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New Fordist Acting

Author: David Pocknee, Ana Smaragda Lemnaru

A film test prototype that relies on constructing facial expressions based on a combination of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes. Generic emotional facial expressions are analyzed formally, in relation to the position of the facial anatomy. Later emotions are reconstructed by giving the actors easy tasks that would arrange the facial features in the desired position.

“A work of art captured entirely by technological reproduction, indeed (like film) proceeding from it, can have no more direct opposite than live theatre. Every more detailed examination confirms this. Expert observers long since acknowledged that in film ‘it happens almost invariably that the greatest effects are achieved when the least “acting” is done [...]. The ultimate development being [according to Arnheim, writing in 1932] to treat the actor as a prop that is selected for character and [...] put to use in the right place.’ ... An actor working in the theatre enters into a part. Very often, the screen actor is not allowed to. The latter’s performance is not a single entity; it consists of many individual performances...Possibly, following a knock at the door, an actor is asked to start in surprise. His reaction may turn out to be unsatisfactory. In which case the director may resort to arranging, one day when the actor happens to be back in the studio, for a gun to be fired behind him without warning. The shock registered by the actor at that moment may be captured and later edited into the film. Nothing shows more graphically that art has escaped from the realm of ‘beautiful pretence’, which for so long was deemed the only habitat in which it might thrive.”

Walter Benjamin, The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction (London, 2008), 19-20