For your consideration...Melanie Laurent as Shosanna in Inglourious Bastereds
WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED
One of my favorite supporting actress performances was by Melanie Laurent. Weisteins are trying to push her up to lead but I think the film is completely ensemble and, thus, she is a supporting role. Not that it lessens the quality of the performance at all. The film opens with her escape from her hideaway after the evil Nazi Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in an astounding performance guaranteed to get him an Oscar) murders her entire family. This sets up the motivation for her actions throughout the rest of the film. This scene is one of the few times we see fear in Shosanna. She begins as a weak and emotional girl scared for her life after the murder of her entire family.
Chapter 3 of the film is all about Shosanna. We see that she owns a small theater in Paris. It is here where famed Nazi hero Pvt Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) strikes up a conversation here. As we see how Shosanna detests the Nazis through her aloof demeanor around Zoller we get a glimpse of a strong but damaged woman. Between her last scene a few years has happened, and through those years we see that Shosanna has had tremendous growth. Upon her new life in Paris she adopts the alias Emmanuel Mineux. It is here we are introduced to her passion for cinema. Next, Pvt Zoller stalks her to lunch where her disdain for everything he stands for begins to put a small dent in his pride. Most of this scene consists of Germans stopping to talk to Pvt Zoller to get his autograph and such. It is here Shosanna realizes that Zoller is the star of the new German propaganda film based on his war exploits entitled "Nation's Pride." Pvt Zoller thinks this impresses Shosanna but, instead, her unimpressed demeanor and general disinterst and disapproval proves to be the most powerful weapon to Zoller's ego. It takes a talented actor to convey all of these emotions from an unexpressive face. While Zoller sees someone unexpressive to the public's admiration to him, the audience sees that behind that is anger and hostility to the entire establishment of the Nazis. In the last part of Chapter 3, Shosanna is taken to dinner with Zoller, and the director of the film "Nation's Pride" as well as other high ranking German officers. It is interesting to watch her expressions she conveys throughout the scene. Her uncomfort is disguised very well but her succinct answers and twinges of fright in her eyes are radiantly projected onto the audience. The tension multiplys exponentially when Hans Landa (the man who tried to kill her from the very beginning) arrives at the table. While all that is done is talking, the brilliant performance by Laurent escalates the tension to new levels. Her terror and disgust made me stay at the edge of my seat throughout the very long conversation. It is from this conversation that Shosanna's theater is chosen as the site for the film premier.
Upon arriving back to the theater, she informs her boyfriend/projectionist of her diabolical plan to burn down the theater and thus kill all the Nazis in attendance. What I love about the scene is the fierce ambition, drive and blood lust that has overcome Shosanna. Throughout the movie Shosanna has been portrayed as a reserved character who wishes not to get involved with the Nazis. However, now we see a shift as she brilliantly and chillingly lays out her murderous plans.
Lastly, Chapter 5 chronicles Shosanna's plan in action. We watch Shosanna prepare by slipping on her red dress, stuffing a gun in her purse, applying her lipstick, and redying her final reel for the film. As she walks through the lobby swarming with Nazis, we see a woman completely confident and in charge. This is definately the most kick ass moment of the film. Shosanna is oozing danger and sex appeal. she emodies the old adage "If looks could kill..." At this point, the audience is greatly anticipating the murder of the Nazis and cheering for Shosanna.
Later, towards the end of the film, Shosanna is suprised by a visit in the projection room by Pvt Zoller. As she answers the door he seeks to flirt with Shosanna. Shosanna, however, has no plans to fraternize and she bluntly and very bitchy (in a great way) tells him to get lost and that she doesn't want anything to do with him. When she tries to close the door on him he brutally barges in there furious at her. Shosanna is ready for this, she catches him off guard and fires a couple rounds into him. It is at this moment where Laurent quietly and subtly garners her Oscar nomination. After this ordeal, she feels a moment of sympathy and compassion. However, Quentin Tarantino shows how foolish it is to feel any sympathy towards Nazis when it turns out Zoller is only on the brink of death. Zoller shoots Shosanna dead and they both perish in the projection room. Lastly, there is a great diabolical moment where the reel with Shosanna plays announcing the Nazi death as they look deep into the eyes of "the Jew who will kill you all!" This prompts the fire and ends in the successful end of the Nazis, including Hitler.
Melanie Laurent was required to hit a large range of emotional notes with only stares and looks but she pulls it off gracefully. I think she deserves to be a nominee for supporting actress in a year which saw so many strong performances.