Wednesday, June 6, 2012
It's a well known trick in the trade that to play drunk, you shouldn't just slur and stumble. Instead, you play it as somebody trying very hard not to do that – but failing. Those who are drunk pretend to be sober and think they can get away with it. So, playing drunk is to be miserable at playing sober.
The same is true for several of the most heartfelt emotions, like love, jealousy, fear, disappointment, despair, and so on. Someone falling in love initially tries to hide it. In jealousy we try all we can to overcome it, to be indifferent. With fear we fight not to be overcome by it. Actually, there are few feelings that we just go ahead and express willingly. Especially not the strongest ones.
In all these cases, the actor has to excel in counter acting, pretending the opposite, pretending not to have the feeling at hand. That makes it believable and intense.
Also playwrights must be aware of this paradox. And they are. In dialogue, what is being said is between the lines, not on them. What's spoken is often the very opposite of what the character feels or would like to express. Otherwise the drama loses its tension, well, its drama.
It says fundamental things about what it is to be human and how we really relate in our lives. It's kind of sad, but there it is. Our species seems to be one of awkward confusion. Life could be easy, at least most of it, but those big brains of ours make everything a mess, which takes a lifetime – at least – to sort out.
The catharsis, which is the true goal of every drama, is to realize that and thereby learn to live with it. Although we're rarely able of cutting through the fog in our own relations, on stage or on the screen we get to see others fail just as miserably. In doing so, they make the fog transparent. We understand.
It doesn't solve much, but it makes us grow.