I was prompted to start thinking about my favourite sinister characters and personalities through being reminded of Paddy Considine’s character as Mona’s brother, Phil in My Summer of Love (2004), in an attempt at my latest philosophy assignment.
The character is brilliantly acted – an underlying theme of people concealing their real personality or identity is revealed toward the end of the film, and the tension brought about by his sinister disposition is intense! Forget Ledger’s Joker, Paddy Considine is probably one of the best examples I have seen who, through what can only be drawing on his own character traits (it is partly facial expression, partly the accent and tone, etc which contribute to the impression), is able to create such feelings of foreboding, apprehension and sinisterness; and in many different roles. Look at A room for Romeo Brass or Dead Man’s Shoes (both directed by Shane Meadows) for further examples of what I mean – and to Meadows’ credit, it is the undercurrents of boredness and apathy, and the bizarre mentality of the small Northern Town, that combines with dysfunctional characters and families to produce the general sinister feeling that all is not well.
This is a feeling I enjoy most from characters (mostly from movies) as it is so unsettling and unsure, it doesn’t even know that it is. We know something is up, and with Considine there is always a psychological element that he is just a little bit nuts, which is actually often demonstrated by his characters’ violent and scary mood-swings, indicating that he is really just a cynic who is working on at least more than one level. This is the genuine thrill I like in this type of character depiction – once the darker character is given away (all their flaws, all their personality exposed), they simply that, and become uninteresting (like Voldemort in the last few Harry Potter books). Perhaps I enjoy it because we do conceal ourselves – me, definitely when I might meet different people, or even some people I know.
I am sort of looking for more examples (as I mentioned this is not too far away from my actual work), even just for the general feeling of sinisterness. I really think Billy Bob Thornton does a good job in The ManWho Knew Too Much and A Simple Plan (his real personality is, if not sinister itself, taking itself seriously) as well as Nick Nolte in U-Turn (possibly my favourite film), Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, Barry Foster in Hitchcock’s Frenzy and several of Steve Buscemi’s roles. If you don’t understand, and it helps, Hugh Laurie is exactly the opposite of what I’m talking about! Darkness of the mind, roll on…