Sunday, 8 November 2009

MICHEANGELO ANTONIONI ( 29/9/32- 30/7/07) - Reflections on the film Actor.


The Film Actor need not understand, but simply be. One might reason that in order to be, it is necessary to understand. That's not so. If it were, the nthe most intelligent actor would also be the best actor. Reality often indicates the opposite.

When an actor is intelligent, his efforts to be a good actor are thrre times as great, for he wishes to deepen his understanding to take everything into account, to include subleties, and in doing so he trespasses on ground which is not his- in fact, he creates obstacles for himself.

His reflections on the character he is playing, which according to populat theoryr should bring him closer to an exact characterization, end up thwarting his efforts and depriving him of naturalness. The film actor should arrive for shooting in a state of virginity. The more intuitive his work, the more spontaneous it will be.

The film actor should work not on the psychological level but on the imaginative one. And the imagination reveals itself spontaneously- it has no intermediaries upon which one can lean for support.

It is not possible to have a real collabotation between actor and director. They work on two entirely different levels. The director owes no explatations to the actor except those of a very general nature about the people in the film. It is dangerous to discuss details. Sometimes the actor and director necessarily become enemies. The director must not compromise himself by revealing his intentions. The actor is a kind of trojan horse in the citadel of the director.

I prefer to get results by a hidden method; that is, to stimulate in the actor certain of his innate qualities of whose existence he is himself unaware- to excite not his intelligence but his instinct- to give not justifications but illuminations. One can almost trick and actor by demanding one thing and obtaining another. The director must know how to demand, and how to distinguish what is good and bad, useful and superfluous, in everthing the actor offers.

The first quality of a director is to see. This quality is also valuable in dealing with actors. The actor is one of the elements of the image. A modification of his pose or gestures modifies the image itself. A line spoken by an actor in profile does not have the same meaning as one given full-face. A phrase addressed to the camera placed above the actor does not have the same meaning it would if the camera were placed below him.

These few simple observations prove that it is the director- that is to say, whoever composes the shot - who should decide the pose, gestures, and movements of the actor.

The same principle holds for the intonation of the dialoque. The voice is a noise which emerges with other noises in a rapport which only the director knows. It is therefore up to him to find balance or imbalance of these sounds.

It is necessary to listen at length to an actor even wken he is mistaken and at the same time try to understand how one can use his mistakes in the film, for these errors are at the moment the most spontaneous thing the aqctor has to offer.

To explain a scene or piece of dialoque is to treat all the actors alike, for a scene or piece of dialoque does not change. On the contrary, each actor demands special tratment. From this fact stems the necessity to find different methods: to guide the actor little by little tothe right path by apparently innocent corrections which will not arouse his suspicions.

This method of working may appear paradoxical, but it is the only one which allows the director to obtain good results with non-professional actors found, as they say, "in the street". Neo-realism has taught us that, but the method is also useful with professional actors- even the great ones.

I ask myself if their really is a great film actor. The actor who thinks too much is driven by the ambition to be great. It is a terrible obstacle which runs the risk of eliminating much truth from his performance.

I do not think I have two legs. I have them. If the actor seeks to understand, he thinks. If he thinks, he will find it hard to be humble, and humility constitutes the best point of departure in achieving truth.

Occasinally an actor is intelligent enough to overcome his natural limitations and to find the proper road by himself - that is, he uses his inate intelligence to apply the method I have just described.

When this happens, the actor has the quality of a director.

From "Film Culture", nos.22-3, Summer 1961, pp. 66-7.