Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Great Acting Blog: "Poetry Of The Mundane"




Readers of my blogs A Very Mysterious Business and Duologue will know that the bulk, or indeed all of the monologue and duologue scenes for Rouzbeh Rashidi's new feature film, “HE”, were shot in Dublin last September. So, when production resumed in Cork a week ago, mostly what we had to shoot were dream sequences, interiors and atmospheric shots.


As there was no dialogue, the central challenge for me, was to reveal what the character was upto using only physical actions, and I chose to do this by handling objects, or not, as in certain instances. For example, there was a key scene set in the kitchen, where I wanted to show that the character was distracted. I entered the scene with the intention of making myself a cup of coffee, so the first thing I did was to put the kettle onto boil, then prepare my mug. I stand and wait for the kettle to boil, and as I do so, I become lost in thought. After a couple of minutes, the kettle comes to the boil, however, instead of pouring water into my mug, I remain motionless, oblivious to the kettle, still lost in thought. It is only after a few moments that I snap out of it, and remember to pour the water and make myself a coffee, as per my original intention. The failure to maintain my constancy of purpose, to forget my original action, but start on a new one, then come back to my original, creates the idea of distraction. A simple piece of work, but very effective.


In the same scene, I needed to show that the character changes his mind. After I have made my coffee, I lean against the sideboard, and put the mug toward my lips in order to take a slurp, however, I pause just before it reaches my lips, and hold for a moment or two, before pulling the mug away, and pouring the coffee down the sink, then leaving the room – a change of mind – this sequence has a handy, secondary expression: that the character has resolved himself to perform a difficult task which he had possibly been hitherto putting off (which fits neatly with the needs of the film too).


There was another instance where I buy some liquid which is extremely important to the character, a kind of liquid the character my never have seen before. Again, I decided to express the character's relationship to this liquid by the way he handled it. If the liquid is important, then it needs to be handled at all times with care (as with anything we value highly). I also found moments where I hold the liquid upto the light to study it, largely because I needed the liquid to perform a crucial task, and so it was important to ensure a) it was the real Macoy, and b) that it was in working order. The side effect of this approach to the liquid is that it gives it a power, it's not just any old special brew, it's mysterious.


Using objects in this way is wonderfully expressive. It enables us to manifest the complex interior life of the character precisely, economically and organically. Furthermore, and crucially, anchoring the scene in the concrete, helps our performances to be truthful, and in the process, we are able to see that the mundane can be poetic.



Will post second of the HE blogs later this week.

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