Monday, January 11, 2010

The Craft: Christopher Walken, The Dead Zone





5 comments:

Arbogast said...

What is there about characters looking through windows that is so intensely cinematic, from Dreyer to Bava to the present day? Is it as obvious as the window providing a second proscenium and the act of looking out the window mirroring the cinematic experience? Or is it that it just looks cool? I have no ready answer for this question.

Greg said...

I've always found it interesting because I know the actor isn't looking at anything. In a scene with another actor they've got the other actor's eyes to look into. In a scene by themselves but working on something they've got whatever prop is handy to focus on, but with a window you know it's just the crew on the other side. So it's kind of a moment of freedom for the actor. They don't have to focus, they can drift, they can think and as a result something special seems to occur.

I realize it's all just something in my mind I'm projecting on the scene but that's about as well as I can explain it. And in seeking out this moment for my post I realized just how much of Walken's magnificent performance is rooted in looks, stares and reactions. He doesn't have big speeches and a only a handful of dramatic punch moments (the little shocks when he first has a vision or screaming "the ice is gonna break!"). The performance is mainly quiet observation and mime where every distant stare says volumes about everything he's trying so hard to suppress.

Arbogast said...

I was watching a bit of Wild at Heart the other day and noted how great Nic Cage was 20 years ago at just being in the scene, before he became the timebomb he is now. I suppose the same could be said about Walken or anybody who becomes a caricature of themselves.

Arbogast said...

I meant by the above that too many "great" actors forget the quiet art of listening.

Greg said...

Just look at Al Pacino's understatement in The Godfather and his overstatement in, uh, well everything since and Justice for All, so around the last 30 years of his career.

In The Godfather he raises his voice once, when he shouts "No!" to Kay in the last scene before lying to her. In later movies viewers looked at their watches wondering how far into the movie they would get before he lowered his voice.

So much great acting is listening and playing off the emotions apparent in the actor's eyes and mouth and gestures. It's like you said back in October in my Peter Cushing piece, that the actual dialogue with the great actors almost takes on an incidental nature. They just need to be said while the body communicates everything else.