Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Good movies, even better actor...
With the holidays here, I am on a pretty big movie kick and thought I would give my thoughts on an actor that has been in a bunch of movies I have seen here lately. Last night I watched the movie Hunger and earlier over the break I caught the movie Shame. Yep, Michael Fassbender is who I am talking about and if any of you listen to the Filmspotting podcasts, this name will be familiar as he is probably Adam Kempenaar’s favorite actor of the moment right now. Some of the more popular movies he has been in here recently were Inglorious Bastards, A Dangerous Method and X-Men: First Class where he played a young Magneto. He is still relatively unknown right now, but that is changing as he surely has become a talked about actor who many consider to be one of the better ones out there right now. Born in Germany, but raised in Ireland, Fassbender can play characters from a variety of European backgrounds and it can be tough to really get a feel for where he might actually be from by just looking at him. In Hunger he plays a Northern Ireland prisoner who begins a hunger strike to protest the English government. For the role he dropped about 40 lbs from the beginning of the filming and at the end of the movie he is at 135 lbs. The dramatic weight loss that takes place over the time of the film is tough to watch and so it must have been even harder for him to go through what he did. And while the weight loss is certainly something that everyone can see, I think the most memorable aspect of the film is a scene between Fassbender and a priest that takes place in a visiting room. The whole scene is one single shot, with the camera not moving, just dialogue for 17 and a half minutes between the two actors. It is unreal and you find yourself wondering how they possibly shot this…and if they had to attempt it more than once. There is no room for even one mistake when a single shot is at play and the practice to get it right must have been extremely laborious. While it is normal for actors in plays to talk for great lengths, it is just not something we see in film. Truly one of the more mesmerizing scenes I have ever seen, right up there with the one shot soccer scene from The Secret in the Their Eyes (still the best film I have seen in a really long time).
Going to another extreme is the character that Fassbender plays in Shame. The movie gives us the portrait of a man who literally is controlled by sex and his need for sexual satisfaction. This role put Fasssbender back together with Steve McQueen who directed him in Hunger and the two just work really well together. Fassbender has a pretty stark existence in Shame, with his life pretty much revolving around going to work and then doing whatever he has to do to satisfy himself sexually. His life gets knocked out of his normal routine when his sister unexpectedly comes to stay with him and he does not really know what to do with his life now that she is around. There are a lot of undertones that the two of them have had a tough past together, but nothing really is said and so everything is left up to interpretation. Needless to say, they have a very contentious relationship that reaches a scene at the end that I did not see coming.
There has been lots of praise for Fassbender for his role in Shame and I will say, it is very well deserved. He does a terrific job of playing a character who has almost no emotion, just the sense of what he needs to do to get to his next “fix.” Right now he is up for a Golden Globe and typically that leads to an Oscar nomination and so we will see soon enough how things end up for him this year. In the end, Michael Fassbender is a great actor who only has brighter days ahead as he gets more and more notoriety for the roles he plays. Keep an eye on him, although some of you might have already had your eyes on him from before.