5. Santa in ‘Los lunes al sol’ (Fernando León de Aranoa, 2002)
The consequences of unemployment are depicted in this drama-comedy. A group of friends is left jobless after the local shipyard is closed and as the title suggests they spend Mondays in the Sun. It can easily be stated that it’s a hot topic and millions of people can identify themselves with the story.
Moreover, the characters are not young men and that makes their story unbearably painful and tragic. While searching for a life purpose they spend their days drinking heavily in a local bar, loathing and sharing dreams while their worlds are collapsing. In their struggles to find something to hold on to the audience is shocked by how emasculated they have become by losing the jobs they had had.
Santa, as a rebel leader of his group, dreams of leaving his country and starting a new life, but still he spends his days with his former colleagues not admitting that he had given up a long time ago. He is a bachelor who lives in one-room flat, sneaking women in for sleepovers (because he’s not allowed to have anyone staying), and takes jobs from an adolescent girl. Although he is bitterly disappointed he can’t find a way to leave the past behind.
Bardem’s role, inevitably, leaves us with a slightly bitter taste in our mouths and forces us to contemplate on our personal roles in this capitalistic society. By this appearance his professional status is attested by winning 4th Goya Award (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars).
4. Uxbal in ‘Biutiful’ ( Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010)
The film is centered on Uxbal, an ordinary but tragic human being who is able to communicate with spirits. The film is dark and utterly sad, but still it was accepted by the audiences worldwide.
If you carefully look at Uxbal’s life you can’t find anything but disappointments. Each scene is depressing and you feel pity for the main protagonist on every step he takes. His body is deteriorating and everything implies that he will die. After finding out that he is diagnosed with a terminal cancer he seeks out a person who will look after his children when he is gone. His mission is even more difficult because he’s an orphan and his ex wife is manic depressive.
There’s also a social aspect which is focused on human trafficking; the migrants working in terrible conditions meet a cruel fate. Regardless of his actions, Uxbal is a caring man trying to find his own unique forms of beauty and love. And he finds them, but they coexist with horror and misery.
The audience is left devastated after the final scene and Bardem’s performance is a knockout. He employs each of the talents he possesses and explores the deepest levels of a human being. Iñárritu wrote the screenplay with Bardem on his mind and its result was Bardem’s third Academy Award nomination and the second nomination for Best Actor.
3. Silva in ‘Skyfall’ (Sam Mendes, 2012)
‘Skyfall’ is the twenty-third film about the agent 007, and it features Daniel Craig as James Bond and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film’s villain. What makes him unique in being a James Bond villain is his passion for revenge, in comparison to the previous ones who either wanted to rule the world or to destroy it.
Mendes wanted his villain to stay memorable, unlike other villains. He thought of Bardem as someone who will disappear into the character and that’s why he created a complex background for his mysterious outlaw. Silva is a former MI6 operative who seeks revenge on those who betrayed him and Bardem makes his motive incredibly believable. Everything about him is striking: odd physical characteristics, bleached blond hair, impeccable taste in clothes, and of course his effeminacy.
Bardem had the screenplay translated into Spanish so he could better understand his character and the whole plot. Moreover, he also came up with some of the ideas for his visual look.
Silva: ‘’Do you like my island? My grandmother had an island. We could circle the whole place in an hour. Then one day, we went back to the island to see it infested with rats. They came from a sunken ship and fed on coconut. But my grandmother came up with a solution. She buried oil drums and filled them with coconut bait, luring them down the drums.
In about three months, all the rats were trapped. So what do you do? Do you drown them? Burn them? You leave them alone. As soon as they run out of coconut, they begin to eat each other. When there are two left, you let them go toward the coconut trees. But they will not eat coconut anymore. They will only eat rat. You have changed their nature.’’
It’s so hard to imagine what could be the next role for Bardem considering all these distinctive characters and his performances. Whatever he chooses one thing is certain: he will be unrecognizable and spellbinding.
2. Ramón Sampedro in ‘Mar Adentro’ (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004)
It’s a melodramatic story based on a real life of Ramón Sampedro, a paraplegic who was fighting for 30 years to die with dignity. After the diving accident he could only move from his neck up and after such a long time he couldn’t take it anymore. With the help of his friend he fought in the court in order to legalize euthanasia and to finally get a chance to fulfill his wish.
Ramón Sampedro: ‘’When you can’t escape, and you constantly rely on everyone else, you learn to cry by smiling, you know?’’
The intensity of grief is unbearable in each scene when the camera is centered on Ramón’s face. His family, his lawyer, the government, and even a local DJ care for him, but still he’s determined to leave everyone blameless. Once he was an adventurer, a womanizer, and now he is trapped in his own body depending completely on his beloved ones. He escapes from reality into his own dream world where we can clearly see what he desperately craves for. On his death march we witness so much love and life in each character, even in Ramón.
Once more, we are presented with a wide acting range of Javier Bardem and left breathless by his undeniable talent. We are so fortunate to witness one of the best performances ever. That’s why it’s perplexing that he didn’t even win an Oscar nomination. On the other hand, the film won Spain an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language category (among other 64 wins and 32 nominations, of which 10 awards for the best actor belong to Bardem).
1. Anton Chigurh in ‘No Country for Old Men’ (Ethan and Joel Cohen, 2007)
Although this modern western, made by brothers Cohen, left us with mixed feelings, the character of Chigurh certainly did not. Being obsessed with the concepts of chance and randomness he shows no mercy to his victims. He is obsessed with finding the money and he kills everyone who crosses his path… With an air gun meant for cattle!
Each scene where Javier appears is full of terror and fear and these feelings stay with you long after the closing credits. Comparing his scenes with other ones in the film one can certainly wishes that more screen time should’ve been devoted to this psychopathic assassin. Every time he gives his victims a chance to live, in case they win a coin toss, you are faced with the personification of evil portrayed on screen.
This character has been voted as one of the most terrifying villains in the history of cinematography. It’s not a coincidence that Bardem won (among many other accolades) an Academy Award for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Critics are unanimous in their praise, saying that this role is the most significant one in his career. His character is both compelling and enigmatic and this little film is, without any doubt, a re-watcher (but only because of Bardem’s performance).
Author Bio: Nikola Savić is a major cinephile with main interests in deeply emotional and thought-provoking films. This travel enthusiast also holds a Masters Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Kragujevac.