Thursday, 5 April 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2008: Johannes Krisch in Revanche

Johannes Krisch did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alex in Revanche.

Revanche is a great film that naturally is about what the title suggests however probably not in the way one would expect.

Johannes Krisch in the central role is the man we probably would assume will be seeking that titular vengeance though on the outset of the film we have no idea what it will be for, however one can begin to imagine what it could be rather quickly. Krisch projects a rough exterior of a man who has been through at least something, which is fitting as we later learn that Alex went to prison. Krisch's portrayal of this is actually just a small facet of the character that he purposefully portrays as something that in no way defines the man wholly, it is indeed just a minor facet. We see Alex in his life as working at brothel as a janitor where his girlfriend Tamara (Irina Potapenko) works as a prostitute. This would seem like the setup for perhaps a rather bleak existence, and while it's not great, it is not as terrible as the description might make it seem. The reason being due to his relationship with, hidden from Tamara's boss, between Alex and Tamara. Krisch and Potapenko have a terrific naturalistic chemistry with one another. There is such an abundance of genuine warmth in their interactions that only ever exude a love between the two. I love the way both actors make this such an essential part of this as in their interactions they bring this certain casual disarming quality much of the time that only reinforces the idea that these two people share a clear affection for each other and love spending time with one another.

Alex, even when not directing interacting with Tamara, Krisch does not play as an excessively desperate or problematic individual. It's an interesting and effective approach in that Krisch gives sort of a rather casual take on the role. In that he shows a man fairly comfortable within himself and even within his world for the most part. Krisch delivers this level of playfulness in Alex that does well to allude towards sort of his optimistic state as a man, even if his situation would seem problematic to most. Krisch holds this most strongly in regards to that central relationship, however even past that he establishes Alex as very comfortable with his life in a very strange way. A strange way that Krisch's vivid performance makes entirely convincing through that almost childish approach. Krisch reveals a man who almost treats the life as almost a game, however this is not in a callous way. Krisch instead shows it in terms of the perspective of Alex as essentially a child. This includes when he speaks of his intention to rob a bank, or even when he brandishes a gun in Tamara's face. This scene would typically be of some psychopath however Krisch's enthusiasm in his delivery not towards the threat but rather revealing there were never any bullets in the gun is closer to that of some little boy than a hardened criminal. His explanation of his intent even for the robbery itself Krisch brings this eagerness in the words more fitting to a dream rather than a crime.

Krisch's performance makes Alex not only convincing in terms of his attitude but manages to create this innate likability towards the character. He not only portrays the man with a lack of malice but also makes that lack of malice believable by so effectively realizing this certain naivety within the character. That is not to say though that the life of Alex is without problems. Krisch does provide a needed balance that underlies that, as his experience is far from ideal. We see this in a brief moment where visits his farmer grandfather in the countryside who disparages his wayward grandson. Krisch's reactions towards the man are brief in this moment but still maintain this state of Alex. Krisch expresses this by essentially portraying little to no reaction fitting to the man paying no mind in a way to his life by ignoring this disparagement of it. Of course even his relationship with Tamara has that major problem due to her profession exacerbated by her boss who is becoming increasingly possessive potentially even purposefully having customers harass her. Alex intervenes in those moments, and does try to comfort her through these times. In these moments though Krisch is great as exudes only the most genuine warmth in just only further supporting their relationship as well as encouraging their dream running away together through the bank robbery.

The actual bank robbery is far from that of a typical heist picture, as Alex brings Tamara along with his rather foolish plan that involves bluffing his way through the whole ordeal. Again I love the way Krisch only delivers this most direct enthusiasm when speaking of the plan showing that Alex very much believes in the idea in the purest of ways even though it is a crime. When he brings her along even Krisch's work allows this to be more of an oversight on his part than any real intention to cause a problem. The robbery goes off well enough however complication ensues when a local police officer Robert (Andreas Lust) chances upon their vehicle while Alex is in the act, and Tamara is waiting for him to return. Alex coming across the officer in front of the vehicle is nearly even comedic moment through Krisch's reaction which is more of a "uh oh" than anything else. Alex bluffs the officer into submission as well allowing the two to escape in the vehicle however he does not prevent the officer from firing at them as they leave. The initial moment Krisch captures with such excitement of his dream apparently coming to fruition with such hope in his eyes, and just cheery glint in his smile just at the very idea that a cop tried to shoot them as though it was some adventure while believing themselves to be free and clear. Sadly the film must take its darker turn, particularly for the character of Alex, when he finds Tamara has been killed by the officer's gunshots.

Krisch's depiction of Alex's realization of Tamara's death is absolutely devastating. He captures the extreme nature of the sheer emotional pain of the man completely within his being. His portrayal of this fallout is incredible as he shows how Alex losing the grip on everything as he barely can speak, and shakes from the anguish. It is made all the more moving because of how genuinely heartfelt the relationship had been before this point, and Krisch's breakdown represents this loss all in this pivotal moment. It is made all the more powerful as within this Krisch rapidly shows the way all hope, all dreams, and all that tenderness of before fades from his eyes. Alex wholly changes from this point and Krisch not only earns this transition from this moment, but also he so well presents the lasting impact within his performance. This single moments haunts the rest of Krisch's work keeping as this constant within the man. Krisch overlays this shadow that keeps the sense of this loss as an ever present element in his work. From this point on Krisch makes the man ever colder, ever quieter in every interaction of a man whose heart has been pierced by reality. Krisch carefully keeps Alex in all his most private moments still suffering directly from this, and again he takes right back to the breakdown with that same intensity defined by the what it was that he lost.

After his loss Alex rather than running decides to hide out at his grandfather's farm. Krisch now shows a man so very changed in this now consistent intensity in his manner in which that trauma, which he hides in terms of the truth of it from others, but is made ever present in his performance. It develops now in every sense in sorrow, but also hate as even as Alex goes about his chores on the farm there is a palatable anger. An anger Krisch doesn't portray as towards his work but rather infuses towards it because still of that loss. It is interesting also how Krisch naturally shifts the interactions between the grandfather which now switch the type of distance, initially. In that Krisch now portrays direct reactions to the old man's words which only to seem to create the ever greater strain as the old man essentially tries to reform Alex, which he rejects. A further complication arises, and the titular revenge becomes more likely, when Alex comes to learn that Robert the officer responsible for Tamara's death lives by, and Alex also by chance frequently comes into contact with his wife Susanne (Ursula Strauss). Alex's initial interactions towards her are of that similair distance, as Kirsch reinforces the man being stuck within his own thoughts, that is until he learns who she is. That intensity Kirsch readjusts in his work as his eyes begin to show some purpose, a purpose fueled through hate.

Krisch is fantastic in portraying the darkness of this descent at first as he accentuates the most negative emotions. He brings a raw yet subtle anger in every glance towards Susanne initially, which than becomes all the more evident when he begins to stalk her husband after learning of his daily routine. Now what is truly remarkable about this film is this all seems set up to go one way, but then there is a shift to which Krisch is an essential part in making as poignant as it is. This begins as Susanne basically invites Alex to have an affair with her, partially because she cannot become pregnant by her infertile husband but also due to some attraction towards the hardened Alex. Krisch does not return this though as their first tryst on his end, even in the sexual act itself, Krisch portrays as a vicious act defined by the malice that has now come into his mind. This relationship, and that with his grandfather, both whom try to encourage him towards a better life, though causes a shift. A shift so elegantly and convincingly portrayed by Krisch. He does not make this obvious change, but in his reactions towards them he conveys so well the small ways their words slowly works towards his better nature that we saw in the early scenes. In turn Krisch slowly begins to change his direct delivery towards them that eases and delivers that tenderness of old, though not as strongly as in the opening scenes of the film.

The certain darkness still remains however Krisch again returns more just to this emotional pain particularly in one heartbreaking sequence where he finally verbalizes his devastation and loss to Susanne. Krisch is outstanding in the scene because in the moment he shows a man simply heartbroken with this yearning for any solace or understanding from what has been taken from him. This is in contrast to his confrontation of sorts with Robert. Alex never directly reveals himself and Krisch's work accentuates this almost reserved calculation for the moment of either a executioner or a judge set to determine the man's fate. When the man reveals his own turmoil, as well as causes Alex to see his own culpability, Krisch's reaction is one of resignation, but also creates this sense of empathy as Alex feels his own pain yet seems to sense Robert's as well. Krisch in the end no longer shows a man trying to hold onto the hate yet rather finally finds a certain solace in no longer being absorbed by that. In the end there is still a clear sadness that Krisch shows, but now with this hint of hope, and even just a bit of that joy we saw in the Alex we met in the film's opening. The very idea of this film completely goes against the typical nature of a revenge film which usually requires either the "hero" or the "villain" or both to die. In this film neither fits either role, and neither dies yet it is no less powerful than what is found in the best form of that more traditional narrative. The film's less incendiary examination of the theme ends up becoming something rather profound, and Krisch's outstanding work is an essential element within this. His performance so humanizes the struggle, the temptation of the hatred, but also in the end the path towards forgiveness.

25 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Yes! Very happy that he got a 5.

Louis:
Ratings/Thoughts on the cast.

Your ratings/thoughts on the cast from that Black Mirror episode.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your Female Top 10s and 4+ Honourable mentions with ratings.

Mitchell Murray said...

Just going back to something you said on the last post, when has Eric Roberts ever been good? I thought he was the butt of a joke with that Jon Voight train wreck movie.

Luke Higham said...

Mitchell: He liked him in Inherent Vice and The Dark Knight, I believe.

Alex Marqués said...

Great review, it made me want to rewatch it. Are you going to review Phoenix's perf in Two Lovers?

RatedRStar said...

I need to see this, I want more hidden gems!!!!.

Louis: What did you reckon to Adrian Dunbar in The Crying Game? might just be me but I thought he was somewhat memorable as the cutthroat IRA leader especially in his stub the cigar scene and his ending where it all goes wrong (his cool parkour style jump over the car as well)

I am surprised but pleased in hearing you liked Simpson in Black Mirror, I haven't seen the episode yet but now I want to, in fact ill probably watch both nominated episodes ,You thought about seeing the other Black Mirror Bafta acting nominee Joe Cole from Hang the DJ?

Luke Higham said...

Guys, which actor do you look forward to seeing more reviews from. Mine is Max Von Sydow. He has at least 5 likely reviews (The Magician '58, The Passion Of Anna '69, Flight Of The Eagle '82, Hamsun '96 and The Diving Bell And The Butterfly '07).

RatedRStar: You're gonna have to request him in Hawaii as I believe he'll lose out to these names for 66 Lead.

Eddie Axberg - Here Is Your Life
Per Oscarsson - Hunger
Anatoly Solonitsyn - Andrei Rublev
David Warner - Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment
Jean Martin - The Battle Of Algiers
Donald Pleasence - Cul-De-Sac
Lino Ventura/Paul Meurisse - Le Deuxième Souffle
Paul Newman - Harper
Gian Maria Volonté - A Bullet For The General
Lee Van Cleef - The Big Gundown

RatedRStar said...

Luke: To be honest Von Sydow probably shouldn't get reviewed for Hawaii, he is fine in it but his character is written so poorly, I think Hackman was the best performer.

Von Sydow would be a good one I am interested in seeing future reviews because he appears quite a lot and out of those I have only seen him in The Magician and The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, hidden gems is really what gets me excited.

1977 is the one year I am looking forward to most because of that reason, it looks like hidden gem mania, all 5 that I am putting forward are like in strange acclaimed indie films.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography of The Prisoner of Zenda and The Strawberry Blonde.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: For 77, I've got Boris Plotnikov in The Ascent, Richard Chamberlain in The Last Wave, Bruno S. In Stroszek and William Devane in Rolling Thunder.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'd rather have 1936 over 1938 be reviewed first. 1938 doesn't sound that interesting, while 1936 has Karloff, Massey, Cagney, Barrymore and Powell.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Problem is, Louis Covered 1936 near the end of the alternates.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your 40's, 60's, 70's and 80's Open Range casts.

Calvin Law said...

Glad you loved the film and performance.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

The updated overall is certainly going to be interesting.

Bryan L said...

I finally got around to watching I Saw The Devil. Truly unforgettable and engrossing.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: ny prediction for the top 10 is,

1. Gleeson
2. Farrell
3. Hoffman
4. Krisch
5. Fassbender
6. Rourke
7. Van Damme
8. Rockwell
9. Renner
10. Ejiofor

Luke Higham said...

I hope Renner goes up.

Alex Marqués said...

Phoenix should be a good candidate for a top 10.

Anonymous said...

For 1948, Robert Donat should be considered for an review for his performance in The Winslow Boy. I haven't seen the film yet, but Donat should get a 5 for something.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I hope he goes up for Goodbye Mr. Chips and despite what I said before on 1938, I do hope Gabin goes up for The Human Beast.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: During the voice acting lineup, will you be watching other animated films.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Potapenko - 4(Her performance is rather effectively tragic in that she does create the certain sweetness in the character's appeal, even with her profession, with a similair type of naivety within the role that she attaches effectively in terms of the sort of mutual dream of the two rather than in terms of her own life. At the same time she also does convey the definite wear of her life as this underlying yet consistent exasperation that is an essential facet that in turn only makes her very sudden exit all the more harrowing.)

Strauss - 4(Her performance is good in terms of finding the right balance in terms of making her character not, too much of, a Luke:

Potapenko - 4(Her performance is rather effectively tragic in that she does create the certain sweetness in the character's appeal, even with her profession, with a similair type of naivety within the role that she attaches effectively in terms of the sort of mutual dream of the two rather than in terms of her own life. At the same time she also does convey the definite wear of her life as this underlying yet consistent exasperation that is an essential facet that in turn only makes her very sudden exit all the more harrowing.)

Strauss - 4(Her performance is good in terms of finding the right balance in terms of making her character not, too much of, a hypocrite given both her moral stances and her technical transgressions. She's good though in finding both sides of every moment whether that is creating that certain understanding in her eyes that her affair has this certain intention, but also the more direct attraction that is rather palatable all the same. She helps this by making her interactions with Lust's Robert carry the right frustrations of a long time of lacking communication while still maintaining this certain earnest purity within her overarching attitude that she manages to make work.)

Thanheiser - 3(His role is limited however he does well in making that limitation work for the character as very much this hard man of the earth type who deals with emotion directly and bluntly just as he deals with anything else. He carefully isn't cold, but rather just so extremely direct that works in showing the nature of the man.)

Lust - 4(A good performance in that he also manages to humanize really the other side of the coin. In that while he does exude the certain negative qualities at first, such as a certain sense of entitlement in his attitude, this only makes it all the powerful as he slowly loses any sort of confidence in creating a real sense of the weight for what he has done. It ends up becoming his own very moving portrait of a man truly suffering from his own transgression completely within his own mind.)

Louis Morgan said...

Let me hold off on the actress lineups until the results. hypocrite given both her moral stances and her technical transgressions. She's good though in finding both sides of every moment whether that is creating that certain understanding in her eyes that her affair has this certain intention, but also the more direct attraction that is rather palatable all the same. She helps this by making her interactions with Lust's Robert carry the right frustrations of a long time of lacking communication while still maintaining this certain earnest purity within her overarching attitude that she manages to make work.)

Black Mirror:

Plemons - 4.5(Well I can't say he was snubbed from that lineup, because I have not seen his competition, but this is a great performance from him that very much leans towards a five for me. Plemons on the "surface" scenes does a fine job of finding this exact line between creep or just awkward that he treads upon, and realizing the creepier side very much in the moments where he conveys so well the building anxieties, hatred and jealousies when he observes others. The "in-game" scenes though are even better as he does this brilliant sort of demonic William Shatner impression. Plemons is entertaining to watch here to be sure, but also incredibly entertaining in creating this particularly disturbing version of a cosplayer living out his fantasy. I love the way he kind of is always tipping the scales of creepiness, while always being creepy, from the moments where he is getting to living out his "dreams" towards forcing others to get in line with them. He makes for a terrific villain by just how off-beat yet effective this approach of his is.)

Milloti - 4(She's pretty good in terms of being sort of the discovery of the very particular sort of horror at the center of it. She also finds this very effective balance in her performance in that she creates the very real sense of a certain reality in her reactions, while still finding the right bit of humor in terms of how strange of a situation she finds herself in. This all while giving this sort of natural "spunk" to the role that sort of plays with the idea of the chipper sidekick yet using as basically showing the one person with the will to try to "live" who has yet to have their spirit broken in a way.)

Louis Morgan said...

Simpson - 4.5(Simpsons is always an interesting performer to begin with so any substantial role for him is a good thing really. Now on the surface scenes his moments are pretty straight forward however he is good in creating sort of the "jerk boss" yet doing it in a straight forward way where he creates the sense why Plemons's character is intimidated by him, but also at the same time that really he isn't all that bad either. His in game scenes though he is fantastic in creating the sense of the man who has become most hopeless in the situation in creating just such an intense cynicism in every one of his doubting statements while then also creating such sheer desperation of when he is purposefully being the performing monkey. Simpson makes it appropriately labored as someone who has been doing it both far too long, but with also far too much awareness of the stakes at hand. This naturally alludes to the horrible truth of the character's experience which individually is just an incredible moments for Simpson in his portrayal of the man's spirit breaking that puts him in such a horrible current place.)

Let me hold off on the actress lineups until the results.

Mitchell:

He's good in the two films Luke mentioned, and again it just shows that even such a performer, with such bad performances, may be capable of a good one in the right hands.

RatedRStar:

Fairly straightforward role but Dunbar is certainly good there in kind of offering this uncompromising intensity against Rea's very much compromised convictions.

Anonymous:

Both films quite honestly are two great examples of sort of that general pristine work within black and white. In that Howe's work in those instances doesn't play too much with contrast, it would be ill-fitting to the straight forward black and white narrative of Zenda, and the just the charming film that is The Strawberry Blonde. Howe's work instead just lightly plays with it to make just some nice dynamic touches throughout, whether that be the soft glow on the princess in Zenda, or even just showing the shade of trees in The Strawberry Blonde. They are always very small yet very effective touches and both are really strong examples of terrific low key cinematography work.

Anonymous:

40's:

Boss Spearman: Harry Carey
Charley Waite: Fredric March
Sue Barlow: Jean Arthur
Denton Baxter: Edward Arnold

60's:

Boss Spearman: Walter Brennan
Charley Waite: Kirk Douglas
Sue Barlow: Olivia de Havilland
Denton Baxter: John Carradine

70's:

Boss Spearman: John Wayne
Charley Waite: James Coburn
Sue Barlow: Jean Simmons
Denton Baxter: Lee J. Cobb

80's:

Boss Spearman: Burt Lancaster
Charley Waite: Roy Scheider
Sue Barlow: Shirley Jones
Denton Baxter: Jack Palance