Little to say for myself

Tuesday, March 25, 2003  

Less is More

I liked this article by David Mamet in Friday's Guardian. I so want him to be right about this.

It's something you can't see, and yet you just know to be there, that creates that subliminal connection to an actor's performance. Some might write it off as Emperor's New Clothes, but it really is there. It's what the brain does when it receives only partial information - it fills in the gaps, creates the full picture.

(If you don't believe me, the next time a person's face gets the digital mosaic treatment on the TV to protect their identity, screw your eyes up so they're almost closed, and you're just about managing to peer through a forest of eyelashes at the screen. You'll find that your brain can't see the edges of the mosaic tiles any more, and instead makes a good stab at creating a full facial image. You'll believe you can see enough of the person's true features to be able to identify them in a police line-up, even though the face you see only exists in your head)

If the actor can simultaneously maintain a blank emotional canvas, whilst clearly existing as a believable part of the scene, your perceptions and experiences flood onto that canvas to create their picture. Because they're your emotions and perceptions, and not the actor's or director's, you momentarily become that character and the connection is complete.

This, to me, is what makes the difference between Nicole Kidman's compelling intensity in The Hours, and virtually everything that poor Nicolas Cage tries to do. At a superficial level, Kidman seems passive and expressionless virtually throughout the film, even hiding behind that nose, but somehow her character reaches into your gut. With Cage, on the other hand, I can't escape the impression that he's clearly trying his damndest to cram every sinew, of whatever character he's trying to play, with visible meaning. This leaves no room for your own perceptions, so you can't make the connection. He's clearly just acting.

I'm a novice thesp who's been dabbling in local community theatre projects over the last few years, and this article has woken me up to the importance of mask work. I must give it a try some time soon.

posted by Plig | 00:54 |

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