Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman

This morning, I woke to the sad news that actor and director Alan Rickman had passed away from cancer.  I was sad about David Bowie's passing -- I admired and respected his imagination and fearlessness.  But with Rickman's passing, I'm devastated, as devastated as I was upon hearing of Anthony Minghella's passing or Heath Ledger's.  Why?

I did not know Alan Rickman personally.  Perhaps we would not have liked each other at all, I don't know.  But the thing that any committed movie- or theater-goer knows is that there are some actors (and directors) whose work is of such a consistent high quality and integrity, you know that you can trust them to continue to work at the same level.  I've not seen all Rickman's performances but those I've seen have fit in that category of consistent high quality and integrity.  I trusted him to always be interesting, revealing the character he played as a fallible but recognizable human (especially Severus Snape).  That kind of dedication to craft and commitment with the resulting high quality and integrity is rare.

When I first discovered Rickman's work, I went on a binge watching every movie I could get my hands on in which he worked.  Today, I want to binge watch his work again without stopping, savoring the dramas, smiling with the comedies, marveling at the wide diversity of the characters he played.

Of course, there is Severus Snape (above far left) in the Harry Potter movies, maybe the role he's best known for now.  He brought a subtle ambiguity to this character that confounded me for a long time.  But I loved it.  He gave Snape an incredible depth, so that by the last movie, everything that had gone before made perfect sense in the most satisfying of ways in revealing a character's true motivation.  Masterful.

He played Saskia Reeves' husband in 1991's Close my Eyes, a story of a
romantic triangle that devastates all involved. His work in this movie was spot on.  As I watched, I found myself wanting to shake him, to wake him up, get him to pay attention to what was happening to his life.  One thing that I've realized recently: Rickman always seemed to look much older than his years in movies.  I wished I'd had the opportunity to see him on stage.  He embodied characters.

 My next favorite Rickman performance came in 1991 also, i.e. the Sheriff of Nottingham (second from right above) in Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesI loved this movie when I
saw it in the theater, and it was one of the first videos I purchased.  Rickman takes the Sheriff and makes him into an over-the-top but exceedingly dangerous villain.  He stole the movie from Kevin Costner, in my opinion.  He and Morgan Freeman.  I still watch this movie occasionally, and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time.

Probably the movie performance of Rickman's that I love the most, though, is Jamie in Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply from 1990.  The first time I saw this movie, I had no idea what to expect.  Juliet Stevenson's stunning and very serious performance transcended any comparison to Ghost.  But then Jamie returns, and gradually hilarity takes over.  Throughout, Rickman actually plays Jamie not comically but very seriously which only makes the funny scenes funnier.  Eventually, we learn why Jamie has returned and it's both heartbreaking and inspiring.  What a beautiful movie.  

Other Rickman movies that I have loved and recommend: Die Hard (1988), Rasputin (1996), Dark Harbor (1998), Galaxy Quest (1999), Love Actually (2003), Perfume (2006), and Sweeney Todd (2007).

It is devastating to think that we will not see any more of Rickman's work.

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