5. A Dangerous Method (2011)
A Dangerous Method, a historical movie set in the years before of World War I and directed by David Cronenberg, explores the complex relationships between Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender), founder of analytical psychology, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), initially a patient of Jung (and his lover) and later one of the first female psychoanalysts and Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen), founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis. The film depicts the birth of psychoanalysis through the relationship these characters sustain with each other and it does so in an interesting, easy to understand way.
Jung, a young newlywed physician, meets Sabina, a wealthy and extremely intelligent Russian Jew, as she was referred to him by a colleague due to her acute hysteria. He then decides to use the “talking method” that was being developed by Sigmund Freud who, at the time, was a well-known but controversial Viennese physician and Jung’s mentor.
Jung starts to feel strong desires towards Sabina but contains himself due to the fact that he is married and she is his patient. He speaks of this to Freud who refers Jung to a far more disturbed patient, Otto Gross (Vincent Casse), who suggests him to not repress his feelings. Jung, taking Gross’s advice, starts a passionate sadomasochist affair with Sabine that is frowned upon by Freud.
The affair and their difference of opinion on the emerging discipline of psychoanalysis started to put a strain on their relationship that finally takes a turn to the worst just before the beginning of the war and, after a heated discussion about psychoanalysis and Jung’s relationship with Sabina, the friendship ends on a sour note.
Fassbender gives an amazing performance as a “philistine Swiss bourgeois complacent coward” psychiatrist with an uncontrollable desire to engage in a prohibited relationship with his patient. This, paired with Knightley’s and Mortensen’s amazing performance, builds up the explosive and intense relationship between the characters and explains the dark and dubious corners of psychoanalysis and human behavior.
As the story evolves and Freud’s and Jung’s relationship starts having setbacks due to their opposing opinions on the psychoanalytical model, Fassbender gives Jung character and conviction and convinces the audience of Jung’s evolution in a subtle but strong way. Towards the end of the movie, Jung is no longer portrayed as a submissive disciple of Freud, but rather has transformed himself in a young analyst with his own mind and theories about this new “talking method” proposed by Freud.
4. Fish Tank (2009)
Fassbender plays another disturbing character in Andrea Arnold’s movie; Connor O´Sullivan, a handsome middle class Irishman with a secret.
The movie revolves around the life of Mia (played by Katie Jarvis), a strong tempered middle class lone 15-year old who, as any normal teenager, hates the world and has a hard time finding her place in it. She lives with her absent mother and little sister in a housing project in London and their lives will be shaked when her mother meets Conner. As Mia’s mother’s first stable boyfriend, he acts as a father figure to her and her sister; helping Mia come out of her shell.
The four of them act as if they were a family, going on Sunday trips to the country and hanging out together. But as the movie evolves, so does the relationship with Mia and Conner. A strong tension between both characters starts building up as Conner starts spending more time with Mia, encouraging her to peruse dancing and taking a genuine interest in her that she probably never felt before.
As the situation starts to change, the audience starts seeing Conner in a different light. He is not the same charming, handsome selfless father figure we saw at the beginning of the movie as his personal interests and attraction towards Mia start to conflict with the family harmony and stability.
Fassbender gives a performance that both charms and unsettles the audience as the movie develops and we see the opportunism and indifference of his character towards the chaos he’s created. The character, however, is not portrayed as your typical sex predator, but as a nice guy who “doesn’t really deal with his problems very well”, as Fassbender himself says. This is what makes the film even more real, showing us the day to day struggles of the London working class.
3. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
This Oscar Best Picture winning film is his third and latest collaboration with McQueen. Fassbender goes form victim to victimizer in this movie and plays the role of the Mississippi Slave Owner, Edwin Epps. This is yet another historical drama based on real events of the life of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a New York State-born free African American, who is kidnaped by two men in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery. Northup then works on cotton plantations in the state of Louisiana (one of which is Epps’s) for twelve years before he is finally released.
Fassbender’s character is portrayed as a complex and deeply tormented slave owner which gives more depth to what could have been a classical bad white land owner who tortures and denigrates his slaves. He lives in a world where slavery is allowed and thus does not question the fact that he is entitled to do whatever he pleases with his slaves; a sentiment that will conflict with his passion and desire towards the young and beautiful slave Patsy (Lupita Nyong’o), one of his prized belongings. Not only that, but the vile and ruthless opinions of his wife about Patsy will lead him to sustain a sadomasochist relationship with her that will take them both to the edge.
We applaud not only Fassbender’s performance in this movie, but also Chiwetel Ejiofor’s and Lupita Nyong’o’s amazing performance. This tale shows us the shades of grey related to slavery in North America in the mid 1880’s and makes us reflect on human condition and the concept of freedom.
2. Shame (2011)
Another incredible movie collaboration between McQueen and Fassbender. It seems like Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen can do no wrong! This movie tells the story of the detached but highly functional sex-addict, Brandon, who enters into a downward spiral of confusion and chaos when he receives the unexpected visit of his estranged sister (played by Carey Mulligan), apparently the only women with whom he can connect with.
Brandon’s cold, almost psychopathic, but painfully human personality is excellently portrayed by Fassbender. The long sustained scenes in the movie transport us to Brandon’s monotonous and extremely lonely lifestyle and shows us a man who deeply longs to connect with the world around him. It’s obvious by Fassbender’s performance that we are not dealing with your average playboy, but with an extremely disturbed and tormented sexual addict.
What’s really a shame is that Fassbender was robbed of being nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in this movie due to the full frontal nudity in it.
1. Hunger (2008)
Fassbender’s acting in this movie is hands down one of the best performances of the last decade. The movie is a historical drama that tells the story of Bobby Sands, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) member and political prisoner, who led the second IRA hunger strike that was triggered when Republican prisoners lost their political status because it was revoked by the British government in 1976 during the Thatcher administration.
It reenacts real events that happened in the Maze Prison in the period leading up to the hunger strike and Sands’ subsequent death. The movie has almost no dialogue which puts the precarious and demining material conditions of the life of these prisoners in front stage (we can almost smell the excrement inside the cells), and takes Fassbender’s performance to a whole different level of kinetic expression.
Probably one of the most mind blowing scenes of the movie is the 20 minute long real time conversation Sands has with the prison priest (played by Liam Cunningham); a tremendously philosophical debate between two men with incredibly different views on life. Fassbender conveys the convection of any liberation movement leader to a T. The phase that helps us understand the whole movie is said my Fassbender’s character in way that´s hard to forget: “I have a belief, and in all its simplicity it’s the most powerful thing”, so powerful it trumps life itself.
Not only is his performance impeccable but his body transformation is too. For the role, Fassbender went on a 600 calories a day diet that left his almost to his bones. Now that’s conviction!
Author Bio: Amanda is a 26-year-old Chilean sociologist and is currently finishing her studies in documentary filmmaking. She volunteers at an NGO that works with children, teaching them math and Spanish, taking photos, and giving them a lot of love. She love movies, football and travelling. Follow her on vimeo (www.vimeo.com/arutllant) and flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/arutllant/).