Sunday, December 5, 2010

Five Favourite Villains!

I haven't posted on this blog in a million years, but for the two, maybe three people who read it, I am now reviving it.
Instead of a movie review tonight, I'm doing a little countdown of my personal top five favourite film villains of all time, with references made to because I'm addicted to that website at the moment. Enjoy.
5. Hannibal Lecter
There are so many reasons to love Hannibal Lecter. In fact, there are more reasons to love him than there are to hate him. In my opinion this makes for an even stronger villain. If you continue reading this list, you'll find that many of characters are ones that might consider "Affably Evil".( Hannibal Lecter, however, may be the epitome of this particular trope. Not only is he suave and classy, he's polite. Especially admirable about Lecter is his chivalry toward Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, and in other films, women in general. Unlike so many other villains, Lecter is a murderer, but not a murdering asshole. In fact, sometimes the victims of Lecter's killings don't even gain the viewer's sympathy because Lecter is portrayed as being so polite, we assume his victims must be the opposite, or that he is too classy to kill someone for no reason.
4. Norman Bates
Norm and I go way back. Hitchcock's Psycho has been a favourite of mine since I was about thirteen. In the same way that Hannibal is suave, Norman is average (Norman=normal? just a thought). He's the boy next door. He is attractive and likable. One of the most interesting aspects of Bates' characterisation is the question he forces the viewer to ask themselves: is it really him we're afraid of? Is he really the villain? Or is Mrs. Bates the true evil here? We, as viewers, like to give Norman the benefit of the doubt and assure ourselves that it's not really his fault. His split personality, the one that takes the role of his dead mother, is really doing all the killing. His psychological health makes excuses for him, and this is what makes him such an enjoyable villain--one that is hard to hate.
3. Peter and Paul
I'm appalled that I've never seen this murderous duo on any "Top Villains" list yet. In Michael Haneke's 2008 thriller Funny Games (a shot-for-shot remake of his 1997 German-language film of the same name), two polite, seemingly admirable, respectable boys meet a family at their summer home. All goes calmly until the two propose an offer to make a deal: they bet that the vacationers will be dead by 9 AM the next morning. One of the reasons I love this film so much is the way it and its characters play with the viewer's mind. Peter and Paul are going to kill these people--but somehow it's so hard to not laugh at their quirky off-colour jokes and boyish tendencies to tease each other. As sympathetic as we feel toward the victims, Peter and Paul are terribly entertaining and-for lack of a better word-fun. Funny Games is almost a cinematic lecture to its viewers: forcing them to question what they're watching, forcing them to feel uncomfortable about violence in the media. We must ask ourselves: are we really any different than Peter and Paul? They're watching violence for their own enjoyment and so are we. The most disturbing thing about these two is that they are nothing more than cinematic interpretations of you and me.
2. Alex DeLarge
Alex in A Clockwork Orange doubles as the hero and the villain (the antihero)--another characterisation element I love dearly. Like Peter and Paul, Alex is somehow a terrible person but continues to gain not only our sympathy but our favour. Never have I met a Clockwork Orange viewer who didn't like its main character. Of course during the second half of the film we feel sorry for Alex, as he has become a victim of the government's cruel experimentation and has been deprived of his natural rights. But even in the first half of the film we don't hate Alex. Go ahead and admit it. You were almost cheering him on. He was having so much fun--sure, at the expense of others, but fun nonetheless. Alex is the chaotic evil. He's pretty good at being bad, and he sure as hell knows how to have a good time. He's just a kid and like any other kid finds ways to improvise in times of boredom. He's a delinquent, an assailant; but he just makes it look so damned cool. As stated above, Alex is good at being bad--but not as much so as our final addition to the list.
1. Colonel Hans Landa
That's a bingo!
If anyone's good at being bad it's Hans Landa of the SS. That being said, this baddy happens to be the hardest to like and/or identify with, and yet the easiest at the same time. If you've seen every film on this list, you know how strange it feels to like the bad guy. Inglourious Basterds takes this to a whole 'nother level. Landa is a nazi for Christ's sake--and he's somehow still cool. How is that even possible? The overwhelming genius that is Quentin Tarantino--that's how it's possible. As much as (I hope) we disdain nazis, and as much as we want the Basterds to kill the shit out of every nazi they see, Hans Landa still earns our respect and at times, admiration. He's charming and sociable. Hell, at times he's downright friendly. A most unsettling aspect of this character is the underlying feeling that he just knows everything. Every time Landa is on screen, regardless of what kind of secret is being held from him--he probably knows. A prime example of this is the "German night in Paris" scene, where Frau Von Hammersmark tells Landa that she injured her leg mountain-climbing. She's lying through her teeth and he knows it. He knows her leg was injured in the basement bar, because he'd found her shoe (along with a signed napkin) there. He's so good at what he does it's disturbing. It's hard to decide whether Landa is a Complete Monster or a Magnificent Bastard (Basterd?!), but either way, he's number one on this list for a reason, and will remain there until I see a movie better than Inglourious Basterds--and that's just never going to happen.