Born in Germany, raised in Ireland and based in England, Fassbender has taken the world of cinema by storm. His beginnings are in British television before he jumped to film with a small participation in Zack Snyder’s ‘300’. Soon he would participate in François Ozon ‘Angel’ and his most memorable role in Steve McQueen’s ‘Hunger’, which inaugurated film collaboration with the British filmmaker that has spanned three films so far and has given him some of his most influential performances to date in less than ten years.
Quentin Tarantino, who, as Woody Allen, has a great eye for new actors in the right roles, brought him in for his ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and soon Fassbender became a sensation in the film circles.
In 2011 his performance in ‘Shame’ as a sex addict became the talk of the town and he found himself in every list of best performances, garnering nominations everywhere (including a Golden Globe) but failing to be nominated for the Oscars, which left critics scratching their heads.
His poise and extraordinary capacity as an actor is evident in the wide variety of roles he has chosen, from Erik Lensherr in ‘X-Men: First Class, to MI6 agent in ‘Haywire’ (which opens his prospects to become the next Bond once Daniel Craig’s contract expires), to his psychopathic Irishman in ‘Jonah Hex’ and several period pieces in which he seems to fit incredibly well as a leading man.
For his portrayal of a plantation owner who terrorizes his slaves in '12 Years A Slave', Fassbender has found himself nominated to the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the first time and he seems to be the front runner to earn this recognition.
It is almost impossible for an actor to be noted in a 10-best performances list in such a short career, but take a look at this collection of performances that are all deserving of accolades and respect.
(2008) Directed by Steve McQueen
The first role that got him international notice, Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner in Belfast, 1981, whose refusal to conform begins a hunger strike that ends with his life. His performance is raw and meticulous. Physically painful but psychologically and philosophically rich, Fassbender is able to recreate the last days of this man’s life in prison and his extreme clarity. McQueen’s film style required long takes, one of which made this film famous, as Sands discusses political, social and religious issues with a local priest for 17 ½ minutes. This is not only daring for the director, but for an actor to create a whole character full of conviction for such an uninterrupted amount of screen time is simply extraordinary, in a world where fast reaction shots are the rule. Because of this, Fassbender received the Best actor award from the British Independent Film Awards as well as other mentions around the world. The film ended up winning the Golden Camera at Cannes.
For a full review of McQueen's film, please click on the following link:
(2011) Directed by Steve McQueen
His second collaboration with McQueen is one of his richest performances, and also a very restrained one. In ‘Shame’, Fassbinder was stripped to a very physical performance of a man suffering of sex addiction. Brandon’s life in the corporate world seems slowly go blank, taken to a point of almost nihilism, as his addiction grows uncontrollably. Fassbender surrenders to Brandon’s fall into despair, slowly destroying personal relationships to engage in continuous sexual acts that have no end, beginning or meaning. To continue with McQueen’s style, there is another long scene, this time of Brandon’s sister Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan) who sings New York, New York in such a melancholic note you really understand she is depicting both their fantastic lives going to the toilet. The ending of the film with Brandon facing for the first time his addiction under the rain reminds us of Bertolucci’s ending of ‘The Sheltering Sky’ when Kit confronts the author of the novel in a silent search for answers and relief.
12 Years a Slave
(2013) Directed by Steve McQueen
Edwin Epps is not just your typical bad white guy who takes advantage of his status-quo and tortures his slaves in his plantation. He is manipulated by his environment, by his wife (chauvinism is sometimes a woman’s safe bet) his alcoholism and his doomed attraction for the young slave Patsey, who is maliciously tortured by his wife, which ignites his desire/hatred for her. This complicated mixture of powerful feelings and socio-political view makes Epps a villain with a tortured soul, a man without a plan. In the end, he is helpless to a higher power. With strong performances from the whole cast, it is difficult to determine who steals whose scene. That comes from a script tightly written and a particularly meticulous direction from McQueen.
For a full review on McQueen's Oscar Nominated film, please click on the following link:
(2009) Directed by Quentin Tarantino
As Lt. Archie Hicox, a British film critic recruited for "Operation Kino" to infiltrate a plant explosives at a Nazi premiere, Fassbinder becomes the controlled agent in a film that reviews misconceptions of 70’s spy films and “corrects” history taking it to an alternate world where the good guys always win.
For a full review of Tarantino's film, please click on the following link:
(2010) Directed by Ridley Scott
In this prequel to the ‘Alien’ franchise, Fassbinder’s David is the android precursor to Alien’s Ash, becoming a more focused and decisive figure in the construction of a new universe for this pop culture phenomenon. Writer Damon Lindelof created David to give the film a non-human perspective, which sets the film apart from the group. Fassbinder excels as a character with its own sets of morals.
A Dangerous Method
(2011) Directed by David Cronenberg
Fassbender plays famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in a film about his complicated relationship with his mentor Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen) (for whom he had admiration and a dubious secret attraction), one of his most notorious patients Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and his wife Emma (Sarah Gadon). It is a more romantic character with a more conventional dramatic arc, which Fassbender is able to humanize above the intricacy of psychoanalysis and the spectacular over-the top performance by Knightley.
(2011) Directed by Cary Fukunaga
Perhaps the least “theatrical” and more “naturalistic” version of Charlotte Bronte’s adaptations to film, Fassbender’s Rochester is still dark and mysterious, but he is above all a man, not just an idea of a man, which makes it easier for us to understand Eyre’s slow fall into romance and tragedy.
(2007) Directed by François Ozon
Fassbender plays Esmé, husband to Angel Deverell, a writer and outsider to the town of Norley who enjoys some success before tragedy comes into her life. This was Fassbender’s first film performance coming from a long list of TV movies and series.
(2013) Directed by Ridley Scott
In a choral film, his second collaboration with Scott, Fassbinder plays the title character, a lawyer who willingly enters the world of trafficking and has to find his way to survive even if his soul is damaged for good. The film was not well received by critics, sometimes being mocked for its over-the top characters and their in-your-face philosophical dialogues that sometimes sound too preachy. Nevertheless, with a cast this good (Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, Edgar Ramírez and Bruno Ganz, among others) you could overlook the downsides and enjoy the committed performances.
(2009) Directed by Andrea Arnold
This Jury Prize winner at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and Best British Film at the 2010 BAFTAs has Fassbinder playing Connor O’Reily, the charming boyfriend of Joanne, who ends up having a sexual encounter with Joanne’s daughter Mia, a very isolated 15-year old. They keep this a secret even if the sexual chemistry lingers on.