Saturday, June 30, 2007
Danger Men Working
Theater is a medium of risk, requiring more of a suspension of disbelief than film because the audience is physically closer to the action. As Tom Stoppard says, there’s more “danger.” Artists like Stoppard are also aware that bold symbolism is less effective within film’s realism. (Theater would have better suited a movie like Stephen Frears’ “The Queen”. Take the scene in which Helen Mirren’s heroine sees the majestic stag. On the stage the stag could have been projected in silhouette, looming large in shadow, magically, against the back wall.) Danger too is what makes the “school of Mike Leigh” greats like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth a different breed from the modern day giants of RADA like Ralph Fiennes and Clive Owen. Simply put (despite the film training of the former and the stage training of the latter), Mike Leigh’s actors are fearless. It’s the difference between the breathtaking artistry of Gielgud and the hair-on-end fire of Olivier. Unfortunately, I fear that in the future this risky profession of acting will become obsolete. Already there is an accelerating trend towards finding interesting “characters” in real life then having them reprise their “roles” onscreen. When I first saw this in Iranian cinema years ago I thought directors like Kiarostami innovative. Now I see Kiarostami’s prescience as well. Here reality TV has helped to blur the boundaries between fiction and documentary, which meld into a hybrid form of filmmaking, sadly leaving acting a quaint remnant of a glamorous theatrical past. Where there is no danger there is no art.