A gripping performance has the power to heal. When we, as audience members, are unable or unwilling to tap into our mental pain or unresolved issues, seeing a fictional character go through a similar journey induces an emotional response… and consequently, a change.
I knew I wanted to be an actress since I was probably four years old. Cliche, anyone? Regardless, as a kid, I totally preferred the company of the TV over other kids. I felt more connected and understood in that imaginary world of film characters than in real world. (Strangely enough, today I love nothing more than being around people – humans are crazy awesome). I wanted to be “there” – where the adventure, excitement and fun was. So I would watch movies all day long, learn all the characters’ lines and make my little sister reenact scenes with me. Ha 🙂 (love you Bruna)
In hindsight, for me, I don’t think that appeal was about engaging storylines or special effects. It was about seeing an actor deliver an incredibly gripping performance. Actually, not seeing – EXPERIENCING such performance.
When an actor is willing to be honestly vulnerable, and wholeheartedly give of themselves, it elevates the performance and we as audience can SENSE it. It adds a new dimension to what we are seeing, and we are moved from watching a familiar hero’s path to becoming a witness to another person’s bearing of the soul. We move from general to specific. And specific is unpredictable, intoxicating and engaging. It’s because the responses and reactions aren’t all decided upon in advance. Instead, an actor lets themselves experience and manifest them in real time. And let me tell you something, from personal experience – that shit is really scary. Letting yourself be seen, even behind the “mask” of character’s words and actions is an act of courage. It’s also what distinguishes the good from the great. A decent performance from a gripping one. One that sticks with you for weeks on after… And perhaps encourages you to make a change, to persevere, to stand up for yourself, to ask for more out of life.
Marlon Brando, my spirit animal, probably explained it the best by saying: “Never let the audience know how it’s gonna come out”. And an actor can only do that by fearlessly going with their impulses.
For me personally, my favorite gripping performance of all time is Al Pacino in “Carlito’s Way”. Holy moly. It breaks my heart every time I watch it (which is about once a year). I remember F. Murray Abraham as Salieri in “Amadeus” … I often tend to relate in such artistic pursuit for perfection and frustrations that always accompany it. When I was going through the hardest time in my life due to a certain family tragedy, watching Jennifer Connelly in “House of Sand and Fog” taught me to find my voice and how to forgive… I could obviously continue ad infinitum.
But let me leave you with something to think about … I heard that no matter how good your blog post, nothing can engage the audience better than a gratuitous sexy shot. I learned it from Anna Farris in “The House Bunny” hahahah. True or false? Here goes the test: