Joey Moser asks you to consider one of the Hollywood Foreign Press’ more surprising nominees.
The Alienist was a massive success for TNT. The period murder mystery boasted high ratings and eventually snagged 6 Primetime Emmy Award nominations this past season. The crafts garnered well-deserved nominations (it won Visual Effects in a Supporting Role), but the Television Academy failed to recognize its three leads. It’s a shame because Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans turn in career-topping performances–but it’s Brühl who should get the most recognition. As the title character, Brühl is allowed to build a character in a way that we’ve never seen him do before. It’s a performance of tremendous control and intelligence.
Brühl’s Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is called to investigate a series of murders of young boys in fledgling New York City in the late 19th century. As the police begin their investigation of these grisly killings, Kreizler immediately understands that he must learn why the killer is taking these actions. In order to catch him, Kreizler must put himself in a deranged man’s mindset–something that is shocking to people outside the investigation.
Kreizler approaches everything with a confrontational edge. When he suggests that the killer might be reliving a past trauma, he turns to Fanning’s Sarah Howard and asked how she coped with her father’s suicide. John Moore tells her that she doesn’t need to answer the questions, but Kreizler persists: “John indulges himself with drink. She must confront her feelings because we all, in some manner, protect ourselves from psychological and emotional pain by crafting fantasies of revenge. Of power. Of sexual gratification. Go on then. Both of you. Come back when you’re able to look inside yourselves.” He dismisses them because they aren’t ready to expose a part of themselves to aid in their investigation.
Brühl’s intensity is felt in many confrontations throughout the limited series, and every time he exhibits his intellectual superiority over the other person. It’s the way he is able to spout off facts and truths while maintaining that softness in his voice. That arrogance is frustrating because he emotionally doesn’t allow anyone near him, but it’s riveting to watch. He’s a guarded presence even though he prides himself in being progressive and smart. He is a man trying to solve a mystery who doesn’t let people near him emotionally.
Kreizler isn’t the type of character that would normally get a romantic arc in a series like this. That feels like John Moore territory, to be sure. In a dinner scene, Kreizler invites Mary to dine next to him instead of across the large dining room table. He tells her, “I don’t know why I didn’t ask before” and she places her hand on his. Kreizler isn’t the type of person to publicly exhibit romantic feelings, and Brühl allows him to be unsure and nervous. It helps that it’s a private moment in his expansive house, but it’s, dare I say, endearing to see Kreizler anxious and unsure. When Mary dies late in the season, it breaks him, and we are left to wonder if he will ever trust anyone with that emotional intelligence again. That confidence takes a hit, and you can see it on Brühl’s face for the rest of the season after she dies.
Brühl is competing in a stacked category this year, but the Hollywood Foreign Press should consider awarding him because of the ferocious intelligence that Brühl brings to Kreizler. It’s not the flashiest turn in this lineup, but when he has the opportunity to tear into the material, he blows the other actors off the screen.
Consider the intelligence and consider the quietness of Daniel Brühl’s Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. It was a surprise nomination, and it would be a great surprise win.