Gushing Sydow

Hey, how you doin'

Hey, how you doin’?

As my first movie posting I feel the need to lay tribute to one of the finest, if not the finest, living actor today.  Funnily enough, I know him more for his Swedish performances in Ingmar Bergman movies then his huge monumental American movies.

Many of you may not be familiar with Max Von Sydow, but let me assure you, he is in some of the most famous movies of the past five decades.  I was personally shocked at what movies he has been in.  Especially some that are household names, and that the majority of movie-goes have seen and are considered classics.

Before I get to those movies, let me mention a few of my favorites.  One in particular, which many perhaps haven’t seen, but know of the iconic scenes he was in.

The Seventh Seal max-von-sydow

Look familiar?  That is Max’s character, “Antonius Block” playing a chess game against Death.  He starts the game with death in order to forestall his imminent…death.  The scene has been parodied numerous times, and laughably and most famously in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  

Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, the movie tells the story of a disillusioned crusader returning to home, really shipwrecked, and his encounter with Death.  He is trying to find meaning, he is trying to find God.  He crosses paths with various different people, and traveling minstrel family.  It is a fantastic movie.  Max’s performance is breath taking.  He has a scene where he is confessing in a church that will make you want to watch it several times (I did).

The Magicianmagician

Yet another Berman movie, the Magician tells of a traveling group of, I guess entertainers would be accurate, with Sydow as there silence and enigmatic leader.  This isn’t a joke, he doesn’t speak until the very end of the movie.  Which, when you watch, is incredible.  He sucks you in with just his eyes and expressions.

Plus, it is just a really cool movie.  Like all Bergman movies, (I will be writing about him very soon in another article) there is absolutely gorgeous visuals.  Visuals so modern in aspect, it is hard to believe this came out in 1958.   This movie is a lot more ensemble then The Seventh Seal, Max still takes the lead in my opinion and steals the show.

The Virgin Spring & Hour of The WolfmaxHour

First up, the Virgin Spring is a beautiful and tragic movie.  It’s a tale of revenge and innocence lost, and maybe even of restoration of faith.  Max is a lord in medieval Sweden, where his daughter is waylaid by a small group of robbers.  They rape and kill her, which for 1960 was kind of brutal.  It’s not that there is blatant nudity of anything like that, but the scene was graphic none the less.  Enough to have the movie banned in some countries.  The murders unbeknownst to them, ask for food and shelter from Max.  They figure out that their daughter has been killed by these men and murder them while they sleep.  Pretty dark.  There are some great images in this movie, and Sydow’s performance is as always, fantastic.

Hour of the Wolf is a trippy movie.  A truly great Art House movie.  Sexy and dark and trippy.  Visuals out of this world.  People are walking on walls and ceilings, eye gouging, strange characters.  The list goes on.  It is a really cool movie.  I try and show all my friends scenes from this just to make them say wow.

Though there are several more I could talk about, let’s get on to the one’s you might know of.  Although, if you found this post, you most likely searched for Max von Sydow and know him possibly better than I.  I will pretend you don’t and the following will be mind blowing.

The Greatest Story Ever Toldmaxjes

He was Jesus!!  This movie took him to a whole another level.  Most have heard of this movie but not Jesus himself.  I haven’t seen it yet!!  I am not much of a religious movie watcher, but once I found out it was him, I think I might have to!  Cameleon much?  Oh much too much.

He was still acting in Swedish movies at this point, but soon afterward would be acting primarily in American movies.

the-exorcistThe Exorcist

Yes, He is father Merrin.  Probably his most famous movie.  Though if you asked someone if you liked Max von Sydow in it, they would have no idea what you were talking about.

“The power of Christ compels you!”  How iconic is that line?

flashgordonbdcap2_originalFlash Gordon

Uh huh, he is Emperor Ming!  What is great about Sydow is that he doesn’t just do oscar worthy movies.  As you can see, he also does awful B movies.

He played a great bad guy.  It is something you can’t learn, to be so commanding and authoritative.  This won’t be the last time he is in a B movie.  I don’t know if it is for a paycheck, or if he thinks they were cool, but what he does do is add a certain prestige to such movies.

conanConan the Barbarian

Hail King Osric!  That’s him again.  Betcha seen this movie and never saw him.  Neither did I until I became a fan.  He seems to show up in so many different places!

max_von_sydow1bondNever Say Never Again

Bond!  He was in a James Bond film!  This time he plays Blofeld.  I am not too well versed in the Bond universe, but I believe he took over the role from a previous actor?  And I haven’t seen it either.  Another one to go rent some weekend!

dreddJudge Dredd

He played Chief Justice Fargo in the atrociously handled (My beloved)  Judge Dredd, starring Stallone.  Though the movie was wretched, and it horribly mangled the Judge Dredd property, Sydow did a good job, though brief.

minority_report_8Minority Report

This was quite a popular movie.  Though again his part was fairly small, he was the eventual antagonist.  He gave his acting gravitas to the science fiction craziness.  All round a good movie.

Oh and to mention a few others where you might have seen him.  He was in Awakenings with Robin Williams.  He was the voice of Vigo in Ghostbusters II!  Rush Hour 3, The tv show The Tudors, Solomon Kane.  Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, Shutter Island, and he got an oscar nomination for another silent character in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  He was even a voice in the awesome video game, Skyrim.

Unfortunately, the man is old.  I hope he stays strong for as long as possible, because even movies now, he is still as strong an actor as he ever was.  I hope after seeing some of the movies he’s been in, you will have a deeper appreciation for him and what he has given to the movie world.


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