Saturday, January 31, 2009

Film thoughts

I was watching Kevin Reynold's The Count of Monte Cristo last night, and it occurred to me that if Alfred Hitchcock were alive today and making films, he would have snatched up Jim Caviezel and used him in more than one of his films. He plays an excellent innocent wrongly accused. And more than that, he has the film actor's ability of making his face hold up well for the camera; that almost stolid state of facial expression that seems about to take on any number of emotions.

I don't know much about acting, but I've seen enough films to know there is quite a difference between the film actor and the actor on stage. There has to be a kinship between the actor's face and the camera and both must go into serving a pinnacle point, like two bottom points of a triangle: the pinnacle point is the invisible but very real character of the scene itself. The scene runs into all the other scenes to form the running time of the film; and this running time is an unveiling; the most real aspect of the film.

Hence Hitchcock said infamously, "Actors are cattle to be herded". A rather harsh and cynical statement, but one that points to a truth nonetheless. The film actor must be able to attain to this doughy, stolid state; this state which Sir Alec Guinness was a master of. Guinness said that in preparing for a role, he focused on what his legs were going to do - nothing else, at that moment. Once he knew what his legs were doing, everything else fell into place. I wonder if the same could be said for the film actor's eyes. If the film actor does not know what to do with his eyes he is lost.

Anyhow, I got to wondering also about Caviezel's film career leading up to The Passion of the Christ; especially watching the scenes in The Count of Monte Cristo where Edmond Dantes gets annually flogged at the prison Chateau d'if. Then I thought about his role as Private Witt in The Thin Red Line; a sort of far-seeing and serene Christ-type figure. Is it possible that God was preparing Caviezel through these roles for his role as Jesus?

I think it more than possible. I find it amazing how God, the Holy Spirit, works in all aspects of the Culture.


Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you are saying. That thing that people like Jim Caviezel, Lawrence Fishburne and Anthony Hopkins (to name a few) is essential to movie acting, but probably way too subtle for the stage.

Paul Stilwell said...

Lawrence Fishburne has it indeed in spades. I've always liked him as an actor. I have a kind of love/hate thing for Anthony Hopkins' acting, but of course, he has it in spades too (and as you say, these are naming just a few. Off the top of my head, Mel Gibson has it in a more dynamic/ferocious sort of way). It's interesting to think on all the various faces.

I agree, it is something too subtle for stage. Stage acting seems something that is almost wholly dependent on oratory skills.