One of the most captivating performers to emerge from the last 10 years, German/Irish actor Michael Fassbender is certainly proving his worth.
After his breakout performance in Zack Snyder’s graphic novel homo-erotic fest, ‘300’, Fassbender began a working relationship with London artist/filmmaker Steve McQueen (not that one), and was critically acclaimed for his role as activist Bobby Sands in ‘Hunger’.
Since then, Mr Fassbender has undoubtedly become one of the most popular and sought after actors working in Hollywood.
My admiration for him stems from his ability to inhabit so many diverse and original characters. One that has been a huge testimony to this is his astounding portrayal of a sex addict in McQueen’s ‘Shame’. A film about a high-flyer working in New York that has an emotionally crippling form of hypersexuality, and engages in frequent acts of onanism and intercourse.
In the movie, his regimented lifestyle spirals out of control when his estranged sister, Sissy (Cary Mulligan), turns up on his doorstep. The most vivid turning point of the movie for me is at this point, where Fassbender’s character, Brandon, immediately begins to display signs of stress, aggravation and almost seething mental torment at the spanner his sister throws in to the works. Fassbender displays this with a conviction that is truly engaging – his uneasiness being a stark contrast to his behaviour around his co-workers, his friends and more predominantly with women. The character of Brandon, for me, is perhaps the most personal, insightful and beautifully performed role by the actor. It also has an incredible pay off.
Though his affinity with independent film has brought him much success. Fassbender has also made an extremely popular and easy transition into mainstream cinema. Last year, he starred as a young ‘Erik Lensherr’, delightfully preceded by Sir Ian McKellen, in the 60’s set comic-book movie, X-Men: First Class. This year, he featured in the lukewarm/fairly positively received ‘Prometheus’ as the android ‘David’.
In First Class, Fassbender oozes charm, danger and Bond-esque cool. Notably basing much of his performance on Sean Connery’s 007 and the overall aesthetic of Dr. No in many of his one-to-one scenes, not to mention disregarding Sir Ian’s performances of the character of Erik, and completely making it his own. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a well-known villain take on the role of the sympathetic, a man who could be a hero tragically fall that we, the audience, can so easily root for. And this was very much down to how Michael approached the character, his reasonings for his actions, his methods and his emotional turmoil.
Oddly enough, his most recent successful performance, in ‘Prometheus’ – is a completely different animal. His mysterious motives kept relatively in the dark for the duration of the movie is overshadowed by an obvious and unflattering form of self-possession. He teems with icy demeanour, and engages the other characters almost subjectively in parts. Fassbender plays this off with such an arrogance, and knowing, that it’s nearly impossible to not notice or appreciate the dedication he put into the character. Unquestionably the film’s saving grace in my opinion.
Of course, no actor can be without their stinkers, and Fassy in no exception, from the ‘promising on the outside’ ‘A Dangerous Method’, which I found utterly non-compelling and marred by a dire script. To the meathead favourite ‘300’. But these are examples of the ill-conceived. Frankly, I see this man becoming one the greatest actors to ever grace the screen. 2012 may have been the year of Fassbender…. But let’s see how the next one pans out….