Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Through The Window

I don't take the movies seriously, and anyone who does is in for a headache.

Bette Davis
It may be an old drum but it still resonates. So I'm going to keep beating it.

Let me put it to you this way. If you went to a concert and saw a man playing the guitar would you say that the man was the guitar? Of course not. He's not a guitar. He's playing a guitar. If you went to the ballet and the next day you saw the ballerina coming down the sidewalk, do you think she would be walking on her toes, doing leaps and pirouettes? Most probably not. If an artist paints a picture is he the picture or simply the one who painted it? If a novelist writes a story about someone is he writing an autobiography or a novel? Then why do people assume an actor is like the roles he plays?

I am currently putting the final touches on a long story about Brian Sims and his journey across the country. ( "Brian On The Road." I made such a journey myself in the same year, 1960. The story is based on my own journey but Brian is a different man, he's my invention. Some of the people, places and events are true, but not in the way I describe them, and some are not. It is simply based on my own journey. And that phrase "based on" is a very important one to remember.

I have a friend, an actor, who played one of the most villainous and despicable characters in a Hollywood film. There is nothing about my friend that resembles that character in the least. The role was a pure invention based on something: people he knew or read about perhaps. I remember discussing that with a young actress who claimed that there must be something to my friend that is like that character or he could never have played it so well. I asked her if she happened to get a role as a prostitute would she like it if someone said there must be something loose and promiscuous about her or she could never play it so well. She admitted that would not please her and changed her mind about my friend.

There's a recent motion picture, a war story, set in Iraq. Members of the military have complained about it, saying that it isn't true to life and doesn't happen that way. Well, of course it doesn't. The film is a work of art, a piece of fiction. It may be based on things that happen in Iraq, but it isn't about them. It's about itself.

If they want something that is true to life in Iraq then they should make a documentary. But that's a different product for a different audience. The film is fiction, just like a novel, just like a ballet. If you watch a film thinking the actors are really the people they are portraying then you're going to end up with a headache.

A work of art is an invitation, it's a window on to our own special lives.

DB - The Vagabond
(This is not a contest.)

Hold your breath, Spring is coming any minute

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have the Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
24 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond
Any suggestions for a Spring Question?


Big Mark 243 said...

Well said. But in the case of films that attempt to portray true life experiences, those who live the reality will find an exception to the portrayal.

Fiction has a higher bar to clear, because fiction still has to make sense. There is no way that the complex interactions can be accounted for on film, that is characterized in reality.

Liz said...

The writer writes words that people interpret according to their own imagination.
The composer writes music that people interpret according to their own imagination.
The actor plays a written role that is interpreted by their imagination and a director.
The actor is 'once removed' from the creation and will be forever liable to be labelled by the public with the role that seemed to bring him/her closest to the original that they held within their imagination.