Anna Magnani in The Fugitive Kind (written by Tennessee Williams, directed by Sidney Lumet)
What is acting anyway? We think we have to show ourselves and that’s true, we do. But trusting that the “showing” can be simply revealing is the challenge. It’s a longer discussion but plainly said, to me, it’s a human being experiencing something strong, deep, crazy, glorious, with another human being or alone (always in relation to another human being), and allowing the camera or an audience in. Truthfully. Personally. That’s where it lives.
But we often don’t trust that. We try to create something. To “perform” it. Or to demonstrate it. Maybe we don’t believe the experiencing it is enough. Maybe it doesn’t feel like work. And isn’t that the goal? For it to feel like life… Effortless. Fluid. And our very own, even private, intimate. And messy and unpredictable… If it’s alive, it can be anything. This experience should transport you, give you a “high”. (And us too; don’t keep that high to yourself.) It’s why you’re doing it, why you’re compelled to live it. Why someone wrote it. Why we’re engaged, hopefully fully captivated.
It’s a ludicrous thing, this acting. It takes a little bit of madness, sometimes a lot. To surrender to those parts of ourselves. And to reveal them. To tell a story with our full beings. Our human experiences are extraordinary and deserve our fullest commitment. Whatever genre, however long or short, whatever the story. It’s ours to play a part in.
This clip of Anna Magnani, from The Fugitive Kind (1959), brings us into her very personal world with such truthfulness. Her pain and her ecstasy are palpable.
And BTW, she’s gorgeous, isn’t she? In today’s Hollywood would she be recognized as attractive? Who cares. Her ownership of her beauty, her sexuality, her experience, is stunning. And her strength, her desperate desire to encounter her pain and reach through it for happiness, is what pulls us in.
Thank you, John Ruskin, for sharing this with me a while back. I woke up with this in my head (have no idea why) and watched it again. Fell into it. And I wanted to share it with all of the actors with whom I’ve been working recently who have such enormous life in you. You have to take risks, and in that, trust that bringing your life to the “story” truthfully, personally, and bravely, is what will bring you into our hearts. Ain’t that what it’s all about?
Experience Anna Magnani. That’s acting, ladies and gentlemen. (And the other guy’s pretty good too.)
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