful horror by the end of the film.)

Louis Morgan said...


Ullmann - 4.5(Once again terrific as usual and here her performance is rather limited in terms of not really getting to be part of the main plot. She inhabits more of the reality against the slowly encroaching surreal horror. Ullmann though is great in revealing and almost personifying von Sydow's character only attachment beyond the horror he will be facing. Her own performance is such a honest work in offering the indirect horror in a way in terms of portraying her character's difficulty accepting and understanding what it is that haunts her husband.)

Thulin - 4(A very effective purely visceral performance by her as she on the other hand is basically the personification of the surreal horror in that she offers both an allure and something so chilling in the demonic edge that he eventually revealed.)

It's a brilliant scene in that it so essentially redefines a character for us. I love its simplicity actually in that it just focuses on the performance and Coster-Waldau delivers in revealing who Jamie's really is deep down in such a natural powerful fashion.

Anonymous:

In Cold Blood cinematography is one of the best shot films of all time, and perhaps the greatest shot black and white film. It is a beautiful looking film that is so filled with such atmosphere that so effectively amplifies every frame, Hall essentially never wastes a shot in terms of the sheer perfection of the lighting and composition. The contrast are so dynamic yet never feel gimmicky entering us instead into the cold world the men inhabit. The use of light in the murder scene is particularly haunting, and the tears of light are unforgettable.

Bonnie and Clyde is of the lesser two winners but that's not saying much. It is a well shot film to be sure though still offering almost this nostalgic calming quality that is striking against the violence it depicts. It's very low key but effective work in essentially amplifying the idea of the time, place and people rather than darkness of the world. It's an interesting take that actually works very well for the film.

Anonymous:

It's been a long time since I've seen the film though but as I recall Ironside, as usual, brought the sheer gravitas to the role offering the right striking presence that dominated his scenes completely. Brown on the other hand I recalled being pretty good in being the drill sergeant type but offering actually a bit of welcome humanity within the type.

Tahmeed:

All from Game of Thrones

1. Tyrion's Second Trial
2. Oberyn's story
3. Rallying the troops in Blackwater
4. Story of his wife
5. Final meeting with Tywin
6. Tyrion's First Trial
7. Reaction to the Mountain and the Viper
8. Tyrion attempting to comfort Cersei
9. Negotiating with the tribesman
10. Bronn turning down his offer