It’s quite fitting that Max Von Sydow, celebrated Swedish actor, should turn 80 on Good Friday, of all days. This is an actor who’s both been crucified and stared down the devil (or at least a devil), not to mention the grim, gray specter of Death, with whom he tripped the light fantastic over the eternal hills.
Von Sydow’s not an actor I would rank in my personal pantheon, but perusing through his resume on imdb, it’s astonishing how many films would simply not have functioned without him. He offers gravity in Ingmar Bergman’s dramatic explorations when other characters spin out of control (Through a Glass Darkly, The Passion of Anna). His subtle villains are often the highlight of otherwise banal flicks (Minority Report). The guy can even poke fun at his own phlegmatic, professorial image by taking roles like that of Barbara Hershey’s paternal love interest in Hannah and her Sisters (the youtube embed below sounds a lot more like conversations between myself and my wife than I would care to admit, the cantankerous, overeducated misanthrope that I am).