I. The Theatre and the Cinema
II. The Basic Contradiction of the Actor’s Work
III. Discontinuity in the Actor’s Work in the Cinema
IV. Theoretical Postulates of Discontinuity
V. Rehearsal Work.
VI. The Editing Image
VIII. Dual Rhythm of Sound and Image
IX. Intonation, Make-up, Gesture
X. Realism of the Acted Image
XI. Work with Non-Actors
XIII. The Creative Collective
XIV. Personal Experiences
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
I. Non-professional as an old woman. “Simple Case,” Pudovkin
II. Savitsky, non-professional (former Siberian Red Partisan), as a strikebreaker. “Mother,” Pudovkin
III. Tchistiakov, then non-professional (bookkeeper since become actor), as the father. “Mother,” Pudovkin
IV. Batalov, actor, as the son. “Mother,” Pudovkin
V. Rogulina, then first-year student at the G.I.K. (State Institute of Cinematography, Moscow), as Masha, wife of the Red Army Commander. “Simple Case,” Pudovkin
VI. Tchuvelev, actor, as a peasant boy, and Baranovskaya, actress, as a worker’s wife. “End of St. Petersburg,” Pudovkin
VII. Tchuvelev, actor, as a peasant boy. “End of St. Petersburg,” Pudovkin
VIII. Pudovkin as a police officer, and Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. “Mother,” Pudovkin
IX. Sovrotchin, actor, as a strike-breaker. “Mother,” Pudovkin
X. Pudovkin as a bourgeois of the Empire. “New Babylon,” Kozintsev and Trauberg
XI. Tchistiakov, then non-professional, as the father. “Mother,” Pudovkin
XII. Pudovkin as a docker. “Deserter,” Pudovkin
XIII. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. “Mother,” Pudovkin
XIV. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. “Mother,” Pudovkin
XV. Tchistiakov, now actor, as Fritz, a German workers’leader. “Deserter,” Pudovkin
XVI. Livanov, actor, as a German worker. “Deserter,” Pudovkin
XVII. Non-professional in small part. “Deserter,” Pudovkin
XVIII. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. “Mother,” Pudovkin
XIX. Non-professional (Red Army man from Odessa), in small part. “Simple Case,” Pudovkin
XX. Unnamed player as a jail officer. “Mother,” Pudovkin
XXI. Pudovkin as Fedya and Vvedensky, actor, as the informer, “Living Corpse,” Otsep
XXII. Pudovkin as Fedya and Nata Vashnadze, actress, as Masha, the gipsy. “Living Corpse,” Otsep
XXIII. Livanov, actor, as a German worker and a boy, non-professional, as the son of a slain German worker. “Deserter,” Pudovkin
XXIV. Pudovkin as Fedya and Vvedensky, actor, as the informer. “Living Corpse,” Otsep
CHAPTER I. THE THEATRE AND THE CINEMA
Discussion of such questions as the interrelationship between film and stage, the necessity for the cinema to absorb and benefit from the traditions and discoveries of the theatre, the respective problems of film acting and stage acting, etc., is often along entirely wrong lines. The only profitable basis for such discussion, too often disregarded, is the consideration of the cinema in its aspect as a step in the development of the theatre.
To understand what we must discard, and what preserve or alter, in our stage heritage we must first appreciate those technical possibilities which distinguish the new nature of cinema from the nature of theatre.
I use with purpose the word possibilities, because not only theoreticians, but many practical film workers also, limit their achievement by regarding the cinema as little more than a photograph, mechanically recording what in essence basically remains a theatrical performance conditioned by the specific technical conditions of the theatre.
The intrinsic possibilities of the cinema are only realised in full when its new technical means are exploited, not merely in a mechanical fixation of the forces already found and used by the stage, but also in the discovery of novel, often more profound and more expressive methods of communicating to the spectator the concept of the creative artist. We shall always be in a position to use a camera merely to photograph a theatrical performance, and this mere mechanical use ofit can, in fact, be of definite service in educational work. But, I repeat, the mechanical transference to the screen of a stage show, with all the limitations conditioned by the latter’s technical methods, is not the proper line of development of the cinema.
The fight against theatricality in the cinema in no way implies antagonism to the stage as such. It only puts before us as our task, simply and clearly, the examination and analysis of the contradictions arising in the process of the development of the theatre, and their resolution in the cinema, not by slavish imitation of the theatre’s solution, but by use of the cinema’s own technical possibilities. It means repudiation of a number of theatrical methods and discovery and acceptance of analogous specific filmic methods.
It is thus clear that, to discover the specific character of the work of the film actor, our first task is to analyse the contradictions in the work of the stage actor. And, equally essential, to appreciate sharply the distinction between the material-technical basis of theatre and the material-technical basis of cinema.
What prime basic contradiction of the theatre is eliminated in the cinema? Every several work of art may be defined as an act of collective perception and modification ofreality. This is to say that every work of art is to be regarded not as a process of two factors—the creative artist and the work created —but as a more complex process, consisting of three factors: the creative artist, the work created, and the spectator apprehending it.
The act of perception of a fragment of reality, recorded and fixed by the artist in the work he creates, resumes life and repeats itself in perception by a multitude of spectators. In concert with the artist, the spectator likewise perceives a part of reality, and, in his act of doing so, thereby transmutes the work of art to a social-historical phenomenon, i.e. from a paper, or canvas or celluloid symbol to an actual process.
A stage show, exactly as any other work of art, has real existence only in respect to its contact with the spectator. The Soviet artist has for his spectator the whole population of the Soviet Union; ultimately, the population of the world. What does any given stage show represent in terms of its embrace of the mass spectator? The numerical embrace of one stage production performed in an average-sized theatre throughout one year would be approximately 100,000 spectators. The embrace of a theatrical art work is widened by its production in a number of other theatres. But, even granted a high technical level of the theatrical network, the productions staged in Moscow will differ qualita tively from those staged in Odessa, Kiev, and Kazan. They will inevitably vary with the coefficients of method and skill of the producers, with the casts, with the technical resources of the respective theatres. Even in the same town it is certain that there will be qualitative difference in production of the same play in different theatres. Suppose we go farther, and consider the ultimate embrace of the many-millioned spectator of the colkhoz, (1) [1 Collective farm, each with its own cultural facilities, including theatre.—Tr.] we immediately encounter a qualitative difference of the highest degree. Contrast a production at the First Moscow Art Theatre, and at a colkhoz theatre, which not even the most perfect conceivable organisation of the on-tour system could contrive to service with acting forces of first strength.
Consequently, in the theatre, the widening of its network is in direct contradiction with the quality of its performance. The theatre has, however, one further technical means of expanding its spectatorembrace, and that is, increase in the size of its auditorium. Here too, however, there is a definite limit beyond which this contradiction implicit in the very nature of the stage show comes once again to the fore. The first desideratum for the actor is that he must be distinctly seen and heard. In order to be distinctly perceptible to a larger number of spectators the actor studies voice delivery, learns to make his gestures obvious and clear without losing their intrinsic character, he learns, in short, to move and speak in such a way that he can be seen and heard distincdy from the last row in the gallery.
But the broader an acting gesture, the less it can be shaded. The more intensified the actor’s tones, the more difficult it is for him to transmit to the spectator the finer shades of his voice. Loudness of tone and widening of gesture lead to generalised form and stylisation, which tend as a technique inevitably to become dry and cold. The depth and realism of the image that the actor creates tend to vary inversely with the size of the audience that sees his performance. Increase in size ofa theatrical building has thus a boundary beyond which the building itself dictates the actual form of the production, even its transmutation into specialised forms of mass spectacle: festivals, carnivals, parades, etc.
We perceive from these considerations that stage art, in the circumstances obtaining in practice, evinces a contradiction between numerical increase of its audience (along two possible lines) and qualitative improvement of performance.
How is this contradiction escaped in the cinema? The degree of quality in the work of art is fixed once and for all at the time of single production of the film. The quality attained can be conveyed unmodified to any audience by means of a cinema network capable of development to any dimension. The measure of spectator-embrace is solved simply by the specific technical character of the cinema. The spectator-embrace can be increased in number to include the entire population of the world. The quality of the performance at any given point in the network, however remote from the centre, varies solely as the quality of the technical equipment of the given theatre at which it takes place, and this is merely a matter of standardisation. At some future date it may well be that every dwelling will have a projection equipment, operated by some improved form of radio-television, and giving the possibility of simultaneous and uniform presentation of a film in every conceivable corner of the globe.
Certainly the same means might be used for simultaneous and ubiquitous transmission of a theatrical performance. But the cinema’s property of indefinitely repeating its performance at its fixed and optimal degree of quality will remain unique.
The second aspect of the contradiction in theatrical acting, also referred to above, quality varying inversely with the size of the auditorium, is equally solved in the cinema. The size of the cinema theatre is no handicap to performance, for the possibility of increase in size of the screen, or in number of the sound-reproducers, is unlimited. Thus, at the time of shooting, the actor can speak without straining his tones in the slightest, he is free to exercise the finest shading of voice and gesture. We shall later have to discuss the importance of this fact for the special character of film acting.
I now come to a new contradiction, arisen from the influence upon theatrical development of our contemporary life. The artist, drawing the specta tor into a joint perception and modification of reality with him in the process of creating and apprehending the work of art, has a general tendency to embrace his fragment of reality as widely and deeply as he can. In an epoch such as ours, wherein the tempestuous development of reality continually outpaces the generalisation of it in human thought, it is natural that this tendency should express itself in an endeavour to deal realistically with the innumerable only newly discovered facets of this reality.
The eager desire to discover, beyond each generalisation, the living complexity of life, ever new-faceted, inevitably gives rise to a desire to embrace a maximum number of events in the work ofart and consequently to expand it over a maximum embrace of time and space.
To contrive the increase in the work of art of the space-time embrace of reality, each art form has its own specific methods deriving from its own specific material technique. In the theatre, for example, the principal means of attaining this end is the splitting-up of the performance into separate acts and scenes. A one-act performance of two persons engaged in dialogue and lasting without interval for an hour embraces exactly that, an hour’s conversation between two persons stationary in one place—and no more. To embrace a bigger slice of time we split the act into two scenes. The first can be played as springtime in Berlin, the second as summer in Moscow. Such a division of an act into parts gives us the possibility of embracing not only bigger time, but also bigger space.
In his productions of classical plays, Meyerhold tries to imbue them with a contemporary content, and consequently is perpetually overflowing the limited framework which, in the classics, holds the action within a unity of time and space. In order to create in the audience, by means of the show, the necessary feeling of the dialectical complexity of the event, Meyerhold expands each act by technical stage devices that have the object of theatrically expressing the new content which the modern spectator, and the artist in concert with him, perceives in reality.
Thus in his productions Meyerhold splits the act not only into scenes but into many episodes within scenes. An interesting example is his production of Ostrovski’s The Forest, in which, by means of this splitting, he literally guides his two actors throughout a whole province without them leaving the stage.
But development along this line, while remaining at the same time conditioned by the material limitations of stage technique, inevitably comes to a dead end fixed by an insoluble and purely material contradiction. It is impossible to conceive a stage performance cut up into one- and two-minute bits. Such a performance would presuppose entirely new engineering inventions enabling scenic changes at the speed of lightning, enabling the spectator to transfer his attention from one point of stage space to the other with the speed of the successive bits.
In his production of Razbeg, [Impetus, a play from the novel of the same name on colkhoz life by V. Stavski, produced at the Krasnaya Presnya Theatre in Moscow.—Note by V. I. P.] Okhlopkov makes an attempt to scatter separate tiny scenes throughout the whole space of the auditorium, so that to follow the change of episode, the spectator is obliged to turn his head right, left, up, sometimes even straight behind him. Of course, if a mechanically perfect seat could be devised that would save the spectator the unnecessary exhaustion (and the crick in his neck) caused by the movements imposed on him, the problem might be said to have been by this means resolved in his favour. But is it worth while inventing such seats, when the technical basis of the cinema solves precisely this problem with the utmost ease?
In the hoary days of cinema, when the style was more ultra-theatrical than ever since, and it had not yet occurred to anyone that the film could be anything but a simple photograph of a staged play, even then, the cinema used scenes each of which was no longer than 5 minutes long. In other words, the longest scenes of the film at its birth were equal to the shortest scenes of the stage at its most modern.
The possibility of lightning-like change of action, also, was inherent and realised in the most infantile days of cinema. The possibility of almost infinite wideness of embrace both in space and time was already appreciated and realised in the very first works by serious masters of film art.
The splitting-up of the stage performance into pieces, a natural development of theatre accentuated in these days by the present eagerness to embrace wider space-time fragments of comprehensible reality, reaches, at a certain stage of its development, a point of standstill on the stage and, at the same time, a starting-point in the cinema. The 3-minute bit that is an unthinkable high limit of speed for a scene change in the theatre is, in the cinema, the last limit of slowness.
What is the new material-technical base which eliminates from the cinema this second contradiction, shown above to be an obstacle implicit in theatrical development? In the main this new technique is enabled by two instruments. First, a movable photographing apparatus, that serves in some sort as a technically perfected spectator’s eye. This eye can retreat from its object to any distance in order to embrace the widest possible spacial field of vision. It can approach the tiniest detail in order to concentrate upon it the whole attention. It can jump from one point in space to another, and the sum total of all these movements requires, to all intents and purposes, no physical exertion on the part of the spectator. Second, a microphone, almost as readily movable and representing an attentive ear, capable of apprehending every sound without strain, be it the barely audible whisper of man or the roar of powerful sirens made faint by distance.
The purpose of this study is to define the main respects in which this new material-technical basis affects the work of one of the most important members of the creative ensemble in cinema or in theatre—the actor.
It would, of course, be wrong to assume that the new technique affects the actor’s work only by lightening it, in that it removes the necessity for him to overcome a whole series of specific theatrical contradictions (such as the intensification of voice-tone and exaggeration of gesture needed to overcome the space separating actor from spectator in a large building, as mentioned above).
The new material-technical basis of the cinema not only affects the actor’s work by lightening it in certain respects, it also imports many difficulties not present in stage work, or present there in milder and more tractable form.
Before discussing the specific work of the film actor it will be best first to consider those aspects of the actor’s work common to both film and stage, and therefore inescapable in either.
CHAPTER II. THE BASIC CONTRADICTION OF THE ACTOR’S WORK
The fundamental of the actor’s job, both in film and on the stage, is the creation of a whole and lifelike image. From the very start of his work the actor has to set out to grasp and ultimately embody this image, shaping himself in the course of stage rehearsal or, in the cinema, in the so-called ‘preparatory work.’
Both in stage and screen work the actor has to embody the image in its deepest sense, ideologically and teleologically. But this task is not only conditioned objectively, it is also conditioned, of course, subjectively.
The image that has to be worked out is conditioned not only by the intention of the play as a whole, but also by the nature of the actor’s self, it is related to himself as an individual personality. Any problem involving modification of his personality, however one may regard it, is obviously per se indissolubly linked with the continuous actual existence of the actor as a live individual, with all the elements of character and culture contributing to his formation. The relation between the proposed image and the actor as a live person is particularly strong at the beginning of his work. For this is the period at which emphasis lies on the element of his emotional attitude to the image, his so-called ‘feeling’ of some aspect of the image that particularly excites him and thereby serves as the essential point of departure of his work on it. Only later does the actor proceed to the task of thoroughly understanding and grasping the play as a whole, appreciating its ideological content. Then his work widens and becomes the solution of the most generalised problems of the play.
The work of the actor on the image is thus oriented two ways. The image the actor builds as his work develops, on the one hand is constructed out of himself as a person with given individual characteristics, and on the other is conditioned by the interaction of this personal element and the intention in general of the play.
The final object of the actor and his performance is to convey to the spectator a real person, or at least a person who could conceivably exist in reality. But at the same time, all the while he is creating this image, the actor none the less remains a live, organically whole self. When he walks on the stage, nothing within him is destroyed. If he be a nice man acting a villain, he still remains a nice man acting a villain. Hence the creation of the image must be effected not by mere mechanical portrayal of qualities alien to him, but by the subjugation and adaptation of the qualities innate in him.
An image of the necessary reality will only be achieved when the given series of expressions, both internal and external, required by the play is expressed not by a set of words, gestures, and intonations dictated by formula or whimsy and mechanically repeated, but as result of the subjugation and re-expression of the actor’s own living individuality. This manner of constructing a rôle will give it an organic unity that it will never receive if it be arbitrarily separated from the living organic unity of the actor as a person.
The duality of the creative process in the actor’s creation of the image is only an aspect of the duality or dialectic of every process of comprehension of reality, indeed every practical getting-to-grips-with-it by man with any phenomenon. In political work, for example, which is creative in the sense in which is the fulfilment of every task, there is the dialectic of the conflict and unity of theory and practice. Theory is checked by practice, practice generalised by theory, and only as resolved resultant of these conflicts does work proceed correctly. The emotional side and the logical side represent the duality in an actor’s work of creating an image. If his construction is to have the organic unity of life, logic of synthesis must be informed by personal emotional excitement, and, correspondingly, emotional urgings must be based upon and checked in the light of the logic of the play. This consideration immediately exposes the limitations, both in theatre and in cinema, of the often recommended naif and natural ‘type.’
The idea that the alpha and omega of acting can be expressed by a ‘type’ is based upon the regarding of acting as a sort of mechanical process capable of being disintegrated into separate and quite unconnected bits. It ignores the fact that the actor does, in fact, exist as a live person, if a type, then a person unconscious of the inner meaning of his work, and thus, to say the least, unable to further the creation on stage or screen of the unification and wholeness necessary for living verisimilitude of image.
Here let us reaffirm our principal desideratum for acting both on stage and screen. The aim and object of the technique of the actor is his struggle for unity, for an organic wholeness in the lifelike image he creates.
But the technical conditions of work on the stage and for the screen impose a number of demands on the actor that perpetually tend to destroy his unity and continuity in the rôle.
The splitting-up of the performance on the stage into acts, scenes, episodes, the still more subdivided splitting-up of the actor’s work in the shooting of a film, set up a corresponding series of obstacles through and over which the entire creative collective (actor-producer in the theatre, actor-directorcameraman- etc. in the film) must combine to carry the organic unity of line of the actor’s image.
This unavoidable technical split-up of his work is immediately in direct contradiction with the actor’s need to preserve himself in his acting whole and undivided. In both play and film, this contradiction always obtains. In actual performance, the actor plays in bits. Between two entries, between two performances, though not playing, his existence is continuous.
Bad actors and bad theoreticians get round this contradiction between the mechanical splitting dictated by the conditions of performance and the need for the actor to strive to live uninterruptedly in the image by maintaining that the gestures and words necessary for the part can simply be mechanically memorised, and thus suspended, as it were, over the intervals.
Where one regards the actor as a ‘type’ who only mechanically repeats externally dictated gestures, the intervals between the separate bits of acting do, it is true, look like vacua that do not need to be filled with living material linking up the part as a whole on and off the stage, not only during a performance or shooting, but also during rehearsal.
This superficial attitude to the actor’s work is especially prevalent in the cinema. But, actually, the discontinuity of the actor’s work must never be ignored, but always treated as a difficulty to be overcome. Let it be admitted that splitting-up into bits is less serious on the stage than in the cinema. The technical conditions of stage work allow the bits of continued existence in the given image to be longer. And there is a whole series of methods in the work of the stage actor’s study of the image designed to the end of bringing about a maximum of linkage of the separate bits of the rôle into one whole within the actor himself. First and foremost of theatrical methods for this purpose is rehearsal. During rehearsal the stage actor does not limit himself by the hard-andfast conditions imposed by the text of the play. Stanislavski makes his actors in rehearsal act not only their parts as they stand in the play, but supplementary action not, in fact, in the text, but necessary to enable the actor completely to ‘feel’ himself into his part.
Rehearsal work of this kind enables the actor to feel himself an organic unity moving freely in all directions within the frame of the image planned. Essentially, it is precisely this work that links the separate bits of his acting to the feeling, however discontinuous in fact, of a unified, continuous real image.
Rehearsal work of this kind is precisely the opportunity for the actor to transform the abstract thought and general line of expression that he has hit on to express the image into concrete acts and manners of behaviour.
If the actor remain only at the c thinking’stage of his creative work, even for a moment, then in respect to that moment he ceases to be an actor. If the actor decide that the person he is portraying might have killed a man between acts one and two, then he should not only include the murder as an abstract element of his treatment of the image in the second act, but he should, in fact, actually practise acting this murder non-existent in the play, so that he may inwardly feel not only the concept of the murder, but, as really as possible, all the potentialities of the murder and its influence on the character of the image.
This sort of rehearsal work, designed to connect the complexity of the objectively planned image with the live and actual individuality of the actor and all its wealth of individual character and culture, might be termed the process of being absorbed into or embodying the rôle.
Stanislavski in one of his essays speaks of the art of living an image and the art of presenting an image, distinguishing by these terms two kinds of acting, the first basing itself on inner impulse, the second on externalised theatrical forms.
Stanislavski says: “While the art of living an image strives to feel the spirit of the rôle every time and at each creation, the art of presenting an image strives only once to live the rôle, privately, to show it once and then to substitute an externalised form expressing its spiritual essence: the hack actor disregards the living of the rôle and endeavours to work out once and for all a ready-made form of expression of feeling, a stage interpretation for every possible rôle and possible tendency in art. In other words, for the art of living representation, living the rôle is indispensable. The hack manages without it and indulges in it only occasionally.”
This is, in effect, what we have said, using for the word ‘living’ the term ‘absorption’ or ’embodiment,’ since it is specifically that process of setting up a profound linkage between the subjective personal element of the actor and the objective element of the play. If the image be properly constructed, then this linkage has been set up. It is a linkage that, as Stanislavski says, is present in the work of every good actor, absent from that of the hack, whom Stanislavski rightly regards as better vanished from the stage.
One may agree or disagree with the necessity for living the rôle in the complex and meticulous sense of the Moscow Art Theatre school of actors, but in any circumstances the organic relation between the actor’s individuality and every live element in the image he plays is indispensable.
This relation is a precondition for any verisimilitude in the image. Naturally, all that has been said of the organic continuity and unity of the rôle applies equally to the organic continuity and unity of the performance as a whole. Stanislavski’s basic postulate of the necessity for an actor to discover ‘intermediate action’ remains in force.
It should here be noted that the process of personal identification with an objectively planned image is necessary not only in film and stage work. I suggest that a concrete feeling of connection between the individuality and the image to be created is normal and essential for the creative process in every art.
There is a body of instructive evidence about their work from writers, who describe how, frequently, they mouth the words of the characters they are inventing in order to test by concrete, personal sensation the phrases, words, and intonations they are seeking.
We recall that Gogol declared all the characters in Dead Souls to be, in fact, dark sides of his own nature that he wished, by expression, to annihilate in himself.
The system of rehearsal is the special means the theatre takes to aid the actor in his struggle to incarnate himself in his rôle.
CHAPTER III. DISCONTINUITY IN THE ACTOR’S WORK IN THE CINEMA
All that has been said hitherto of the paramount importance and necessity of the actor’s striving for wholeness in his image in the theatre applies, of course, with equal force to the work of the film actor. It might, indeed, be said that realism, that is, by implication, the lifelike unity of the image, is a problem more pertinent and urgent to the film actor than even to the actor in the theatre. It is characteristic of the stage that effective performance is, as a matter of fact, possible upon it on a basis of exaggeration of theatrical convention, performance having an abstractly aesthetic character maximally removed from direct reflection of reality, but the cinema is characteristically the art that gives the utmost possibility of approach to realistic reproduction of reality.
I emphasise here as elsewhere the word ‘possibility.’ This is in order that the reader shall not think our analyses of possibilities, or our recommendations, the attempt to fix a static complex of methods as sole law ofexpression for cinema once and for all. Certainly the cinema too is capable of production in conventionalised style, style abstracted from direct representation of reality; certainly the cinema also is capable of generalisation, can develop it to any degree, even to the limit of the supreme antithesis black and white. But none the less, the cinema is par excellence the art form capable of maximum capture of living reality in direct representation.
The question of the degree of generalisation to be employed in any given specific instance in an art form—this is always a question of the sense of proportion of the skilful creative artist, and the measure of its Tightness is ultimately the reaction felt by the spectator when the work of art is complete: either acceptance by the experience of a real emotion —always the highest valuation for a work of art—or else cold negation.
But in discussing possibilities, I endeavour to determine the general tendency of development of the specific given art form, which, after all, the creative artist must take into account, however personal his own solution.
In the cinema, exactly as in the theatre, we immediately come right up against the problem posed by the discontinuity of the actor’s work being in direct contradiction with his need for a continuous creative ‘living-into’and embodiment of the image played.
Owing to the special methods used in filming, which we shall discuss later, this contradiction becomes in practice even more acute than in the theatre. If we assemble some of the stories that stage actors have to tell about their experiences on occasional film work, we shall find a whole host of denunciations, protests, even indignant swear words, all inspired by the notorious and fantastically exaggerated discontinuity of the film actor’s job.
Actors maintain that either they have to portray the image they play in extremely abstract manner, limited as they are in study to a superficial reading of the scenario, or, alternatively, they deliver themselves bound into the hands of the director and his assistants, becoming will-less automata, executing in obedience to a series of shouts and orders a mechanical task the purport of which is incomprehensible to them. Actors further hold that they lose every possibility of feeling the unity of the image, every possibility of preserving during the process of shooting a sense of live continuous individuality, owing to the fact that they act the end of their rôle to-day, the beginning to-morrow, and the middle the day after. The various bits are tangled, they are terribly short; from time to time somebody photographs a glance that relates to something the actor will be doing a month hence when somebody else has photographed a hand movement that has to do with the glance. The image created by the actor is split into minutest particles, only later to be gathered together, and, horribile dictu, this gathering is effected not by him but by the director, who, in the majority of cases, does not allow the actor to come anywhere near to or observe the process or even have the remotest connection with it. Such, on general lines, is the protest of the stage actor who has done work for the cinema.
But is it really true that the cinema, owing to its technical peculiarities, so inflexibly dictates an inevitable elimination of all possibility of the actor concretely feeling the wholeness of his rôle? Is it really inevitably necessary to make the actor work in such conditions, which, as creative artist, he is unable to accept? Of course not. We must recognise that the system of work with the actor hitherto in vogue with the majority of considerable directors is not only not perfect, but plainly and simply wrong. And it is our task to discover lines along which, just as in theatre (and we have already seen that discontinuity exists also in stage acting, but to a lesser degree), the actor can be furnished with working conditions enabling him to effect the essential process of living-into his rôle.
Let us state here in set terms that, however the solution be found, it will not be by avoidance of splitting up the acting of the actor during the process of shooting itself; for from this we not only shall not escape, but, in fact, must not escape if we are properly to appreciate the essence of the path along which the cinema’s main development lies. We must not avoid this splitting up, but simply seek and find corresponding technical methods to aid the actor in struggling against and overcoming it, thereby re-establishing for him the possibility of internally creating and preserving a feeling of the sum total of the separate fragments of acting as a single image, organically livened by himself. The theatre helps the actor by development and particu larisation of the method of rehearsal. We in the cinema must find means of following the same path.
First for a moment let us understand whence derives this distorted degree of splitting up we have just admitted as characteristic for cinema. The discovery and establishment of the need to split up the actor’s acting into editing pieces derives immediately from the methods, technical in the narrowest sense, found appropriate by directors and from the making of films as such. From the earliest moment of appearance of the cinema, those who most profoundly and seriously adopted it, whether consciously or otherwise, as an art form capable of development on independent lines were directors, and accordingly it is natural that the most important works first achieved in cinema were attained under the aegis of marked directorial control.
The directors sought, and indeed found, in cinema specific potentialities enabling them, by its means and its means alone, to exert an impression on the spectators not only powerful, but in certain instances more powerful than that which could have been achieved in any other medium.
It is the directors who discovered those special forms of composition for the at first wholly visual, subsequently compound (partly sound) images of film termed montage or constructive editing. Rhythmic composition of pieces of celluloid introduced the element of rhythmic composition indispensable for impression in any art. In providing the indispens able basis for making the cinema an art at all, it at the same time made it an especially notable one, for it enabled also a wealth of embrace of the actual world impossible to any other art save perhaps literature.
The perception and realisation of the cameramicrophone combination as an observer ideally mobile in space and time not only gave straightway to the film an epic sweep, it not unnaturally tended to distract the director and scenarist associated with him from proper recollection of the importance of bearing constantly in mind that a living human individual is an individuality of at least a given profundity and complexity of its own. The possibility of swinging the focus of attention of the technical recording apparatus to a boundless number of different points of interest, their combination in the cutting process, the possibility of eliminating action from a film at given intervals, as though contracting or expanding time itself, all these possibilities led to results that placed the cinema pre-eminent among the arts in its capacity for breadth of comprehension of material of the real world. At the same time, however, the distracting process of exploring these possibilities led directors at a given stage in the development of film to a point at which they began to use the living man, the actor, merely as one component in the film, side by side with and equivalent to other components, material of equal and undifferentiated value, ready to take its turn and place and submit as inanimately to editorial composition in the closing stages of the creative work on the film.
The actor became, so to say, shuffled, sorted out, used, in effect, like an aeroplane, a motor-car, or a tree. Directors, in searching for the right methods of constructing a performance cinematographically, missed realising that to get fullest value in a performance, cinematographic or otherwise, by a living being, that living person must not only not be eliminated in the process, must not only be preserved, but must be brought out; and if this bringing out be not realistic, that is, not unified and alive, in the end the man in the film will be a great deal more lifeless than the aeroplane and the motor-car (which, it must be confessed, is precisely what has happened in the work of some of our directors). With the actor used as a machine, in a mechanical way, became associated a whole flood of theoretical outpourings based on a mechanical extension of the editorial methods of alternation in length of pieces in cutting into a methodology for the actor’s work on the floor. These technical outpourings could, in fact, only unfairly be dignified with the name of theory, inasmuch as they were only justifications of an empiria based on experiments concerned with something quite different, the main problems of editorial composition in film.
Their trend, however, was roughly as follows. On the screen we have long-shots and close-ups. Therefore the actor must exactly adapt his behaviour in front of the camera to the requirements of these various camera-angles. On the screen there exists an undoubted interaction of effect between two adjacent pieces of film, an interaction which obtains though the content of the first piece be acting by an actor and that of the second any phenomenon the director or scenarist may require, taking place at any point of space whatever, however far removed from the actor in actual fact. Therefore the actor must be able to act his short piece without beginning or end and in absence of that which eventually will influence the content of his acting by interaction with it on the screen.
On the screen we can move the actor in the action with lightning speed from any one point in time or space to another, which we cannot do in the actual shooting on the floor. Therefore the actor must be able to act separate bits separated from one another by any time interval and trust their combination entirely and solely to the director, the only person guided by fore-perception of the film in its already completed state.
This is the way in which some have imagined the sum total of technical activity demanded of the actor. This mechanical understanding lacks all appreciation of the main fact, which is that the creative process of the actor is and must remain the fight for the feeling of the living substance of that image any component separate action in the makeup of which, however far removed from its fellow, will none the less be connected with it within the actor. And, further, that the technique of this process can and must be no more and no less than the methods of this fight. No help has ever been afforded the actor in this direction, and consequently, truth to tell, the technique of acting in the cinema has remained at a low level.
I must emphasise yet again that, in speaking of the unity of the image and divining a technique to help the actor to achieve it, I in no way renounce or repudiate the indispensability of making separate, relatively short pieces in the process of shooting. There is a tendency afoot to help the actor by transforming his work to longer pieces and longer shots. This tendency is really nothing but a step along the line of least resistance, squeezing back into the cinema by contraband route the specialities and technique of the stage. This tendency is one that ignores, or deliberately turns its back upon, precisely those potentialities of the cinema that have set it in a place distinct and apart from the other arts, a place, as I have already said, earned directly by the multitude, and therefore shortness, of the pieces composing a film. This path is open to anyone. The film Groza [The Tempest, directed by Petrov, from the play by Ostrovsky. —Tr.] must, from this point of view, be considered as definitely reactionary. At the same time it undoubtedly has an important instructive lesson for us, as it is one of the first in our cinema that has given the actor a chance to feel himself a live human being in the process of his acting on the floor. Of course, it is not this road leading to the mere bounding of cinematograph performance by stage limits of time and space that is the right road for the cinema. We must give battle on that general front that includes the uttermost wealth of possibilities the cinema can give, and whereon, as is the natural course, we shall consequently encounter the maximum number of obstacles.
CHAPTER IV. THEORETICAL POSTULATES OF DISCONTINUITY
The aim of the theatre, as of any other art form, is, let us repeat the definition, the collective comprehension and modification of reality by its reflection in the work of art. The only basic weapon in the arsenal of methods the theatre has at its disposal for carrying out this process is the actor’s dialogue. That embrace of reality to the maximum degree which is the aim and purpose of the artist is, in the theatre, fundamentally possible only by means of the actor, the human being, by means of his gesture, his speech, and his linkage to other persons in dialogue.
It is true that, in the performance on the stage, apart from the human individual, the material shaping of the action also plays a part in the direct representation to the spectator of the reality outside the actor. But none the less, the theatre is of such a character that the primary basis conveying the content of the performance is the speaking human being, i.e. the actor linked to other actors by dialogue.
The representation of the reality outside the actor in the theatre is exceedingly limited by its technique. There are certain instances in which the material part of the performance, the background, is given prominence. But when the theatre chooses this line, it rapidly exhausts its possibilities of development. In general the portrayal of wide and varied events environmental to any given element of human activity is possible only by their description in the text; that is to say, once more and again by human speech spoken on the stage, that is, by the actor.
The direct portrayal of events organically connected in content with the action but separated from it in space or time can, in the long run, only be rendered on the stage by their narration. Messengers, or a compere, are typical theatrical devices often introduced for the purpose.
The world of reality, grasped by the artist in his creative act of comprehending it, in the main can penetrate the theatre only through the actor, his voice, his gesture, his movements, his behaviour. This is the characteristic of the theatre.
The cinema is different. That which on the stage can only be narrated, on the screen can be directly represented. The special technical basis of the cinema, already discussed above, is to a remarkable degree capable of direct portrayal, direct transmission to the spectator of any event occurring in reality.
It might be argued that direct portrayal is neither necessary nor even specially desirable. In the process of generalisation essentially typical of every creative act, especially in art, one might renounce the direct representation of separate events dispersed in time and space and gather them into a generalising whole that the artist might situate anywhere in any single spot. No one can dispute the necessity for generalisation in the creative process. But its realisation to the extent of an idealistic compromise with facile and old-fashioned forms and rejection of new possibilities never heretofore available must, in my view, be regarded as essentially wrong and reactionary.
I once had occasion to talk to a playwright who frankly admitted that, when planning a play on aviation, he realised without doubt that material of such a nature would fall more clearly, expressively, and effectively into the form of a film.
Here is a concrete example, a notable and significant phenomenon of our present-day reality, the world development of aviation, one which in considerable degree conditions a change and development in the psychology of mankind, and which in its full richness can be mastered and transmitted to the audience only by direct representation of events so far-reaching in scope and occurring in such dimensions that they cannot possibly be accommodated on the stage of a theatre.
On the stage the actor will tell of a flight, in literature the author will add to the tale a description of the circumstances exterior to the inward emotions of the person flying, but only the cinema can unite for the benefit of the spectator the direct and fullest sensation of both.
A direct portrayal, for reasons sufficiently obvious, invariably exerts an especially strong and vivid impression. In strength of influence on the spectator, the theatre, owing to its directness of representation, even of its limited material, has hitherto held foremost place among the arts. If we take into consideration the capacity of the cinema directly to introduce material immeasurably richer than that which the theatre can ever hope to tackle, we perceive how, of its own nature, the cinema can approach or even transcend literature in its exceptional power of impression.
The cinema is in a sense a potential mirror, directly representing events in the wholeness of their dialectical complexity. In the wholeness of this reflection resides a profound force irresistibly dragging the spectator himself into participation in the creative process. The directness of representation of cinema material, even having regard to the element of generalisation inseparable from its comr position, forces the spectator to take himself an active part in comprehending it at the moment of its portrayal.
It is noteworthy that Lenin, with that striking simplicity and clarity in understanding the essence of things invariably characteristic of him, immediately determined the cinema as first and foremost a powerful means of the widest embrace and understanding of reality and its transmission to the manymillioned masses—and this just on the basis of a chance report of purely technical character.
I refer to the well-known programme for the cinema, in which Lenin emphasised the importance of the cinema’s astonishing ability to portray the world, to acquaint broad peasant and workingclass masses with the nature of other countries, and so forth.
Our cinema, at least in so far as the work of its best directors is concerned, has developed and is developing principally in the direction of incorporating in films the maximum possible wealth, in direct representation, of the variety of events of reality, sometimes indeed at the expense of the necessary degree of generalisation.
This characteristic cannot, in my view, be regarded as explicable simply as the outcome of the individual taste of the directors. We should, in my view, bear in mind the fact that the living reality around us is pushing forward under our noses with so manifold a growth that, more often than not, in grasping it and passing it on to the spectator, we have no time to pause and mould its complexity into the lijnits of a generalisation.
Realise the multitude of dogmas that has been exploded and destroyed during the revolution. The fight, still continuing, against dogma, against the remnants of capitalist consciousness, often expresses itself in the offer by the artist, instead of a formula, of its living content, as though directly appealing to the spectator to co-operate by himself performing, in his act of comprehension, the necessary generalisation of the complexity presented to him.
The point is illustrated by an example only indirectly related to our subject. That exceptionally gifted writer, Leo Tolstoy, who achieved a book, War and Peace, amazing in its vitality and in the endless wealth ofreal and live material it contains, wrote as he grew older Resurrection, a book in which page after page, chapter after chapter, is full ofgeneralisations, dissertations, deductions, in which the persons move less and act less, in which the persons are themselves fewer and the space of action narrower.
And this same Tolstoy towards the close of his life constantly wrote philosophical treatises devoid both of life and live characters.
The above remarks on Tolstoy are not, of course, in any sense a valuation of the various stages of his art. I desired only to instance by this example the fact that whole and important works of art can be created in a creative tension deriving from a vigorous youthful perception of reality, without renouncing the widest direct portrayal of the innumerable separate elements of reality.
The advancement of generalisation is, of course, one path of development, but it is none the less liable to grow into dogma; that is to say, at a given stage to cause a change over into senile decay, to change from an art capable of moving people to cold and dry sermonising.
This is why, in pondering the various paths open to the cinema, I cannot but recall the achievement attained by Tolstoy’s amazing genius in War and Peace, and reflect with alarm on the fate of that same genius of Tolstoy frozen stiff into the iceberg of idealist dogma.
We must not be frightened by the wealth of material in our films. I have often come across rabid protagonists of the famous Chaplin film Woman of Paris. This film is certainly an example of the highest directorial and acting skill, but the trouble is that its partisans not only praise the film as an example of skill, but desire to elevate its methods into a pattern for the basis of film art. The film is staged in a deeply intimate manner. The action hardly even leaves the limits of a couple of rooms. The one solitary exterior that occurs in the film portrays a section of roadway on which the dramatis personae meet for the last time and separate on their respective ways.
The painstaking attention of its author-director is concentrated on the minutest details of the smalldrama that unrolls in the intimate circle of its four or five characters. This is all very excellent and possible in its way and in no wise to be rejected by us. The film Groza (The Tempest) is very similar in its cinematic treatment to the Chaplin film.
But it seems to me that this type of film is not merely unsuitable to many of our Soviet film writers, but in general is liable to distract the cinema from its specific, exceptional, and most effective possibilities.
For Chaplin all the wealth of events linked together in the complicated life of human society was not necessary, because these phenomena have long ago been transmuted by bourgeois thought into a corresponding number of dead dogmas. Chaplin, living in a bourgeois milieu, easily detaches his world of four persons from the ‘rest’ because the ‘rest’ for him and for the audience to which he appeals is just a world of ready-made ideas fixed and not especially exciting. The universally accepted ideas and norms of a bourgeois audience represent a wall with which it screens itself from the perils of a developing society, and it is the bourgeois artist’s job to preserve this wall intact. Contact with the richness of the outer world must inevitably be alarming for the bourgeois artist. Whereas with our audience and our artists it is, ofcourse, quite different.
The organic link between the tense-strung complexity of our epoch and the character of the work of art in cinema is certain. And a striving towards maximum mastery of reality in content, the realisation of the maximum possibility of direct representation of reality on the screen, just as certainly leads to the specific method characteristic of film art —montage or the editing together of numerous relatively short pieces.
We must, further, mention here an additional specific potentiality of cinema which also inevitably entails the splitting up of the actor’s work in the process of being shot.
Imagine an actor delivering an emotional speech in a large auditorium. The listening crowd reacts to the words of the orator. It applauds, it interrupts with isolated calls and shouts. Suppose we desire to portray the crowd not as a thousand-headed faceless mass, but as a many-imaged unity, if we appreciate the fact that a mass is comprehended in its real content and significance only when are perceptible its component individual groups, and within these their component individuals. Then we shall be obliged to transfer the position of the camera rapidly from place to place, we shall be obliged, in the course of the oration, to change alternately from long shot embracing both orator and audience to separate closer shots, penetrating into the thick of the mass, and glimpsing a group or single listener reacting by shout or gesture. We shall inevitably have to split up the one speech of the orator into separate pieces, in order that they may be welded in the process of editing into a whole with the separate pieces of members of the audience reacting, and thereby derive unity from the multiplicity of many-imaged details.
It might be argued that, for the purpose of an editing construction of this type, it is unnecessary to break the whole speech of the orator into separate pieces in the shooting. It might suffice to shoot the speech as a whole and subsequently to chop it on the cutting bench into the necessary separate pieces interleaved with the given auditor pieces. But film directors who strive to exploit the cinema’s possibilities to the full cannot follow this course. They use not only words out of the orator’s speech. Realise what tremendous importance in the construction of the whole image of man in action have his gestures and his pantomime connected with his utterances. This pantomime, at times of the most fine and complex order, plays a part no less important than the intonation of the voice.
Now, the culmination of the impression effected by an uttered word or sentence depends upon a movement of the hand; again, the closing of the eyes may add an unexpected touch of pathos to another word or phrase. Only the cinema, by virtue of the mobility of the camera, can so direct the excited attention of the audience that, at any given moment of his acting, the actor can, as it were, turn to the audience his most poignant, most expressive, side.
And it is this method of shoving the play of the actor right up under the nose of the audience that inevitably necessitates the splitting of the single process of the speech into separate pieces in the actual shooting.
At one moment we see the face of the orator with eyes tight shut. At another his whole body straining with arms held high. For an instant we catch his glance directed straight at us. A nervous movement of his hand behind his back may also serve as a definite and colourful characterisation of some moment.
Such material can only be obtained by shooting bits of the speech separately, with change of position of camera and microphone. Simultaneous shooting by several cameras at once, placed at separate points, will not give us an unhamperedly sharp and vivid editing treatment on the screen, because a camera placed for a close-up would be bound to get in the way of a camera taking a long-shot at the same time. Separate, interrupted shooting is indispensable.
The question must be formulated simply in this way: should the immensely rich possibilities afforded by the cinema for the purpose of deepening the play of the actor be sacrificed to the natural desire of the actor to dwell in his acting image as wholly and uninterruptedly as possible, or should one search for means of helping him that none the less permit these possibilities to be maintained and exploited to maximum advantage?
The difficulty of solving this problem is, basically, the long and the short of the difficulty confronting the cinema actor, and the methods and ways of solving it are, in sum, the conditioning methods of his technique.
We have already seen that this difficulty exists also in the theatre. The break between two stage entrances of an actor does not differ materially from the break between two shots in the cinema.
The whole content of a stage play could, after all, take the form of a single continuous speech that one actor-speaker could utter without leaving the boards. In general, however, the theatre variegates its content, introducing action shared in by numerous dramatic personam, and portraying directly numerous deeds and events, not merely reporting them in speech. It splits the course of the play into acts, thereby eliminating chunks of time.
The actor could, really, remain on the stage throughout the duration of a whole act without for a second being switched from the action, but the theatre as a rule insists on taking him off into the wings, because realistic enlargement of the action demands the introduction of new characters, and these new characters must not only push various old ones temporarily into the background, but even from time to time squeeze them from the orbit of the audience’s attention altogether. Whereupon the first actor must stand in the wings waiting for the moment when the development of the play’s action will once more drag him front stage.
I repeat that this ‘split-life,’this discontinuous animation, of the stage actor, does not differ organically from the ‘separate-shot-acting’ of the film actor in the course of the shooting of a film.
The contradiction between the personality of the actor and his striving in the process of his acting to become a linked part of the whole circumstances environing the wide sweep of development of a realistic film, this contradiction, I repeat, exists not only in theatre and in cinema, but is analogous to the contradiction in creation general to all arts.
And, we must affirm once more, the solution of this contradiction will be achieved not by its elimination, but by proper understanding of the significance of the methods of acting technique, and consequently of the means legitimate to employ.
CHAPTER V. REHEARSAL WORK
What are the basic methods the actor finds? We have already seen that the theatre supports him in his fight for organic unity of the acting image by means of a detailed methodology of rehearsals.
In these rehearsals, obedient to the will of the actors and producer, the stern temporal conditions limiting the players are for a space removed and substituted by more unified and uninterrupted work aiding the actor to link, in whatsoever direction may be necessary, his live personality with the image he plays.
At rehearsals the actor, free from breaks in time or position, can link the separate pieces of his rôle into one whole, can concretely live into his image, checking it by a series of pieces of his rôle outside the play, but undoubtedly organically belonging to the image. In short, at rehearsals he can do all that work which will enable him later on to feel every separate piece of his rôle, however interrupted it may be mechanically in the course of the performance, as his own, belonging to him, and if not uninterrupted in the sense of his physical presence on the stage, at least inwardly uninterrupted in the unity of his feeling and understanding of the rôle.
What do we do in the cinema in the way of providing technical help to the actor in his difficult creative work? It must be admitted that this assistance, where it is even given at all, is in most producing collectives of an exceedingly perfunctory character. Sometimes there are attempts at just a preliminary working-through the script with the actor by the director. The rôle is discussed, the rôle is, in fact, talked all round and about, so-called actor and director ‘rôle-conferences’ take place. Something on the lines of so-called ‘round-table conferences’ in the theatre (work in the theatre preliminary to rehearsals) takes place in the cinema to a greater or lesser degree. But no practical preliminary work with the actor on the lines of linking the image found at the ‘round-table conference’ with its outer expression, actually the basic startingpoint of the work needed to transform an actor thinking about a rôle into an actor acting it, has ever been used as a normal course.
In his preliminary work on the image the actor has, quite ridiculously and unnecessarily, been mechanically separated from practice, from the concrete work on himself as a live, connectedly and unitedly moving and speaking human being. The actor has approached the work of being shot, a process already requiring technically fixed and defined methods of execution, quite unaided, and able only academically to image to himself the general meaning of his rôle, in no way having linked it to his concrete live individuality. Such has been the position in the best cases; in the worst the actor purely and simply has not known anything about his rôle apart from the sum total of directorial instructions restricted to each piece being shot. Naturally, each shot is proceeded by a sort of travesty of a rehearsal, but this cannot be considered seriously, for no antecedent work has ever been done upon it to give it an inner link to the unity of the actor’s image.
It is this incorrect attitude to the tasks of acting work that has given rise to the pseudo-theory of the montage (edited) image (a theory for which no single individual is responsible). This theory deduces, from the fact that an impression of acting can be composed mechanically by sticking pieces together, the illegitimate assumption that separate pieces, not connected inwardly within the actor, will necessarily give an optimum result.
The true significance of the edited image is quite different; it has considerable importance for the cinema actor, and we shall speak of it later.
Just as in the theatre, so in the cinema, the methodology of rehearsals is all-important for the actor.
In fact, as we have already observed, this methodology is even more important in the cinema than in the theatre, since the hyper-discontinuity of acting work in shooting desiderates a correspondingly especially clear, definite, and detailed absorption by the actor of the wholeness of his rôle.
Systematic rehearsal work in the cinema prior to shooting has so far been conducted only by way of experiment.
I cannot speak of the work of the Experimental Film Collectives, as they have made no verbal or written record of their experiences in this field. I shall discuss the experiment of Kuleshov in his film: The Great Consoler. [A film blended of O. Henry’s life and Alias Jimmy Valentine.]
Kuleshov wrote a shooting script, that is, a script worked out in technical detail as it is to be shot on the floor and edited afterwards. All tfre shots in this script, numbered and with their numerical order preserved, were transferred to a miniature studio floor. In fact, prior to the shooting of the film, he staged a performance consisting of very short scenes each in length identical with the piece later to be edited. As far as possible Kuleshov played each scene through on the studio floor in such a way that subsequently, after most careful rehearsal, it could be transferred back to and shot without alteration on the actual floor used in shooting.
His rehearsal system attained three results. First, it achieved the preliminary work with the actor to the deepest possible degree. Second, it gave the executives the opportunity to c see’the film, as it were, before it was shot, and make in time any correction or alteration that might be required. And third, it reduced to a minimum the waste of time during the preliminaries to each shot, which, as is well known, in general run away with a great deal of money.
The combination of these results gave Kuleshov’s work a somewhat peculiar style. First and foremost, in striving at all costs to make the rehearsal performance an exact pattern of the future screen performance, Kuleshov undoubtedly not only rehearsed his actors, but also to some extent adapted his film to a form more convenient and simple for the carrying out of the rehearsal.
It is not a coincidence that Kuleshov’s film contains few dramatis personae. It is not a coincidence that Kuleshov has no crowd scenes. It is not a coincidence that the extremely sparse and limited exteriors take the shape either of empty country roads or of city streets on which one never meets a soul save those few dramatis personae.
Kuleshov, of course, wrote his script in this way, set the action in these scenes, chose this subject and this number of characters precisely to give himself the chance to fit the film rapidly and easily into the framework of a stage performance, one, moreover, of necessity played on a stage rather especially primitively fitted out.
I do not think this work of Kuleshov should be treated as wrong in principle. The effort was undoubtedly a most interesting experiment. The experiment was not wrong, but any mechanical deduction that might be made from it along the line of converting the method into a dogmatic recipe to be used in the shooting of any and every film would most undoubtedly be wrong.
Our task remains, of course, the finding of such ways, such forms, and such methods of adjusting a rehearsal period as will in no wise handicap the film in the field of its exploration of every possible wide and rich development.
We are still faced with the problem how to organise preparatory rehearsal work on a film which definitely and markedly strives to develop along cinematic lines, that is, including a series of scenes embracing a large spacial canvas, locations, and circumstances such as cannot be reproduced on a rehearsal floor.
We must not and cannot pander to a desire to play the future film through on a rehearsal floor to the extent of eliminating from it elements which, though they have no direct physical link with the actor in his acting, yet none the less contribute to the film the power and richness that make it a truly cinematic work of art.
In my view the discovery of the correct methods for the rehearsal period will only be attained by keeping clearly and exclusively to our main purpose. This purpose is, of course, the actor’s work on his acting image. All the rest, the demonstration of the whole film to the executives, the learning by rote of set-ups in advance (which latter is, in fact, never completely possible unless the film limits the canvas it shoots to the space within the studio walls), must be subordinated to the maximum fostering of conditions aiding the actor to solve his main technical problem—embodiment in the image.
What, then, are the main postulates of the method ology of the rehearsal period? First let us consider the editing structure set out in the sheets of the shooting script. The sheets of the shooting script list a series of short pieces. Nearly every element of the actor’s behaviour linked to the inner order of the action is interspersed with numerous pieces showing the audience either parallel action by other actors at quite a different location, or epically developed elements of events into which the actor is incorporated by developments of the general action, or both.
Suppose such a scene: a person in a room is talking to a man who excitedly awaits a meeting with his brother. The brother is expected by air. The excited wait is interrupted by the ring of a telephone bell. Information is given that the aeroplane is about to land. On the screen the action changes to an aerodrome where we see the plane landing and a sudden crash that causes the death of the brother arriving. The next piece to follow portrays the waiting brother receiving the terrible news.
Should one in the rehearsal period strive to work out separately the two pieces of the state of the waiting man, separated as they will be on the screen by the conventionalised plane crash?
For work with the actor this would not only be unnecessary, but wrong and harmful. The only correct course is to rehearse both pieces in conjunction, thus enabling the actor to stay in the acting image without interruption, and to replace the specifically cinematic element of the portrayal of the crash by a single telephone call announcing the disaster.
Suppose on the screen an actor, fleeing from pursuit, swim a river, and meet on the opposite bank a man whom he was seeking in order to deliver to him some message, it would, of course, be futile and stupid to waste time and energy by staging an actual swim across a river during the rehearsal period. What is important for the actor during rehearsal is the presence somewhere in his rôle of a serious obstacle requiring to be successfully negotiated, and the inclusion of this sensation of recent victory over the obstacle in his feeling during his conversation with the person met beyond the river. In rehearsal conditions, any physical obstacle could serve as equivalent for the river, a window, for example, through which he might have to climb, or a door he might break down, before entering the room.
I choose obvious examples of this kind in order to make clear the simple point that the separate shots (or editing pieces) of the shooting script, divided into its multitudinous incidents, an abundance of which cannot be reproduced on the stage, should properly be transmuted into some other form for the actor to facilitate his concentration in rehearsal on the absorption of the unity of the acting image.
This new form of script might be termed an ‘actor’s script’. In an actor’s script the separate pieces concerning him would be approximated to one another for the paramount purpose of preserving for him as far as possible a longer duration and less interruption in his acting. The whole material of the director’s editing or shooting script would be preserved. Only it would be rearranged in a new sequence, enabling nearer approximation of the shots in the actor’s rôle, thus giving him larger pieces of united inner movement.
Of course, such a linking up of the separate pieces in a rôle will in some cases entail the replacement of certain pieces by equivalents, as in the just instanced case of the telephone ring instead of the plane crash.
The actual task of translating a shooting script into actor’s scripts is certainly one which requires considerable practical experience for its proper performance. But its purpose is clear and simple.
Stage practice, particularly the practice of the Stanislavski school in the matter of ‘interval’ or ‘hiatus’ pieces in rehearsal alluded to by us before, can be particularly fruitful for film rehearsals.
Kozintsev has stated that during rehearsal work with the actors on his latest film, The Youth ofMaxim, he concentrated solely on those parts of the rôle outside the actual action of the film.
The point of his observation is, once again, the fact that the main problem of director and actor invariably boils down to the establishment in rehearsal of the inner unity of any given piece with the rôle as a whole.
So as not to confuse the actor with theatrical conventions alien to the cinema, the director must surround him at rehearsal with real equivalents practical within the limits of a stage or rehearsal room. So as not to force the actor to waste energy in imagining such things as rivers that he will meet in the actual story, the director and actors in rehearsal add equivalent pieces, enabling the inner content of the actor’s behaviour to remain unchanged, the river he will have to swim being replaced by some analogous obstacle such as those I have already suggested.
Let me once again emphasise the extreme danger ofintroducing into cinema rehearsal work specifically theatrical conventions unconnected with actual problems of shooting.
Kuleshov’s method of solving the rehearsal problem by having the whole future film played over on the floor involves such a danger.
I repeat once more, also with emphasis, that an ‘actor’s script’such as I describe requires careful, meticulous, and profound modification to replace real-life conditions set out in the editing script with equivalent real conditions practicable for the rehearsal stage. And this process can no doubt best be effected in actual concert with the actor.
We should approach the problem wrongly if we excluded a priori from this process all possibility of creative work on the script by the actor himself.
The beginning and end of the old system was its orientation around the reduction of the actor’s work to an almost mechanical performance of a ‘task’ allotted him by the director. We shall never escape from the old system of treating the actor as a prop, as a type, if we do not set the question of creative inter-influence of actor and director right at the forefront of work on the film, already at the stage preceding shooting.
Hitherto the actor, encountering only the complexly constructed shooting script of the director, able to envisage his own future work only abstractly, has been deprived of the possibility of determining clearly and concretely any possible disagreement he might have with the directorial conception of the part. I suggest that an ‘acting script’ and rehearsal work with it will provide that now missing concrete basis for a creative mutual influencing of actor and director.
The director’s will and effort are devoted to maximal expression of the whole of the film, and his work on the editing or shooting script is oriented from this angle, exploiting in this script all the wealth of the specific methods provided him by the technique of the cinema. But subsequently he should compress the shots in this shooting script into an acting script. This new acting or rehearsal script would not merely represent the solution of the given shooting problems as set out in the shooting script, but also the concrete fulfilment of the requirements postulated by the actor’s need for aid in maintaining unity and vividness in his image. From this script, in the process of rehearsal, new data would doubtless be forthcoming, justifying a second edition of the shooting script, inevitably, quite properly and to creative advantage replacing the first. And only in this last form would the script actually go forward for shooting.
This is a means, it seems to me, whereby might be achieved a real linking of the actor to the unity of the work of the whole shooting collective.
CHAPTER VI. THE EDITING IMAGE
We now come to the shaping of the editing image. This concept, the subject of the most acrimonious controversy, is in fact the crux of the novel and different nature of the cinema, distinguishing it from the theatre.
When the stage actor works on his inward embodiment into the acting image, his work is bound inextricably with two tasks: firstly, the search for its external form of expression—voice, gesture, grimace —and secondly, the clear consideration of that general ideological tendency of his rôle that links his work with the performance as a whole and with each of its details separately.
Let us analyse the first task. In working on his external expressiveness, the stage actor naturally moulds the whole process of his acting into a rhythmic form. His speech receives in delivery intonational emphasis or weakening according to whether he wishes at any given movement to seize and hold the audience by the ‘content’ or the ‘emotional’ side of his speech. In his pattern of movements and gesture he also creates moments of rise and fall, of vividness and restraint, of strength and weakness. But an actor moving and speaking on the stage always remains at relatively the same constant distance from the spectators, in a position in space more or less constant in respect to them. For the spectators to see his hand, he must show it to them; for the spectators to see his face, he must turn it to them; for the spectators to hear his whisper, he must raise it to the level of loudness.
The cinema has to create its analogous rhythm of externally expressive form in a different manner. I have already described how the camera and microphone can move to approach or recede from the actor, how they can espy the finest movements of his body, eavesdrop the most delicate intonations of his voice. By this means the acting of the actor, treated in long shot and in close shot, angled from various set-ups, is rendered especially vivid and expressive.
If the stage actor, in the course of working out the maximum external expressiveness of his rôle, wish, at some given moment of the performance, to centre the whole attention of the audience on, let us suppose, his smile following the word’No/ then he knows perfectly well that not only must his word be spoken well and his smile smiled well, but that the audience must listen to the word and watch the smile especially attentively.
For this purpose, the actor uses in support of the stage delivery of his rôle all the complex mechanism of theatre technique. He can use sets, or composition of the action in them, leading the attention of the audience away from his colleagues and fixing it, precisely at the crucial moment, on himself. He can use a pause immediately following, spotlights, concentrating their light on him alone.
In the cinema all this complicated system of methods can be reduced to a single close-up. The close-up in the cinema is an integral part of the rhythm of external expression of the actor.
The editing of separate camera angles in the cinema is the more vivid and expressive equivalent of the technique that obliges a stage actor who has inwardly absorbed his acting image to’theatricalise’its outer form.
The film actor must clearly understand that the moving of the camera from place to place is not simply a means of realising purely directorial methods. The understanding and feel of the possibilities of the shooting of shots from various angles must be organically included in the process of the actor’s own work on the external shaping of his rôle.
The film actor must feel the urge and the necessity for a given camera position for the shooting of any given piece of his rôle in precisely the same way as a stage actor feels the necessity, at a given point in the course of his rôle, for making an especially emphasised gesture, or for advancing to the footlights, or for ascending two steps of a scenery stairs.
The actor must appreciate that it is in this very movement of the camera that lies latent that essential sensitivity that removes work in the field of art from the sphere of shapeless naturalism.
However profoundly the stage actor embodies himself into his rôle in the course of his work on the image, he must not, and in fact does not, forget the need always to consider also the objective content and value of the final result—his behaviour in acting on the stage during the actual performance portrayed to the audience. The image, however deeply absorbed by the actor, does not exist in the performance as a separate entity. Linked by the course of the action, it is subject to the complex interplay and mutual influence of all the forces comprising the performance as a whole.
The supremely important social class significance of the actor’s performance is determined by the performance as a whole. There is not an element in the performance, be it the acting of a colleague, or the material composition of a scene, but must be linked to the final form of the whole and therefore of the remaining parts. Even during the very first moments of work on the image, when the actor is mainly seeking and feeling for ways of embodying himself as a given individual in the image he intends to play, he is yet clearly conscious of and sets before himself as his aim the figure sketched out by the libretto of the play, which figure eventually will move and speak upon the boards. He appreciates what the future stage image is and how it is embedded in the entirety of the performance. But on the stage the actor who sought and shaped the rôle yet remains in the finally discovered and shaped performance a live person. The image he finally finds and fixes in himself and in the performance, he never separates from himself as from a living, feeling, and speaking person.
In the film it is quite otherwise. The culminating achievement of the actor’s work—in the theatre the stage image—is in the cinema something of a quite different order. As final result appears the edited image—a screen image of the actor, recorded and fixed once and for all upon the film, a final and optimum version of his work’s achievement, which, quite apart from any other distinction, has in the course of its expression been subjected to a technical finishing process quite impossible of application to a living being.
Just as in the unity of the stage show the image of the actor is c produced’in the fullness of its content by the complex interaction of all the forces comprised in the performance, so in the cinema the separate pieces of shot acting of the actor are moulded into a unified image the unity and orientation of which are determined not merely by the unity found by the actor within himself, but also by the exceedingly complex interaction of those many pieces containing alien phenomena, situated exterior to the actor.
The most comprehensive, the profoundest lines determining the content of the image, are discernible, of course, only when the whole composition of the film is available.
We have already noted that the wealth of events of the world ofreality which the cinema can embrace is much wider than that accessible to the theatre. While the relationship between a given actor and the whole performance is on the stage determined principally in the conflict between the actor and his colleague, an actor using dialogue like himself, in the cinema the actor encounters not only man. In the completed film the acting actor is brought into relationship with the whole tremendous complexity of objective reality, and in this respect therefore is placed in a position nearer to that of a part of a literary work than to that of a dramatis persona in a play.
Thus the concept of the edited image by no means implies (as some have sought to declare) a negation of the necessity for unified work by the actor on his rôle. The concept of the edited image is by no means an affirmation of the doctrine that the film actor is merely a type actor providing piecemeal material for mechanical composition into a pseudowhole in the process of editing.
On the contrary, this concept, analogous to that of the stage image, demands from the film actor firstly a knowledge of how consciously to exploit the possibilities of vari-angled shooting for the purposes of his work on the external shaping of his rôle, and, secondly, clear consideration of its creative place in the edited composition of the whole film, in order that he may understand and bring out the most comprehensive and profound bases of his acting.
In stage work there exists a clear and precise concept, the ensemble; in the creation of the ensemble participates not only the producer, but also each separate actor, building his work in direct connection with the whole of the performance. In the cinema the equivalent concept has reached in its shaping almost the limit of technical precision. A film, a work the material ofwhich includes the acting of actors, can attain, in the exactitude and precision of its rhythmic construction, the exactitude of the rhythmic construction of a musical composition. Hence the especial strictness and rigidity of the requirements to which film actors must subordinate their work in the course ofits external shaping, those film actors, that is, who value not only their own rôles, but the film as a whole.
The stage actor knows well that an unhappily chosen or badly played tune preceding his speech can not only damage but distort the rôle he is trying to create. The film actor must understand that a piece of a landscape or some other phenomenon, either preceding or following the piece with his acting in it, will indubitably enter as a component into the line of his image as it will be apprehended by the audience watching the screen.
The edited image is that final and definite form that enters into interaction with the third element comprising the work of art—the spectator. In distinction from the stage image, it is divorced from the living actor, and for this very reason, in order not to lose realistic unity, must be conceived by the actor and thought out carefully from the very first stages of his work on himself and his rôle.
While on the stage the actor can more exactly adjust his place in the whole during the actual course of the second performance to the audience, the film does not give him this opportunity. Further, the work of the actor in endeavouring to reach sharpest apprehension of the film as a whole is more complex and difficult. Therefore it must be regarded as particularly paradoxical that this side of his work, the study of his relation to the film as a whole, is far more deeply provided for in the theatre than in the cinema.
Here we should mention still another difficulty characteristic of the work of the film actor. In the theatre exists the so-called c living link’between an actor and his emotionalised audience. It is a wellknown fact that performances of a show differ, and that this difference depends on and is caused by differences of audience composition. There exists an abundance of stories concerning notable actors and how the living reaction of audiences has forced them at various times to find new business for their rôles, or to discard business they had previously found and used.
All stage actors declare that they derive the real high-pressure tension and inspiration necessary for full value in their acting only from the feeling of the audience being moved.
In the cinema we are in the presence of an entirely new phenomenon: never, not even during the most important moment of his acting, when the actor is face to face with the camera recording his final achievement, has he the chance to feel directly the reaction of a single spectator. He can imagine his spectator only as a future spectator.
In the ‘living link’ between actor and spectator should be distinguished two elements, which we shall analyse separately in their relation to the cinema.
The two elements are these: first, the general excitement and inspiration felt by the stage actor aware of thousands of eyes centred upon him, conscious of a thousand-fold concentration of attention upon his acting, and second, the presence of the living reaction of the audience, as it were itself taking part in the creative process of the development of the rôle, and thereby helping the actor.
The first element, direct consciousness in the actor of the multiple spectator, is completely absent in the cinema. At the moment of shooting, the actor sees in front of him only the dumb mechanisms of the camera and sound-recording apparatus. The system used for lighting, which entails the surrounding of the actor with lamps, seems also as though deliberately engaged in isolating him into the space allotted for the taking of the scene, a space so small that sometimes the actor is even cut off from seeing the whole of the room in which the action takes place.
But does it follow that the feeling of an audience and the creative excitement and inspiration deriving from the audience are thereby necessarily excluded from the work of the film actor? I hold that it does not. True, this feeling of the audience can come into existence only in a new and peculiar manner.
I remember a conversation with the now late V. V. Mayakovski. [Committed suicide in 1932. —Tr.] He told me once about the feeling he experienced when, during the years of revolution, he declaimed his verses to an enormous crowd that had collected in front of the balcony of the building of the Moscow Soviet.
V. V. complained that nowadays he never felt that tremendous inspiration he did then. Only in one circumstance, he said, do I feel the same excitement, if not an even greater than in those days, and that is when I make a speech on the wireless.
I maintain that Mayakovski was completely and utterly sincere. It is interesting that to a man like him, who undoubtedly had organically lived and nourished his creative process on the reaction of the mass audience, the broadcasting studio did not feel like a solitary confinement cell isolating him from his listeners. That creative imagination which is part and parcel of every great artist, which makes him one with and related to all the world of reality, enabled him not only to appreciate intellectually, but to feel directly, that the words spoken into the microphone spread immediately over a gigantic area and became received by millions of attentive listeners.
Let us be clear that Mayakovski was not referring to an intellectual understanding of the importance of wireless, but to a direct excitement and inspiration caused in him by work before the microphone. Once more I repeat that Mayakovski likened this excitement to that which he had felt when directly before him he had seen listening a crowd thousands strong.
I consider that for a film actor who really and truly lives in his art the possibility ofsuch an excitement is not excluded. On the stage an actor plays before hundreds of persons, in the film actually before millions. Here is a dialectical instance of quantity increasing over the boundary into quality to give rise to a new kind of excitement, not less real and, of course, not less significant.
Let us turn to the second element. The collaboration in creation on the part of the spectator, his living reaction to the acting, his acceptance and applause of the right and felicitous, his cold repudiation of anything mistaken—none of this, also, can be present in the taking of a film.
Hence, I urge, upon the director, who is the one and only witness of the acting during the shooting of a film, reposes an especial responsibility, in no way corresponding to any equivalent in the theatre. The solitude of the actor during the taking of the scenes weighs upon him. The director, of course, if he desire to give the actor the maximum of help, if he wish to create for him the optimum conditions for free, easy, and sincere acting, can so react to the work of the actor as to become for him a fine, responsive, and friendly—if sole—spectator.
I put forward this point in all seriousness, the possibility for the director to make the actor believe in him not merely as a theoretician, as a thinker and mentor, but also as a directly affected, either admiring or disappointed, spectator.
The finding of this inner contact between director and actor, the establishment of a profound mutual trust and respect, is one of the most paramountly important of all the problems in the technique of the work of a film collective.
My own practice in working with actors, which I must confess myself quite unable up to date to codify into any coherent or unified form that might in any degree be called a system, is based entirely on this contention, that all the most important moments of an actor’s work are based absolutely on this trust in me on the part of the actor.
I recall how, taking full advantage of the silence of the cinema in the old days, I used literally to be unable to restrain myself from uttering words of excited praise that reached and encouraged the actor in the middle of his acting by reason of their obvious and complete sincerity.
It is of interest to mention here that Baranovskaia in Mother categorically declared to me (we were then about half-way through the film) that she could not act unless I were in my accustomed place beside the camera. I cite this, declaration as further confirmation of the fact that the presence of the director responsively reacting to the actor’s acting is an organic necessity for the latter. I recall that I have invariably tried to establish the most intimate personal relationship possible with all the actors playing principal rôles in my films before the actual work of shooting began. I have always regarded it as important to win in advance the deep-seated trust of the acting ensemble, so that later the actors could fall back on this trust and not feel solitary.
Many speak of the inevitability of a duality in the actor during his acting, when with one side of himself he lives and plays in the acting image, and with the other as though controls this play objectively. In my view this second, controlling side, is not at all a kind of imaginary spectator dwelling within the actor. This second side must, inevitably, be rooted in the living spectator existing external to the actor; it takes into account and bases itself on the former’s reaction, fulfilling its essential purpose in doing so, for otherwise the actor would be locking himself within his own subjective circle and becoming a coldly abstract phantom.
I believe that the coldness and externally mechanical formalisation of acting often encountered in the cinema can usually be explained by coldness and mechanical formalisation in the directors method of work with the actor in shooting.
I emphasise that the decisive importance of the work of the director on the actor in shooting is characteristic for the cinema, and no equivalent obtains with anything like equal sharpness in the theatre.
Let us note here, deriving from this, one more characteristic difference between stage and film technique in acting.
In the theatre the actor must not only find the image, absorb it, approximate himselfto the external forms of its expression, sense the necessary rhythmic forms of its playing and its link with the show as a whole, but he must during the repeated rehearsals fix all this and ‘can’ it in a definite shape. Although it is not disputed that at each subsequent performance the actor will continue in a degree to develop his rôle, yet the element of learning by rote, fixing, and ‘canning’ his acting is inevitably present in the theatre to a considerable degree, Thus the stage producer at a given point cedes his place to the spectator, and the show reaches its perfect form without, already, his direct participation.
In the cinema the burden of the element of ‘canning’ and memorising is removed from the minds of actor and director by the mechanism of the visual and sound cameras and by the laboratory, which indefinitely multiplies copies from a single negative. In fact, until the very last, the culminating moment of their joint creative work, the actor and the director in the cinema march in the liveliest and most direct contact.
CHAPTER VII. DIALOGUE
We now proceed to the next element in the film actor’s work which offers special difficulties. This is the absence, occurring in certain circumstances, of the opposite number in a duologue. We can scarcely imagine an instance ofan actor in the theatre being obliged to talk to an opposite number in reality absent. In the cinema this happens time and again owing to technical complications resulting from the desire to exploit the method of editing in construction of dialogue.
The stage, of course, is familiar with what is termed monologue, where the actor’s direct opposite number in dialogue is the audience. But the cinema has a host of very different examples.
To cite an obvious one, let us take the case of a scene in which an actor addresses a crowd of Mongols, responding to their reactions. Quite likely the actor’s words would be recorded separately in Moscow and joined up with pieces of scenes taken in Siberia.
Certainly it is possible to counter this example with arguments, valid to some extent, denying the necessity, at least in the normal course, for breaches of this kind in the living linkage of the protagonists of the general action. But I hold that such breaches, perhaps usually less crude and of less degree, are inescapable in cinema. Let us take as another case a continuous close-up incorporating several separate dialogue bits, and for which the actor, instead of the connected development of the dialogue, receives only the short opening cue.
Granted that we remove all the technical difficulties deriving from faulty organisation of production, I think we must and shall be able to find means whereby, without losing a jot of the wealth of possible methods of editing treatment of dialogue, we shall yet be able to realise in practice a preservation of the live link between the actor and his opposite even in such work.
In the silent days it was easier. There one could build around an actor to be taken in close-up a background as complicated as might be wished and eliminate it in shooting by the angle from which the camera was trained upon the actor.
In the sound film matters are more difficult. The microphone cannot set exact limits to its sensitivity. The microphone picks up all the sounds occurring around it up to a given strength and distance away, consequently the actor can only be isolated in close-up by eliminating in actuality any and every sound not meant to be recorded in the given section of film. In the silent film one could remove everything superfluous for the finished film and needed only by the actor to help him in his playing, not only by means of the isolating frame of the lens in the given camera set-up, but also by use of the directorial scissors, which could snip off the introductory business needed by the actor to get into his stride for the given acting moment. At first glance it might seem that in sound cinema both these avenues are closed. Practice, however, has found ways round the difficulty.
As a rule, the sound film can be taken just as freely as the silent, relying upon possible future alteration on the cutting bench of the material obtained. The words of an opposite number, the exhortations of the director, any and all noise accretions required by the actor for living intercourse with the human beings surrounding him in the process of shooting, can be removed by the scissors, always supposing there has been exact and correct organisation of the material during the taking of the scene.
A piece which, edited on the screen, comprises only a short moment of the actor’s acting can equally in sound film be shot as a longish piece of acting, only the culminating moment of which forms the piece used in editing construction. The beginning and end of the piece can be cut away by the scissors.
Working out methods for this is simply a question of developing the practical side. This practical side must simply develop, guided always by common sense, along the line of maximum assistance to the actor in enabling him to stay as long and connectedly as possible in the acting image. The sound record on the film is, in general, as pliable a material as the picture film on which the image is recorded. This record can be cut and edited, more—on occasion must be cut and edited. [In most sound systems used in the West, a cut sound track results at its point of junction (in spite of sound-masking measures, such as the so-called blupe splice) in a definite if slight * plop.’A great deal of elimination of surplus sound, or combination on a single track of sounds recorded separately, is effected therefore not by cutting, but by what is called * re-recording.’In theory this does not affect Pudovkin’s principle of possible pliability here enunciated, but in practice—owing to the fact that a new celluloid track is dearer than a scissors snip—it does affect the extent to which that pliability is in fact utilised. —Tr.]
Let us consider, for example, the pauses that separate from one another separate significant moments in the speech of one or several actors. Not always can these pauses be recorded in reality. Consider an instance we have already discussed.
An orator is addressing a listening crowd. His words are interrupted by general hubbub, applause, individual shouts and yells. In taking such a scene, not even a director most set in stagy treatment of the cinema and most scornful of the paramountcy of editing would be content with only one long shot showing the scene as a whole, and not transfer the camera from the orator to various of the individual listeners reacting to his speech and back again. But with shooting in this way, in separate pieces, the pause that separates a completed sentence, or a part of a sentence left incomplete, on the part of the orator from the shout of listeners or the latter’s applause would not be recorded. Inasmuch as the two pieces—orator and listener—have been shot separately, the length of the pause on the screen will depend not on its length in reality, but on the amount of blank film the director inserts at the end of the orator’s phrase and before that of the shouting listener.
From this example we see that in the process of filmic construction arises constantly the necessity to create in editing elements that enter integrally into the tissue of the live actor’s acting. Later we shall see more clearly still how this very element, a pause, an element the tremendous importance of which is familiar to every stage actor, is inevitably dependent on the directorial scissors, that is, on the skill and instinct of the director. Here is a reason, one of many, for finding a way of making possible a direct participation by the actor even in the editing of the film.
The work of editing, of cutting and joining together the pieces of acted film, demands subtle effort of the utmost creative importance in the field of sensing the rhythm of dialogue. Theoretically, it is perfectly possible for the actor, in concert with the director, to set the final polish on the former’s acting solely by manipulating his screen image and screen voice recorded on pieces of film.
There is no reason why the work of the real actor should terminate before the editing process. The actor should take a direct creative part in it, he must clearly feel editing as the process of finally polishing the shape of things.
I am so stubborn in emphasising the necessity for the actor thus to participate in the editing, because hitherto it has been a course in practice scarcely ever adopted, and in consequence has led to the prevalence of a most incorrect idea of creative editing as a period during which the dictator-director mutilates and damages the living work of the actor in the interests of the ritual inventions of his directorial mind.
The actor should be as close to the editing as the director. He should feel that he can lean upon him at every stage of the work. Editing should be precious to him, as shaping of his performance into the ensemble is precious to the stage actor, and he should be similarly eager and anxious for its success and the final linkage of every element of his work into the whole.
I wish to turn back for a moment to our discussion of the living link between actor and theatre audience.
The reacting spectator will only correctly and profoundly apprehend the show when the producer and actor, by means of the exhaustive use of all the resources of their technique (using the term in its broadest sense), have succeeded in correctly guiding his attention. If the spectator for some reason or other at a given moment of the show look, not at the hero when the action hangs on the words of the hero, but at some secondary character walking about in the corner of the stage, the smooth crescendo of the action is bound to be broken. The spectator will receive an impression other than that intended by author, producer, and actor.
The technique of the stage has the effect ofguiding the awakened attention exclusively along a channel creatively planned and discovered as the optimum form for portrayal of the material of the show. And each individual actor knows that, in the execution of his rôle, his stage technique must help him at the suitable moment to concentrate attention only on himself, at times even only on some detail of his acting, or, alternatively, to efface himselfand thereby transfer the spectator’s attention to a colleague.
This process determines the rhythm of the show, that rhythm that is, in fact, the breath of life of any work of art, the rhythm that moves the audience and which, in actual fact, determines that excitation of the spectator without which no work of art can properly be regarded as such.
The induction of the spectator into the rhythm of the show and the inducing of him to follow it constitute one of the most difficult problems of the theatre. In the cinema the technique of editing is brought in to help solve it.
Let me recall here the principles on which I tried to build the screen dialogue in Deserter. Imagine four people sitting in a room. They are talking to each other. We know that when a spectator sees four characters seated spaced out on a stage, his attention, rendered intent by rhythm, moves from one character to another in obedience to definite laws. Now he looks at the speaker, now at the listeners, now at a particular one of them. This transference of his attention is, in fact, dictated to him by the line of the inner content of the scene. Each of the four actors has a definite significance in the development of the action. Their interlocking, the dependence of the possible actions of one on the words of the other, is what causes the spectator to throw his attention from one dramatis persona to another, and the temporal and spacial diagram of this transference is naturally in direct causal relationship to the importance the spectator grants at each given moment to the given dramatis persona.
We know that the cinema, with its camera capable of movement and its consequent close-up, has the possibility of selecting only that object necessary at a given moment as though concentrating the spectator’s attention upon it. The non-stationary camera as though takes upon itself the responsible task of dictating to the spectator the precise rhythm and sequence of attention transference that has been planned in advance by author, director, and actor. The cinema does not leave the spectator the freedom allowed him by the stage.
The rhythmic construction of a scene editably shot and then presented upon the screen achieves, as we have said, a precision and exactitude only paralleled by that of music.
I shall take three various possible forms of edited dialogue (these by no means exhaust the possibilities).
First, let us imagine one of the four actors is speaking. We see on the screen only the speaker; we hear the question he asks of one of his companions. The spectator awaits the answer to the question. In the theatre he would have turned his head and looked at the person who was going to answer, whereas in the cinema, the director, sensing the inevitability of this impulse on the part of the spectator, replaces with lightning speed the image of the questioner with the image of the person questioned. The spectator first sees this actor, then hears the expected answer. In the edited sound film the image of the actor appears narrowly in advance of his words.
Now case two. A person is speaking; we see him on the screen. He finishes speaking, but our interest is still centred on him for some reason—probably we expect him to continue his speech. At this moment, however, one of the others join in; we hear his words, but for the moment we do not see him, and only when the impact of his words on our consciousness has aroused our interest, do we turn our head to look at him. The edited sound film is so constructed that a portion of the words of the second actor is heard over the image of the first, and the image of the second actor, a fraction delayed, appears only after a given lapse of time. Here the sound precedes the image.
The third case. A person speaks; we are interested in the reaction of the other actors to this speech. We watch them as they listen to the continuing speaker. Our attention is transferred back and forth from speaker to listeners and again to speaker. In the sound film follow alternately images of the speaking actor and the listening actors with the words of the speaking actor constant over the images of both.
If we analyse carefully these simplest examples of forms of edited dialogue, we see that we have here two complementary kinds of rhythm marching side by side. The first is a sound-dialogue rhythm in which words alternate with pauses, a question is succeeded by an answer. And these speeches and pauses alternate in the same way as they do in objective reality. The dialogue is here recorded, as it could be if played through on a theatre stage.
What, now, is the second kind of rhythm, that of the alternation of the images of the individual actors?
We have seen in these examples how the alternation of the images may not always coincide with the alternation of the voices of the given actors. The image is at times ahead of the appearance of a new voice, at times behind, or changes rhythmically during the continuous speech of one and the same voice. The alternation of images here fundamentally represents the emotional and intellectual attitude of the spectator towards the content of the dialogue, towards the content of each rôle, towards each of the persons taking part in the given scene.
In fact, when a director edits a scene, he estimates by how much the words should precede the image, or the image the words. It stands to reason, for example, that, ifthe importance at the given moment of the actor who has just finished speaking be considerable, then the spectator must be offered a considerable portion of the words of another speaker before he will tear his attention away from the first and transfer it to the second.
While if, conversely, the argument of the second be impatiently awaited by the eager spectator, being anticipated as vital and important in the course of the development of the action, then a single syllable may suffice to swing the attention of the spectator away from first to second.
Hence we perceive that the process of editing does not imply a purely mechanical function of separate images. The combination of the two complementary rhythms—objectively recorded speech and edited image—yields as result the entire revelation of the significance of the scene; it is the means whereby the director hints to the spectator the requisite attitude to the scene that will reveal its inner content, and indeed also the relationship of that content to the unity of the whole of the film.
Hence we repeat once more, the interrelationship of pieces determined in the editing treatment of a scene is no mere mechanical matter. It is a problem solution ofwhich involves the profoundest generalisation of the content of the scene. In resolving it, there must be borne in mind the relative importance of every character, or, from another point of view, the logical course of interest of the eager spectator, for the rhythm here found will determine the actual course of his attention, and therefore, in the end, the unity and clarity of his reaction to the film.
CHAPTER VIII. DUAL RHYTHM OF SOUND AND IMAGE
One of the most important elements in the solution of the problems of sound cinema is the knowledge and ability to master the possibilities offered by the cinema in duality of sound and image rhythm. In attempting to realise these possibilities, the director in editing makes himself the first, as it were the fundamental spectator. For the purpose of getting the very best out of the actor, as we have seen, the actor himself can be included in this editing work. And if so, in this process is developed and utilised in its appropriate function that second side of the actor that in the theatre supervises and checks from the spectator’s angle, as it were, by responding to audience reaction.
To realise his full value in the cinema, the actor can and should not only play his rôle, but be capable, as well as the director, of bringing to life in the editing process the editing treatment planned, thereby compelling the spectator to accept, in its creatively found due proportion and significance, the rôle he plays. By sharing in the discovery of the appropriate forms of rhythmic alternation of pieces of image and sound, the actor shares in the persuasion of the spectator to the desired inner valuation of his acting in any given scene in its relation to the whole.
What follows here does not bear directly on the acting ofactors in film, but for information, since it is desirable that actors should fully understand all the possibilities of film and editing, I should like to cite one example of editing from Deserter, showing a combination of the two rhythmic lines of sound and image in accordance with a principle entirely different from that already described.
In the simple examples of the editing of dialogue elements already given, it has chanced that the sounds reproduced the line of reality objectively, whereas the image represented the subjective attitude to reality of the spectator.
The combination could, of course, equally easily be effected vice versa; that is, the image could be fixed objectively in the line of reality, the sound could render the subjective valuation of this reality in respect to the spectator.
The last part of Deserter portrays a workers’demonstration in Hamburg and its dispersal by the police. How is this done? First, I shall follow the line of the image.
The quiet streets of Hamburg; street traffic; the traffic policeman in control. Suddenly appears a symptom of disquiet. The policeman’s eye catches sight of a distant banner. Panic on the streets. They empty. The demonstration approaches. Its step is sure and confident. The mass of workers grows, again and again new detachments pour to join the demonstration from the side-streets. Summoned by alarm signals, motor-cycles and motorcars filled with police come tearing up. They meet. A clash. The demonstration stops. Mounted and foot police hurl themselves at the workers, a battle begins, centring around the scarlet banner carried at the head of the demonstration. The banner falls, but is raised again and again. The battle rages, its fortunes swaying, but becoming more and more intense—the police are gaining the upper hand. The demonstration is defeated. The banner crashes to the ground with the hero clinging to it and a policeman clinging to the hero. Those arrested are beaten up and led away. Then suddenly, at the very last moment, when the defeat of the workers has overwhelmed the spectator by its apparent inevitability, the banner, torn from the hands of the enemy, soars once again above the crowd and, passed from hand to hand, moves farther and farther away, establishing the moral if not the physical victory of the demonstration.
This is how the image goes. If it be plotted from the viewpoint of its emotional effect, it can be represented by a complex curve with a rise at the beginning, a relative drop in the middle, a vacillation, a deep drop near the end, and a final rise at the conclusion.
Now, there is a sound line in association with this image. I decided to render this sound line in music only. Usually music in sound films is treated merely as a pure accompaniment, advancing in inevitable and monotonous parallelism with the image.
Had I intended to connect the music with the image of the scene just described in this usual way, this approximately is how it would have gone. A waltz during the portrayal of the streets ofHamburg; a rousing, cheery march tune in association with the aggressive forward march of the demonstration; the introduction of a danger and disquiet theme when the police appear; the enemy theme strengthened each time the banner falls and rousing fanfares each time it rises during the struggle; music dropped to the uttermost depths ofdespair when the demonstration is defeated, and lifted to triumphal victory chords when the banner once more soars above the crowd.
The composer—Shaporin—and I decided to follow another road. The score was written, played, and recorded for the whole of the sequence as a single-purposed unity, a workers’ march tune with constantly running through it the note of stern and confident victory, firmly and uninterruptedly rising in strength from beginning to end.
What was the significance of this line? We rendered in this second line, that of the sound, the subjective attitude to be adopted by the spectator towards the content of the happenings in the image.
Marxists know that in every defeat of the workers lies hidden a further step towards victory. The historical inevitability of constantly recurring class battles is bound up with the historic equal inevitabi lity of the growth of the strength of the prôletariat and the decline of the bourgeoisie. It was this thought that led us to the line of firm growth towards inevitable victory which we follow in the music through all the complications and contradictions of the events shown in the image.
The music guides the line of portrayal of the inner content representation of this historical march to certain victory, consciousness of which cannot, for us, be separated from perception of a worker marching into battle. What results on the screen? As we pass along the quiet streets of Hamburg, we hear in the music, softly yet at the same time firmly, the sounds of the tune of the marching workers. The spectator derives rather an odd feeling from the incongruity between this music and the sight of the gleaming motor-cars as they glide past the windows of luxury shops. By the time the banner of the demonstration appears, the music has grown more and more definite, its significance is clear to the spectator, and it drags him into step with the workers’mass now firmly marching along the wide, suddenly emptied streets.
The police hurl themselves at the demonstrators, the battle begins, but the brave music informed with the revolutionary spirit that moves the workers and links them to the spectator continues to grow. The banner falls, but the music rises to crescendo. The position of the workers becomes more and more desperate, but the music grows. The demonstration is beaten, the hero perishes, but the music grows. The defeat of the workers and the victory of the police overwhelm everything, but the music grows. And suddenly, at the very last moment, the banner that blazes up above the crowd synchronises in the finale with a maximum strength of emotional intensity in a musical phrase crowning in one topmost flight of sound the whole sequence and the whole picture.
When this sequence has been shown, especially when separate from the rest of the film, I have had the opportunity to observe cases of great emotional upheaval, particularly among persons whose lives have been devoted to the tasks of the working-class struggle. It has been clear to me that the emotion of such spectators cannot be attributed to the component elements separately, such as skilful editing of the image or the high quality of Shaporin’s musical score. The crux of the matter is, of course, that the emotion derives from far deeper elements integrated as a result of the combination of the two lines—the objective representation of reality in the image and the revelation of the profound inner content of reality in the sound.
Though the example we have dealt with here does not relate directly to the actor’s work, it yet is important for him, for he is one of those who must understand particularly clearly the significance of treatment of sound and image, not in their primitive naturalistic association, but in a more profound—I should term it realistic—association enabling the creative worker in the cinema to portray any given event, not merely simply in direct representation, but in its deepest degree of generalisation. Only then when, for each given event, we have found the independent rhythmic lines of sound and image appropriate to it, and thereby endowed its expression with the dual nature that opens the path to its dialectical understanding, shall we obtain the realistic and exceptionally forceful impression that the so numerous technical means of the cinema make possible.
We must not in our work for one moment allow anything to stand in the way of fullest realisation of this possibility. This is why we must seriously tackle the question of broadening the understanding and share of the actor.
Though it might pass that in silent film the actor was completely separated from editing, both during shooting and during the subsequent cutting-bench work, yet in sound film such a practice becomes a serious source of weakness.
In sound film the actor’s possibilities in his means of organising the form of his work to be presented to the spectator are extremely widened, and at the same time there has come greater need for precision and point. He is able to control without mistake the emotions and interest of the spectator, if, of course, he understand properly the art of editing. The fact that realisation of those possibilities involves editing of diverse separate angles means that the proper understanding of them will bring him to an appreciation of the reason and necessity for splitting his acting during shooting. New possibilities always create new complications.
Full realisation will make actors and theoreticians of film acting at last understand that this problem, like any other, cannot be regarded only from one side. To be influenced solely by the desire to make the best and easiest opportunities for the actor to remain longest in his part will mean that we shall bring into our work the theatricalisation of cinema in its worst form. Long pieces, the shooting of films in shots of long duration in which two or more actors remain on the screen throughout, playing the scene through as though on a stage and forcing the spectator himself to pick out and choose what he has to look at or listen to at any given moment, just as though he were a member of a theatre audience—all this leads to development of cinema along a false and erroneous path, for in following it we follow a line of least resistance and renounce use of all the good which the cinema gives us and which alone the cinema can give.
The actor will only appreciate the technique of his work correctly when he understands it as a weapon for his creative struggle. Struggle for what? I reply: for the realistic unity of the acted image. The discontinuity of acting in the cinema which enables as a result an edited image that can deeply affect the spectator must not be destroyed by mechanically long scenes, but, by means of the actor’s technique, by finding method for his work, we must enable him to destroy discontinuity’s possible bad influence on the unity of the acted image. Discontinuity of floor work must be counteracted by unity of rehearsal work.
The unity the actor discovers within himselfduring the rehearsal period must serve to avert mechanical isolation of the separate pieces he has to deal with in actual shooting.
CHAPTER IX. INTONATION, MAKE-UP, GESTURE
On the stage there are three main matters for the actor’s technique to deal with: voice, gesture, and make-up. Each of these matters is determined, as we have already seen, by considerations of what is meant by ‘stage technique’; that is, as we have already defined, the means used by the actor to overcome the harsh limits imposed on him by the mechanical basis of the stage, and to achieve realistic unity in his image.
When the actor works on his voice production and his intonation, he is guided not by the dictates of his rôle, but by the distance separating stage from audience. Actors on the stage whisper loudly, thereby contradicting the very meaning of the act of whispering. What matter that the dramatic situation demands that a given actor’s whisper be not heard by his colleague standing near? Not a scrap. The whisper must at all costs be heard by the spectator sitting in the back row of the balcony.
When the actor works on the plastics and expressiveness of his gestures, he strives to make them wide and generalised, eliminating minuteness not because the character whose image he is representing would have made such wide gestures, but because they must be perceived by the most remote spectator.
Still again, the actor puts on vivid rouge and draws a line of make-up for the purpose of making the shape and movements of his face clearly visible from that maximum distance which is mechanically conditioned by the dimensions of the theatre. Thus gestures, voice, make-up all constitute technique. It is implicit in this technique, we should understand, that the actor, in increasing the volume of his voice, yet strives not to let his lines degenerate into false declamation; in broadening the sweep of his gestures, yet strives to retain their realistic shape; in working out his make-up, remains yet oriented upon the realistic features of the human face.
The sum total of the stage actor’s work on his voice, gesture, and make-up is covered by the formula: theatricalisation of the external shape of the acted image. This process cannot, of course, be considered as actor’s technique by itself. It forms also a particular element in the general craft of the stage. But, speaking generally, in any art the technique of giving external shape to its elements cannot be treated as something separate, independent, and isolated from the creative process as a whole.
In emphasising it as ‘technique,’ I only desire to emphasise its direct dependence on the specific conditions of theatrical performance, distinct from the conditions of cinema.
The ‘theatricalisation’ of the actor, his technique in response to theatrical conditions, cannot be treated separately as an art in itself. It is conditioned by the actor’s striving to make his creation as vivid and effective as possible, and, in presentations of realistic style, it links up with the general struggle of the artist to preserve in the image the maximum complexity and vividness of the real-life event being reproduced in stage conditions.
The term ‘theatricalisation’ of the actor’s image should be paralleled in the cinema by a term ‘cinematicisation.’ I regard this term as worth inventing, because it corresponds to a definite content in our film work.
While ‘theatricalisation’ involves a strengthening of the vividness and effectfulness of his voice delivery, gesture, grimace on the part of the actor himself, by deliberate effort transforming his normal non-stage delivery, gesture, grimace, the cinema achieves the same result of strengthening vividness and effectiveness by the use of a camera moved from place to place, change of angle, perspective, lighting, nearer or farther microphone, which means, in other words, that ‘cinematicisation’ is mainly bound up with editing and the knowledge of its methods. Every expressive movement of man is always conditioned by the dialectical conflict of two elements: the inner urge to widen the movement as much as possible, and the volitional brake restraining the movement, the two by their interaction thereby resulting in an expressive form for the movement.
There exists a definite norm determining the shape of human movements in the ordinary conditions of real life. On the stage this movement shape is altered by means of slackening somewhat the restraining tendency of the will. By this means, by unbraking, weakening the restraint of the will, the stage actor, preserving the inner meaning of the gesture, preserving its inner urge, yet increases its sweep and thus makes it clearly and distinctly visible to the spectator in the theatre.
The cinema does not require this unbraking from the actor. The leastmovement, inwardly stimulated and restrained to the utmost degree, can yet be seen and heard by the spectator through the agency of closely approximated camera and microphone.
We are familiar, even in the theatre, with efforts to approach realism in acting, the principal being those that characterised Stanislavski and his school.
These efforts were realised in their most marked form in the early works of the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, where the theatre was no bigger than a fair-sized room and the actor thus maximally approached to the spectator. But this method in the theatre immediately and inevitably results in a degree of intimacy that contradicts the basic requirement of every art—to embrace and excite the maximum number of spectators.
The policy of changing the theatre into an intimate ‘emoting circle’inevitably resulted in a reaction and a demand for theatricalisation of the acting and the whole performance as such, a reaction which, in fact, was led by Stanislavski’s closest pupils, among them Vakhtangov.
As we have already seen, the close-up in the cinema removes the contradiction between the desire for realism in the actor’s acting and the requirement of a maximum audience.
What are the changes resulting from this in the tasks that confront the film actor? First of all, resulting from the possibility of approximation of camera and microphone to the actor, disappears the need artificially to raise the volume of the voice and increase the scale of the movements of the body and face. In practice disappears from the actor’s work the element of special study of voice production and strength of tone, which, in the film actor, need only be strong enough to cover the distance separating him from his colleague; in other words, as strong as would be requisite in the conditions of actuality.
(We recall that on the stage the actor must endow his voice with a strength determined not by the distance separating him from his colleague, but by that separating him from the spectator seated in the gallery.)
The elementary crudity of theatrical make-up becomes, also, entirely purposeless. In the cinema the quality of make-up, where this be necessary at all, is estimated by its efficaciousness in preserving all the finest complexities of expression of the given human face. An artificial expression—a cheek pasted on, a line drawn to represent a non-existent furrow—are simply idiotic in the cinema, inasmuch as, deprived of their theatrical purpose of helping the actor to establish an expression at a distance, they simply become a hindrance damaging that expression, particularly destructive in close-up.
If a film actor were made up in a theatrical way, one would have to put the camera in shooting far enough back not to see the details of the made-up face, so as not to show them to the spectator.
Stylised make-up automatically forces the cinema to renounce its own methods of work and change to a simple recording of a theatrical performance from the distance and angle of the audience seated in the theatre. Everything ‘theatricalised’ is wasted or even harmful in the cinema.
The actor’s work, at that moment of it which takes place in front of the camera, can be as near real life as is imaginably possible. The film actor playing in an exterior, in a real garden, by the side of a real tree or a real river, must not feel himself alien and apart from the reality around him. The formalisation of his work is expressed in that formalisation demanded by cinematic acting. Creative work in these conditions demands no less effort, no less technique, than the ‘theatricalised’ acting of the stage actor, but of an entirely different kind.
In his book My Life in Art, Stanislavski relates how, on an occasion during one of their provincial tours, a group of actors taking a walk in a park happened by chance on a spot that reminded them of the stage setting of the second act of Turgeniev’s play A Month in the Country.
The actors decided to try playing impromptu in the natural background.
Stanislavski thus tells of the attempt: “Came my entry; Olga Knipper and I, as required by the play, walked along the long tree-bordered avenue speaking our lines. Then we sat down on a seat exactly as in our stage business, started talking—and stopped because we could not continue. My acting seemed false to me against the background of real nature. And people say our theatre has brought simplicity to the point of absolute naturalism! How stilted and formalised seemed everything we were accustomed to do upon the stage.”
I believe that the main element in the acting of the film actor has to be precisely the opposite of this, has to be, in fact, precisely the ability to walk with a colleague, without the slightest feeling of falsehood or awkwardness, along a real garden path and continue the conversation thus begun sitting on a real bench under a real tree.
Shooting in exteriors has always characterised the style of really cinematic productions, and, in my view, it will continue to do so in the future.
It is interesting to note that the theatricalised style of the film The Tempest transforms the few exterior shots used in it to the appearance of mere painted backcloths.
Stanislavski got his feeling of falsehood probably because the feeling of the natural background surrounding him forced him back upon feeling in all its fullness the living reality of his colleague, the impulse to speak and move in such a way as he would if connected with her alone, to raise his voice no higher than necessary from the point of view of a person standing close to him, to sit down on the bench in such a way as to be turned comfortably towards the person he was talking to without consideration of an audience looking at him from a definite viewpoint and demanding not merely the fact of a given movement but its emphasised portrayal.
Despite the fact that Stanislavski had striven with all his might towards the creation of actuality in the theatre, by means of transplanting naturalism on to the stage, training himself as an actor precisely into the scheme of a complete separation of himself from the audience and inclusion of himself into a separate life, with his colleague, on the stage, subduing the feeling of special ‘portrayal’ of his behaviour—yet at his first contact with the surroundings of real life he felt the inevitability of the influence of stage conditions on the form of the actor’s creative work.
When we speak of the ‘unnecessary staginess’ of a film actor’s performance, we so term it not because staginess necessarily involves anything ofitselfwrong or unpleasant. We simply register an unpleasant sensation of incongruity, and therefore falseness, as though at the sight of a man striving to negotiate a non-existent obstacle.
An elocutionary distinctness in an uttered word, theatrical loudness in a voice, even a slightly emphasised or generalised gesture, conflicting on the screen with the nearness of the huge close-up that is the nearest approach of spectator to actor, inevitably creates a sensation of unnecessary and foolish falseness.
But the same artificiality, the same gesture, in theatrical conditions, and therefore realistically directed towards the overcoming of obstacles really existing, becomes a high form of art deeply moving to the audience.
In a theatrical school, work on voice production and intonation forms the basis of the lessons on acting technique. In sound-film training, efforts are now made in the same direction, but unfortunately they are too often based on a mere mechanical transplantation into the cinema of stage practices.
I believe that the Americans, who have devoted all their attention to the perfection of recording apparatus, and the invention ofapparatus that can correct speech defects recorded on the film by modification in cutting or re-recording of the film itself, are on a much more promising path.
The whole idea of elocution and voice production in sound film reminds one of the hoary and idiotic concept of c photogenic faces, 5 and how film technicians used to declare in the old days that an actor could possess special facial and bodily qualities capable of creating a perfect and expressive screen image. Nowadays, at all events, we know that cameras and lighting have shown that any human being can give a beautiful image; all we have to do is to find out how to photograph him.
CHAPTER X. REALISM OF THE ACTED IMAGE
From all we have said so far, it might be concluded that the technique of the film actor must be oriented around two basic elements: first, the mastering of, and subordination by him of his acting to, the creative problems of the art of editing; second, the absorption of the acted image, organically and wholly.
But we come now to the question—what part is played in the film actor’s work by what in ordinary parlance is called sincerity, spontaneity, naturalness? We know that in the cinema, in contrast to the theatre, there are frequently instances of actors who act their own selves. There are cases of supporting or minor rôles played by persons who have never studied acting in any conceivable way, yet who not only create strong and impressive images, but also fall in perfectly with the general style of the film, although professional actors also take part in it.
This would be impossible on the stage. A real live dog in The Eccentric, [Play by A. Afinogenov. —Tr.] the thundering of the hooves of real steeds on the wooden boards in Hamlet, either is revolting and entirely out of key with the whole performance. Yet one could hardly name a film in which, alongside real actors, one does not see animals and children, who in no wise damage its sense of stylistic unity.
Plenty might be said against the contention that a casual man from the street, a ‘non-actor,’ could act a big and complicated rôle in a film. But it is impossible, without theoretical trickery, to argue that such a casual ‘non-actor’ in a small scene or simple ‘bit,’ even placed next to a good film actor, would necessarily create in a film the same feeling of disturbance and out-of-placeness for the spectator that he feels at the sight of non-theatrical behaviour on the stage, such as in the already cited cases of dogs and horses, or, for example, the children who are sometimes introduced into a stage show.
Stanislavski himself, who, from the very beginning of his dramatic career, strove to attain naturalness in acting, was forced to abandon the idea ofintroducing into a theatrical performance an old peasant woman, in spite of the fact that she seemed to him to be the embodiment of truth and expressiveness.
It is, of course, not suggested that a film actor should limit himself to the possibility of once or twice playing his own self. Even if he play his own self, he must none the less modify his behaviour to some degree, in subordinating it to the task set out by the film as a whole; the rôle, even if himself, must be given some basic ideological directional characteristic. In no case, of course, will or can the image appearing on the film be a simple copy of the given person who acts, with the whole sum of his individual character istics. In the end even a casual ‘non-actor’ (wrongly called ‘type’) [Pudovkin uses the word ‘type,’ not for the non-acting material, to whom it is sometimes applied in the West, but for a stylised figure, who always plays a given rôle and none other—villain, hero, policeman, mother-in-law, etc. —Tr.] in some measure follows the editing instructions of the director, in other words, does some acting.
The film actor, in the course of a protracted career involving work in several films, is bound to work on the creation of various images some of which at least are not identical with his own individual characteristics. Thus, inevitably, is bound to arise the question of working over himself, embodiment in an image outside himself, howsoever it may be dealt with.
The actor in his creative process first learns reality; then, together with the spectator and by means of the specific peculiarities of his art, he expresses externally the results of his knowledge in the form of a newly organised artificial behaviour composed by himself. In this work he invariably strives to preserve in live undestroyed shape his personal existence, he strives to continue to feel himself in front of the camera a whole, living person and not a mechanised likeness of one, and if, as we have already seen we do, we deny the mechanical conception of the construction of the actor’s work, then already we acknowledge the necessity in this process for ‘incarnating oneself into’ the image.
I shall not here analyse the process of ‘living into’ or appropriating to one’s person, the image. A whole series of methods to this end, assembled even into a complex methodology, has been worked out by stage craftsmen. We have and will again later discuss its importance.
Let us now note only and essentially that this process ofappropriation of the image, the transmutation by the actor of his personal behaviour into the behaviour of the rôle-man, is indispensable for the transmission to the spectator ofan organically whole, realistically impressive live image. Having accepted this principle, we then note that, in the theatre, the person of the actor inevitably comes into conflict with the element of theatricalisation in the external forms of the image he appropriates. In the cinema these elements of theatricalisation are made unnecessary by the presence of the non-stationary camera and microphone that make possible an edited shooting of the actor. The actor in the film, being thus freed from the element of theatricalisation, is left with, as sole preoccupation, maximum approach of himself to realisticness.
By what process do we gather knowledge of a phenomenon as more and more real? By the process of approaching it, studying it, in all its depth, in all its richness, in all the complexity of its linkage to other phenomena.
In art we term an image realistic if it be a representation of objective reality imaged with maximum exactitude, maximum clarity, maximum profundity, and maximum embrace of its complexity.
The frequent use of the word ‘maximum’ in this description suggests to us that naturalism is the highest form of the realistic tendency in art.
But again and again it is necessary to repeat that naturalism, realism, and idealism in art are not separate and independent forms, capable ofexistence unconnected with one another.
Naturalism and idealism are both hypertrophied forms, divorced in their development from the proper course of apprehension of reality, which always returns from abstract generalisation to living actuality, in order, having generalised living actuality once again, thereby to advance forward.
Naturalism, idealism, and realism in art stand in the same relation to one another as do mechanism, idealism, and dialectical materialism in philosophy.
Those of the naturalist school, in copying a phenomenon of actuality and not generalising it, create a mere cold mechanism, without the inner links that exist in actuality within the phenomenon, and without the outer links that bind it to other phenomena as a part to the whole.
The realism of a representation increases as its approach to the complexity of an actual object and as its deepening by detail, but at the same time it must portray the object as part of a whole.
Realistic work, then, only escapes from naturalism when in its representation of a phenomenon are present both the general external linkage and the inner generalising elements that (together with the outward appearance) make the given phenomenon in actuality a part connected to a whole.
Applying this principle to the work of the actor, it is clear that the realistic tendency in art will urge him towards the necessity for assembling, at some stage of his work, the separate discontinuous pieces of his acting in front of the camera into a whole inseparably linked with the whole of the show and, in general, with the place of the show in our constantly developing social life.
The old paradox of Diderot, which pointed out the possibility of the actor during a show being able to make the spectator cry by the excellent playing of his rôle and, simultaneously, his colleague laugh as he stands in the wings, by a comic grimace, and which thus apparently established the possibility of a mechanical split in the actor’s behaviour into behaviour of a living person and behaviour in the play—none the less in no way contradicts the necessity, at some stage or other of the actor’s working on his rôle, for a whole and organic unity of these two behaviours.
In this sense the teaching of Stanislavski is in its premises profoundly true and honest. Let it be that the actor on the stage does not, during the performance, live the life of the character he acts. But if the audience gets, in the impression it receives, a feeling of living realistic unity in the image, then this unity must come from somewhere.
This unity must emerge somewhen during the creative process of the actor’s work on the character. Coquelin and Karatuigin, [A Russian Garrick.]who both used to ‘put something over’ in their acting, somewhere and sometime in their work must have created the content they portrayed.
The example of the cinema makes this contention even more clear. Actually, the grey-white shadows that flicker across the screen do not feel anything. They are there, technically fulfilling the part once and for all allotted to them, a series of fragmentary, separate movements—yet none the less the spectator receives the impression of a unified image. Why? Because as the basis of the selection of these separate movements has been made the organic unity of the real phenomenon recorded on the film.
It is interesting that it is characteristic of the cinema that it can allow the actor to stop his work before the form found for embodying his rôle has yet become a habit learned by rote and mechanically repeated.
We know that there exists in the theatre the peril of ‘getting stale,’ as it is called.
Stanislavski, giving in his memoirs a comparative valuation of his acting in the rôle of Dr. Stockman in its earlier and later phases, writes as follows: “Step by step I look back through the past and realise more and more clearly that the inner content that I put into my rôle at the time of first creating it and the outer form into which the rôle has degenerated in course of time are as far apart from each other as heaven and earth. At first everything came from a beautiful and moving inner truth, and now all that is left of it is empty husks, rubbish, and dust left over in body and soul from various casual causes that have nothing in common with real and true art.”
I incline to think that this weather-beating of Stanislavski’s inner truth was not solely due to the frequency with which he repeated his rôle. Surely it was due to the fact that Stanislavski himself underwent changes, and the inner organic elements, which at first linked him to the image of Stockman he had found, later no longer existed.
I cite this example because its sharpness underlines the contrast provoked by the film actor’s work, the feature of which is that its living real link with the acted image ceases much earlier than does that of the stage actor, and, in the main, ceases at that conscious and deliberate moment of choice which the artist in any given art except the stage art uses to place a limit to his polishing of his creation.
The film actor must be truthful, sincere, and, in his striving for realism of the image, natural. This naturalness is not destroyed in him by the demands of theatricalisation. But, on the other hand, to find the right content for the acting image does inevitably require a great deal of important preliminary work on the inner absorption of it.
Here we see converging the fundamental claims of the Stanislavski school and the basic desiderata we set out for the film actor.
In my view, many of the methods adopted by the Moscow Art Theatre school are closest to what is wanted and most useful to bear in mind when setting up a school of film acting. Of course, one must be able to recognise and separate out from all the basic rules promulgated and introduced by Stanislavski those elements of theatricalisation which are suitable only for a theatre school.
The right course, I fancy, is to imitate the Moscow Art Theatre school, not in the form in which it actually exists to-day, but in the form in which it would exist based upon Stanislavski’s ideas of verisimilitude of acting which, in the last resort, he could never realise because, so long as he worked in the theatre, he could never rid himself of its conventions.
Extremely interesting are those passages in Stanislavski’s memoirs where he speaks of the necessity for ‘gestureless’ moments of immobility on the part of the actor, to concentrate on his feelings all the attention of the spectator.
Stanislavski felt that an actor striving towards truth should be able to avoid the element ofportraying his feelings to the audience, and should be able to transmit to it the whole fullness of the content of the acted image in some moment of half-mystic communion. Of course, he came up against a brick wall in his endeavours to find a solution to this problem in the theatre.
It is amazing that solution of this very problem is not only not impracticable in the cinema, but extreme paucity of gesture, often literal immobility, is absolutely indispensable in it. For example, in the close-up, in which gesture is completely dispensed with, inasmuch as the body of the actor is simply not seen.
CHAPTER XI. WORK WITH NON-ACTORS
In speaking of realistic work by film actors, it is necessary to point out the tremendous importance of the experiments carried out in the cinema in work with so-called ‘non-actors’ (I deliberately refrain from using the misleading term ‘type’). I am far from the intention of providing excuse for any theory affirming that the cinema does not need specially trained actors. The formulation of such a theory has in the past been carefully ascribed to me, regardless of the obvious fact that all my practical experience in the cinema, in literally every film, has been connected not only with specially trained film actors, but also with former stage actors. [Pudovkin has, it is true, never specifically advocated the exclusive use of non-actors. But how far his enthusiasm for each problemof- the-hour has laid him open to the ascription he complains of may be judged by the reader of his lecture to the Film Society, included in Film Technique (Newnes). —Tr.]
I shall not delve into these ‘theoretical exaggerations,’ which I have already referred to elsewhere, but simply recall the facts, which are, that, in individual cases of work with non-actors, we have discovered in practice that, and sought in theory the reason why, elements of the real behaviour of a person not trained in any school are not out of place in a film and, indeed, at times can serve as an example to be followed by experienced actors.
It seems to me that these experiences point first and foremost to the fact that the film actor, both in the whole and in every fragment of his work, should always orient his behaviour on the real concrete feeling of the purpose he follows in each separate piece. It should be recalled here that, in the cinema, this purpose nearly always has real, and in all the fullness of their reality sensible, forms. The whole atmosphere of exterior work, so characteristic for films, shows this.
In what manner have I used casual persons, nonactors, in my own films? My method has been to create in the given pieces those real-life conditions the reaction to which of the non-actor was bound to be precisely that element I needed for the film.
Let us take as example the Young Communist and his piece of acting at the meeting in the last reel of Deserter. The boy photographed in this rôle was a naturally self-conscious subject, and, of course, the atmosphere of shooting and his anticipation of the requirements the director was about to make from him combined to render him excited, self-conscious, and tie him generally into knots.
I purposely strengthened and increased the atmosphere that was making him self-conscious because it gave me the necessary colouring. When I made him stand up in response to applause, and then began to praise his acting unstintedly and flatteringly, the youngster, much as he tried, was unable to hold back a tremendous smile of complete satisfaction, which gave me as result a gorgeous piece. I regard this piece as one of the most successful in the whole scheme, if such a term is legitimate in this case, of the film’s acting.
In this case all the real conditions of shooting did in actual fact happen to coincide with the conditions that later invested the scene on the screen. They fitted both the confusion of the Young Communist on being unexpectedly elected to the presidium of a huge meeting, and his uncontrollable pleasure when the huge meeting greeted the announcement of his name with unanimous applause.
Certainly it was not the acting of an actor, for the element of conscious creation was not present in the lad who portrayed the Young Communist. But this experience can be turned inside out and applied on its practical side to help any actor wanting to find, in concert with the director, a realistic prop to bolster up his mood.
In the theatre, of course, as we have already seen, a real-life prop of this kind has either to be imagined or replaced by the magic ‘just suppose’ invented by Stanislavski.
About this ‘just suppose’ Stanislavski writes as follows: “The actor says to himself: all this scenery, props, make-up, public performance, etc., is a complete lie. I know it and I don’t care. These things have no significance for me... but... just suppose all this that surrounds me on the stage were true, then this is how I should react to this or that event.”
From this magic ‘just suppose,’ according to Stanislavski, derives the true creative existence of the actor. Maybe this is true, for the theatre, since the theatricalisation of the actor’s behaviour is an indispensable aspect of his art. In the cinema, however, even if this ‘just suppose’ exist, it does so in an entirely different form, probably connected, as is nearly every element of generalisation, with the editing treatment of the rôle.
I recall another characteristic example of work with a non-actor occurring during the shooting of The Story of a Simple Case.
There was a scene as follows: a father and his small son, a Pioneer, who have not seen each other for a long time, meet. It is early morning. The boy is just out of bed. He is stretching and flexing his muscles after sleep. At his father’s question, “How’s life, Johnny?” he turns towards him, and instead of an answer gives him a sweet, rather shy, smile.
The task set was complicated and, besides, the object to be shot had to be a boy about ten years of age, because in the cinema not even the most oldfashioned and stage-minded director would dare to use a grown-up actor, or a girl made up to represent a boy, as is possible and has often been done on the stage.
In working with a non-actor it is impossible to count on rehearsals. Mechanically remembered movements are nearly always useless in such cases. To find the necessary form creatively and then, having found it, get it repeated is, of course, in work with anybody not specially trained also impossible. Therefore it is necessary, even in a case of such complex action, to be able, taking into account as finely and sensitively as possible the character of the person playing, to establish for him such conditions as will produce the movements required by the director in natural and inevitable reaction to a given external stimulus.
I therefore planned as follows: I decided, first and foremost, to make the boy experience a real pleasure from the process ofstretching, more even, feel a need for it. To achieve this, I bade him bend forward, grip his feet with his hands, and hold them in this position until I gave him permission to straighten up. “Then,”I told him,”you’ll feel a genuine pleasure in stretching and straightening your muscles, and that’s just what I want.”
I deliberately explained to him the content of the whole problem, reckoning that he would be interested in the experiment. This interest I needed for the success of point number two of my task.
The boy was really interested; I felt it. Now I further reckoned thus: when I give him permission to straighten out, and he stretches with genuine pleasure, I shall interrupt his movement with a question: “Well, Johnny, isn’t it grand to stretch?”
Talking during the shot was not allowed; the boy knew he had to keep silent. I knew his nature well, and I was convinced that he would answer me with precisely the smile I needed, acquiescent, and a little confused and shy at the unusualness of the situation.
I repeat: rehearsals would have been useless; I was all out for the spontaneity of the reaction I had foreseen might come.
The scene began. The boy stood bent downwards. I allowed him to straighten out, he stretched; I saw on his face a satisfaction both of physical pleasure and from his feeling that the game I had suggested to him was going without a hitch. I put my question and received in reply the beautiful and sincere smile I wanted.
Of course, it might have failed, but I was convinced that it would not, and I was right.
Work with casual persons, of course, requires especial fertility of invention on the part of the director. Equally, of course, it cannot be generalised into a principle suitable for work with all actors. Nor is it possible to schematise such examples of work with ‘non-actors’ into a sort of scholastic system. But I do believe that, from the experience of such work, one might derive much that would be useful in practice for the process of absorption into the image, and the search for externally expressive methods of portrayal of inner states.
The creation of conditions that evoke a reaction naturally can sometimes be of great assistance in the search for forms for the acting even of professional actors, especially in circumstances of shooting in exterior.
In considering the question of the ‘non-actor’ the following should also be borne in mind: while it is idle to suggest the complete replacement of experienced and specially trained film actors by casual persons, it is equally impossible to attempt to produce a film with the whole colossal number of rôles taking part in it filled exclusively by professional actors. To refuse in any circumstances to use casual personnel without special training in acting is to abandon film-making altogether. A simple mathematical calculation will prove this: the number of big rôles in an average play is fifteen to twenty; in an average film there will probably be more like sixty, eighty, even a hundred separate scenes of different persons, each ofwhom has definite and considerable importance. Tiny bit rôles, occupying as small a time on the screen as twenty seconds to a minute, yet often solve highly important and serious problems and correspondingly demand a high level of expressiveness.
The mass, the crowd that remains on the stage of a theatre as something solid, general, undivided, splits in the film, as we know, into close-ups. The content of a crowd as a whole is revealed through the detail of its component human beings. In a close-up, each of these components of the crowd requires to be no less true and expressive than the actor who plays the leading rôle.
While on the stage a petty incident may be of only slight importance, turning out to be only a connecting link or, perhaps, just background atmosphere, in the cinema, with the continuous concentration of the attention of the spectator on each frame, these transitional, merely connecting elements do not exist.
In the film, every piece, even the smallest, must have a hundred per cent content if the film is to be constructed clearly and rhythmically. The high standard that must be applied to the smallest incident should be considered in conjunction with the practical difficulties of concrete film production and the impossibility of keeping hanging around an indefinite number of small-part players. In Hollywood, of course, thousands of extras and small-part players live permanently in the film city. But this system could hardly be established with us. [In the Soviet Union the general shortage of labour precludes film-extra-ing as a profession. Film crowds are called, in the main, from a roster of persons whose occupation is of such a nature as to enable them to snatch a few hours from their jobs at odd intervals. —Tr.] With the correct development of cinema as an art maximally embracing and absorbing reality, with the consequent increase of exterior scenes causing location journeys of producing units to various parts of our country, one can hardly reckon upon carting about with one a huge crowd of actors for use only in one-minute-long scenes.
We shall always have to face the necessity for the director to know how to use for such scenes whatever persons he can collect on a location possibly far removed from his headquarters in the capital.
The position is further aggravated, I suggest, by the impossibility of using broad make-up, which on the stage can transform a young Khmelev [Also a Russian Garrick. —Tr.] to an old porter.
Of course, there could still remain open the course of adapting the scenario to the stock company the given studio has at its disposal. Kuleshov, who writes his scenarios with a meticulous eye on the size and composition of his producing collective, is inclined to favour this style of work. But this path, it seems to me, is not one that opens for exploitation the colossal possibilities of the cinema; on the contrary, it closes the way to real, profound development.
This is a matter that raises questions of the fundamental style of work. There is no reason why one should not take into account one or two leading actors, the better to adjust the content of the scenario, but it is out of the question to attempt it in respect to a hundred incidents. Such an attempt would even be objectless since experience has already shown, as we have seen, that ways can be found of fully exploiting untrained material in film acting.
The only barrier preventing such use would be scholastic maintenance of ‘the cinema is for the actor’ as an abstract principle.
CHAPTER XII. CASTING
I return once more to the film actor’s work on his rôle, and propose to pause at the very first stage —that of the choice of it. The film actor, like any artist in any art, bases himself on the profoundest absorption of the image in its teleology and in its ideology. In this process are inevitably present not only objective but also subjective elements.
If his only interest in the image planned is the task to be performed by the play or scenario as a whole, and if in the execution of this task he, as an actor, is not also interested in the image itself in the deepest degree, then no work of art will result.
If the play as a whole and the rôle in the play solve something that is alien to and divorced from the inner world of the artist himself, then no work of art will result. Only if play and rôle both speak in some degree about something that the artist himself desires to say with deepest sincerity and passion, only then can one be sure that his work will result in a real creative work of art.
I hold that from the very beginning, at the primary first encounter of the actor with his rôle, there must be present the element of deep inner interest on the part of the actor.
But apart from this general inner interest from the very start of the work, the actor must infallibly feel and think out clearly the degree to which he himself is suitable for the perfect execution of the future work. It is no good the appeal of a rôle that interests the actor being limited to its ideological content. There must be an element of sympathy for characteristics in the rôle that will find an echo in the individual character and cultural background of the actor and can therefore become points of departure for the direction of his future work in appropriating the image.
From the first moment he encounters his rôle, the actor must feel an emotional sympathy with it in itself, apart from its links to the scenario as a whole. This primal moment of presentiment of the fullness and reality of the image may be personal to the actor, or may be discovered by him with the help of the director.
But in either case, this element of the actor being deeply moved by the possibilities of his proposed future work should determine the choice of casting.
It will be advisable to dwell a little more fully on this question of casting, because our present practice is still the mechanical allotment of rôles to actors, sometimes without taking into consideration their personal individual qualities, and always ignoring their creative interestedness.
It is clear that an actor’s work in a given rôle will only give good results when it is preceded by an element of choice in his acceptance of the rôle—the outcome of an urge within him to play the particular rôle.
The film actor is far less favourably situated in this respect than the stage actor. The cinema knows no, or, more strictly speaking, few, established acting collectives, and the scenario, although as a rule written for a specific director, usually ignores the question of the cast, which is only later assembled and fitted into the rôles.
The opportunity for a film actor to choose a rôle is non-existent, and limited in practice to the possibility of saying yes or no to the offer of a given rôle.
I must say that the fault lies not only with the present organisation of the film industry and the lack of initiative obtaining among scenarists and directors. A large share of responsibility, permit me to say, for this sad state of affairs lies at the door of the lack of film culture among the actors themselves.
Let us analyse carefully the meaning of the element of being carried away emotionally by the rôle, which alone should decide the actor in his choice of it.
Before he begins his work on the image, the actor must (else he is no artist) be able to size up all this future work generally, as a whole. On the one hand, he must see in it his own interest in and emotion at the general task; on the other, and paramountly, he must sense in it clearly those possibilities in the external treatment of the image that are linked, first, with his estimate of the personal qualities of the proposed character, second, with his knowledge of the technical means he possesses to express them.
A rapid sizing up of all the possibilities the future rôle can give him is essential for the actor. It is this necessary, first-line general planning associated with every task and taking fully into account the problems with which it will confront him which should decide a man in taking on a job or refusing it. To this preliminary sensing of the rôle, the actor must bring, as I have said, not only a general ideological interest, but a complete summary review and feeling over of his own abilities and possibilities, his acting talents, the technical methods he possesses, his character, temperament, and background; in short, the sum total of his psycho-physiological characteristics.
A stage actor, when approaching the task of general feeling of the image, and weighing up the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting it, makes use of his knowledge of the specifics of stage work.
As we have seen, in his system of training, the film actor should approach the Stanislavski school. Therefore the basic elements of his primal liking for a r6le should be founded principally on the inner content of the image. But none the less, it would be a gross error to divorce this content from the external forms by means of which it will be transmitted to the spectator from the screen.
Unfortunately full knowledge of these forms has hitherto been the exclusive possession of the director, and the actor has either possessed such knowledge not at all or only in small, highly insufficient degree. The liking of a film actor for a given rôle has been primitive, in most cases quite disorganised, and often the mere desire of a comedian to play Hamlet. In case of an organised liking, the actor sympathetic towards a rôle is attracted by it because, even in the primary sensing of it, he already appreciates that every element in it that interests him not only does excite and interest him, but also is perceptible to him as one he can form and shape. The tasks may be as difficult as can be, but they will be accomplishable—that is the main thing.
For a primal taking-to-the-rôle of this kind, it is unquestionably necessary that the actor possess full and all-sided knowledge of the technique of his art. He must be fully armed with technical knowledge in order to judge whether a liking for a rôle on his part will lead to a real, and the necessary, result.
The stage actor who knows his stage, his producer, and his colleagues, the technical bases of the theatre, can bring this primal sizing up of his part to the pitch of imagining himself as he will appear on the stage in front of the audience.
The film actor, as a rule, does not imagine to himself the possibilities he has, or which can be put at his disposal, for the creation of the final form of his image on the screen, and without imagining this an actor cannot properly work. Hitherto this imagination has been the exclusive prerogative of the director. This is the man who hitherto has visualised in advance the actor’s edited image, that is, the image that is to exist on the screen for the spectator, and it has been his task to introduce this visualisation into the subjective compass of the living actor.
Of course, the film actor is not responsible for the fact that the general organisation ofour film industry prevents and hinders his opportunities of sufficiently mastering the technical culture of film art. But, for whatever reason, he has been placed in such a position as to be unequipped to exercise full responsibility in his choice of a rôle. He has been mechanically separated from the sphere of editing, which has been kept as a preserve for the director, whereas in truth knowledge of it is the first and foremost condition of full film-culture for the actor most of all.
In conclusion, therefore, we see that the question of an actor’s primal liking for a rôle comes back in practice in the end to the fact that the actor must be in possession of a much wider and deeper technical knowledge of the cinema, so that his liking for a rôle will be not just based on a primitive hunch, but an element, obeying definite laws, in the full creative process of work on the image.
CHAPTER XIII. THE CREATIVE COLLECTIVE
To deal with the question of the necessity for active participation by the actor in the choosing of his rôle, it was at one time thought to find a solution by organising a system of actors putting in ‘claims’ for their rôles. These ‘claims’ were to be based on complicated discussions about the schedules of themes planned by each studio, which were supposed to be the concrete expression of the creative hopes, over the given period, not only of scenarists and directors, but also of actors who were supposed to choose and stake ‘claims’ for definite images that appealed to them. In my view such a system is only likely to result in an unnecessary and foolish mechanical competition of claims. Obviously no reading of claims, reports, or memoranda could possibly replace for the director and scenarist an essential acquaintanceship with and feeling of the given actor himself.
Memoranda and meetings are no use for a real understanding and estimate of the actor by his prospective director; what is required is profound mutual study. To speak the plain truth, the majority of directors and actors of to-day, despite the fewness of their numbers, have hardly ever met each other. The question of the producing collective has, in fact, not even been taken as far as the very first step of its possible development.
In recalling my own experience, I noted to what degree of inner contact a director’s intimacy with an actor should reach in order to ensure the progress of shooting in that atmosphere of mutual help and trust that is so necessary for fullest advantages in creative work.
Our producing collectives are not together long enough to be able to organise themselves for the proper carrying out of even one film.
At present we are so organised that a director has no real contact with even the leading members of the cast until just before the actual beginning of shooting.
I must quote again my experience with Baranovskaya, when our contact only reached the real inner stage about half-way through work on the film. With the actor Livanov it was much worse—we only reached a mutual creative understanding right at the end.
Such a degree of lack of contact with and knowledge of an actor is, of course, impermissible and unpardonable, and indicates the need for immediate and most drastic reorganisation.
I cannot see the formation of permanent creative collectives being a practical full solution to the problem. One must repeat again and yet again that the colossal and unwieldy size of acting staff involved by any such attempt, in view of the limited possibilities the cinema affords the actor of radically changing his appearance, would inevitably cramp the creative sweep of the scenarist’s imagination, in other words strike a blow at the most vital and characteristic essential of the film—its idea content.
On the other hand, ofcourse, one should obviously support, develop, and encourage to the uttermost and in every possible way the organisation ofpermanent collectives in such cases as do find it feasible to transform the weight of their efforts into the welding of a creative unit out of their component workers, if only for instructional purposes, to raise the general cinematic culture of the actors concerned.
But I think that, apart from the creation of permanent collectives, we should also face up to the problem of bringing about circumstances which would enable an actor and director who have joined forces only for one or two films to achieve a profound inner mutual understanding and a linkage to one another of maximum extent.
The one and only basis for the formation of a collective with such an understanding is: first and foremost, the organic collaboration in the creative process of all its component workers; next, agreement in viewpoint, agreement in methods of work, in general cinematographic culture.
Work by such a collective, to go further—the very existence of such a collective in any real sense—is conceivable only in circumstances where all the workers of a producing unit collaborate in as close contact as possible from their very inception as a unit. Immediately and inevitably arises the question of the participation of the actor in scenario work. We have already noted that the common experience is for an actor to be confronted with a scenario already written, containing a rôle cut and dried and ready for him, when he should be engaged in investigating the rôle for elements that move him and could condition the fullness and content of his subsequent creative work.
There also occur examples of a scenarist writing his script with a given actor in view. This, ofcourse, happens when the scenarist knows the identity of the actor to be cast, as would be the case in the circumstance of existence of a permanent collective.
But yet a third method is possible, and in this the actor, invited by director and scenarist, would be introduced into the work during the actual process of writing of the scenario, and therefore actually exercise a certain influence on his rôle. The contact resulting would be complex—scenarist, scenario, rôle, actor, director. This method would and should be adopted before the scenario is actually plotted definitely into its edited shape of shooting script. It is my regret that no practice any way approaching this has ever been known in our film history to date.
Though one might legitimately say that there have been instances of contact between a director and his actors or between a director and his scenarists, one can with equal certainty state there has never been, in the whole of our film history, an instance of close contact and co-operation between actor, scenarist, and director.
In my own experience, I have never had a collective, and I must confess that during my work I have admitted actors to creative collaboration only grudgingly and to a miserly extent. This has, of course, principally been due to the general atmosphere of production, which never leaves time for mutual intercourse of a really deep creative nature between the workers in a producing collective.
When the actual process of production of the film has started, it is already late to begin to set up real contact, and in some cases is quite impossible. One can still rouse a greater or lesser interest and keenness on the part of an actor in his work, but one can never hope for a really welded linkage with him. It is therefore not difficult to appreciate that it is quite taken for granted that the actor should fall out altogether when the most important stage of work on the film begins—that of editing. He steps aside, and returns only to see the film in completely finished state when he has no chance whatever to modify anything the director has done.
Why is the period of production marked with such excitement and nervous strain? Chiefly because one has always to work with an incomplete scenario and insufficient preliminary preparation. Too often nearly the whole of a director’s energy during the shooting of a film is spent on working over the shooting script, and he only has a chance to familiarise his collective with the most vital and important elements in their creative work a day, or even an hour, before shooting.
This is a hopeless and essentially bad method of introducing the actor into the creative work of the collective. No collective can possibly be created during the production stage of a film; the good and only proper time for its creation is, of course, the preparatory pre-shooting period.
It is only during this preparatory period that the conditions suitable for mapping the general lines to mutual understanding obtain. It is only during this preparatory period that the general orientation of the film can be felt, schools of thought agreed, a real growth of utmost fullness take place.
We have already made clear the handicapped status of the film actor in our industry. While the director has the chance to say as clearly as he likes what he wants done, to choose the scenarist most suitable for the carrying out of what he plans, to pick his own cast, the film actor has hitherto had no possible means enabling him to express a desire for working along given lines of his selection.
One school has suggested as way out the giving to film actors of the opportunity to try themselves out in duplicate during the preparatory period, thereby giving them a chance to convince the director of their comparative suitability and advantages for the given rôles. But to have a possibility of choice, one must have enough alternatives to choose from. Do our actors have this possibility? Of course not, because the actual process of writing the scenario, the writing that establishes the final shape, fixing sharp and pointed characteristics suitable to a given particular actor, is done apart and away from all the actors. The moment the scenarist and director leave synopsis and treatment, which only generally sketch the outlines of the future characters, and start to develop and work out the actual scenario and shooting script, they, in fact, take away from the actor all chance of choosing his rôle.
If only the planned scenarios while still in their primary form of synopsis and treatment could be spread broadcast among the acting personnel, then at last the actors, considering and weighing their own possibilities, could express a choice of director and scenario, and then, by further contact, have the definite possibility of joint creative work. This would be the first real step towards setting up a real creative collective.
But the practical solution of this problem will, I fear, encounter serious difficulties. The acting staff of a given studio is usually in definite degree limited. The directorial staff is usually also limited. When one proposes a solution envisaging wide use of all forces for establishing creative collectives, one should probably begin by considering how to overcome tendencies towards separation in the various separate studios.
In my view a film-producing unit should be entitled to claim sovereign and separate status only if it has some definite and individual creative ‘face,’ that is, if its separately welded collectives together comprise a collective of higher degree, also welded to creative purpose. But we have no such producing units. Acting and directorial staffs are distributed casually, without any relation to their style of work or so-called ‘school’ of art. This being so, pending some sort of regrouping on the basis of common style or artistic tendency among proposed collaborators, I think we must envisage, as practical possibility, exchange on a wide scale of their respective creative elements between the various units.
The wide broadcasting of synopses and basic treatments of films planned for production must be effected not within the limits of one unit, but among several, so that mutual choice of director and actor will have the chance to operate under conditions of real fairness.
In direct relationship with all this is the question of the so-called ‘range’ of the actor, that is to say, the limits of his type, which, in the cinema, are, in fact, purely physical, connected with the external expressiveness of his acting elements. The possibilities of changing the physical appearance of the actor are far more limited in the cinema than on the stage.
For purposes of realistic work in film, the possibilities of artificial make-up entirely disappear; for example, it is quite impossible to alter a threedimensional shape with a two-dimensional line. To draw or paint the relief of a face, as on the stage, is impossible in the cinema because the vacillating contrasts oflight on movement will invariably expose the false immobility of a painted shadow and show it up just for what it is—a dirty mark. The painting of non-existent relief on a face in the cinema being impossible, to be effective it must be constructed tri-dimensionally, but even so, such an artificial and stuck-on protuberance will cease to be lifelike if it exceed a relatively tiny size, for it will fail to take part in the live and subtle interplay of the muscular system of the human face.
Make-up is possible on the stage only because the relatively constant footlights and stage lighting yield no shadow, and the spectator, seated relatively distantly, thus fails to remark and be disturbed by its immobility.
Variety in an actor’s rôles in the cinema derives mainly from inner design, from variation in conduct in the novel conditions created afresh in each new film. In the cinema one and the same actor, with face and even character unaltered, can play many films.
We know, for example, how Chaplin, always staying in the same make-up and always preserving the same character, has created a tremendous generic image that passes through the whole series of his films.
It is in the light of these facts, I maintain, that we should study the question of the limits to a given individual’s acting possibilities in the cinema.
At this stage, inescapably, the question of the socalled ‘star-system’ comes out into the open. How is a ‘star’ made and made use of in the bourgeois world? If an actor has been accepted by the public in some film owing to his appearance, owing to his manner of acting, this latter being in most cases almost a trick, then the producing unit does all in its power to preserve, as carefully and rigidly as possible, all those properties in the actor that appealed to the public, and to adjust to them, by any makeshift, any material, so long only as that material is slick and catchy. In fact, the ‘star system’ means no more than that the director presents the ‘star,’ in his given discovered form, against some background dictated by his employers. An example of the kind is Adolph Menjou, who acted brilliantly under Chaplin’s direction. In a series of further, already desperately stupid films, mechanically preserving unchanged the appearance and general scheme of his behaviour, he has gradually become a less and less interesting empty doll.
I think that this method of repetition of appearance of an actor the public has once liked is neither acceptable to us, nor, indeed, is it in general acceptable as a form of art.
The repetition of an actor’s appearance on the screen in a new film should not be effected simply for the sake of showing him once more unaltered in the shape the public liked, but in the course of making a new step forward on the path of his advance. He must somehow further develop the image on which he has begun to work, and carry this image through a new section of reality abstracted for the purpose.
Menjou, in contradistinction, has simply been shown repeating himself time after time, which has meant fundamentally no less than the collapse of his talent, because the film has just happened round him, instead of himself entering into the film.
Chaplin manages to preserve ever the same image, yet at the same time in each and every film of his he interests, because he is ever passing through new and still newer cross-sections of reality, thereby each time creating a really organically whole work of art.
A film with a ‘repeat’ of an actor must represent some process in his development, some process obedient to laws, transforming the repeat into a step on the road towards wider and wider revelation of the image he has created.
CHAPTER XIV. PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
Now that I am drawing to a close, I should like to say just a few words about my own experiences in acting. It occurs to me that in these experiences are reflected all the unclarity and confusion about inner fundamentals, which are the reason why, to this day, the film actor has to all intents and purposes no agreed school of acting. My first rôles were associated with the methods of Kuleshov. The sole and only content of play-acting in that school is external expression, or treatment of the image only by a mechanical sequence of motions selected either by the actor or, sometimes, by the director.
The edited image of the actor on the screen was there constructed, exactly similarly, from a number of mechanically joined pieces, connected only by a temporal composition of schematised movements. Even the elements of the close-up, which, one would think, would require a greater degree of inner work from the actor, were usually restricted to the learning by heart of facial movements disintegrated into analysed components. Such director’s commands as: jut out the chin, open the eyes wide, bend or raise the head, were a frequent part of the routine of the shooting process.
There used to be a certain amount of talk about the possibility and necessity for basing all these movements on some inner something, though what this ‘something’ was no one quite knew or at any time defined.
At times, I remember, this ‘something’ was merely the satisfaction one experiences at the smooth and easy execution of a scheme one has memorised. At others one experienced an ecstasy difficult to distinguish from the sensation of general physical tension derived from consciousness of the importance of some deed one is accomplishing.
This is how I worked both in The Adventure of Mr. West and in The Ray of Death.
I must observe here that a tremendous feature of our work was the fact that Kuleshov, who possesses immense talent for teaching, did not neglect to steep us thoroughly in both scenario and editing work and gave me the chance, not only myself to act, but also to direct little scenes with other actors.
The completeness of this embrace of the whole process of creating a film on all its sides accustomed me to feel myself not only as a being working before the camera, but also in the continuity of the future images that were to appear as the result of editing.
I consider that Kuleshov’s school, despite all the mechanism of his then approach to the actor, was immensely helpful to every member of his collective, and it is no accident that there emerged from it such fine actors as Fogel and Komarov.
I made an effort in my work at that time to base myself on inner mood, and to find some quality within myself that would enable me to feel, at the moment of shooting, a fully and wholly live being. But I had no possibility really to develop this during all the time I was with Kuleshov. Only when I went to Mezhrabpom and started work on my own did I get the chance to approach acting from a new angle, though admittedly this was in the course of my work as director. But every time I made a film, I always tried also to take a small part in it myself.
I regard as comparatively successful the little piece I played in Mother, where I represented an officer, a police rat, who came to search the dwelling of Paul. I remember that for this rôle, by habit of my old training, I based myself principally on the external traits of its image. I began by cutting my hair en brosse, grew a moustache, and put on a pair of spectacles, which, it seemed to me, by their contrast with the military uniform, which always lends a certain air of bravado and masculinity to the wearer, would especially emphasise the weak and degraded character of a typical police-officer rat.
I remember that the only inner mood on which I tried to base my acting was one of sour dreariness and boredom, such as seemed to me should cause the spectator to feel vividly the dourness of police mechanism, which impersonally and remorselessly mutilates every spark of living thought and feeling.
I remember that all the work on this tiny part was most closely bound up with its editing development. The somnolent, bored, and dreary figure of the police officer, mainly shown in long shot and medium shot, was purposely changed to close-up and big head when, in the course of the rôle, I began to show glimpses of interest in the chase as I scented the spoor.
My only big acting job was the rôle of Fedya in The Living Corpse. Here I was not the director. The task was big and complex. In every aspect of the development of the rôle the question arose of the teleology and directional aim of the image, of its place in the film, and its relation to the significance of the film as a whole. It must be admitted that not one of these questions was adequately solved.
My work on this film, owing to various attendant circumstances, took the form, on the whole, of a holiday from directorial work. I gave myself up entirely into the hands of the director, consciously deciding that I should not, in any given piece of film, make any attempt to transcend the limits of my own personal appearance and personal character.
What this meant was that in consequence I surrendered to the director the task of creating a united image. I never thought of the edited image as a whole. I had only an idea of the editing treatment of the individual pieces. As general linking-up element for formation of the whole, I provided my own self; in simpler language, I played this man as myself.
In each individual moment of the acting, by means of various methods of strictly individual kind and applicable only to myself, I brought myself into a mood suited to enable me, in all personal sincerity and the unity of my own character, to make the various movements and go through the various actions required of me by the scenario and director.
I recall a scene in which, revolver in hand, I stand behind a stove, peering round its edge, displaying to the spectator the half-crazed face of a man on the verge of suicide.
I remember that, to act this piece, I hid from the camera behind the stove and, pressing the revolver against my heart, repeated without a break the words of Kirillov in Dostoievski’s The Demons: “At me, at me, at me....” When finally this had brought me into an almost fainting condition, I peered around the edge.
I recall another scene typical of the same principle. In an empty hall, just before leaving my home and abandoning my wife, I take leave of my sister. I remember that it was quite easy for me to summon up in myself a feeling of extreme care and tenderness towards the girl who played the rôle of the sister. She appealed to me in life as a person. To feel that, on going away from her for ever, on leaving her alone in this empty house, I should call forth from myself sorrow and a desire to help her, a caress that at the same time would be a parting gesture putting her away from me, was simple and easy: it was not alien to, but actually accorded easily with, my reallife characteristics.
Speaking in general, my work in The Living Corpse was carried out to an extent with considerable and profound inner feeling and was heavily charged emotionally, but it never gave me the feeling that I had it in me to play any other rôle, one based on an image not fully reproducing my own and usual character as manifested in life.
My experience in playing in The Living Corpse can, of course, in no way serve as a proper example of acting work.
The inner linkage, the inner organisation of the character, was built up not by the path oftransmutation of self, but by that of direct manifestation ofself. In each given piece, I remained in the fullest literal sense of the word myself. Any element new and alien from myself appeared solely as the result of editing. In other words, the screen image of Fedya appeared solely as the result of dictates laid down by the scenario; it was never constructed creatively by acting the character.
I incline to think that the basic and decisive factor in this work was precisely my personal indifference to the image as a whole, which made me approach my work as a mere journey across the film, without striving to subordinate my actual self to the teleology of the image, which alone can give the actor not just the satisfaction that comes from the accomplishment of a technical task, but the sense of a solution of the ideological tasks posed by the film as a whole, living, growing, full of content, not only for the spectator, but also for the actor as well.
I hold that, in the present state of our cinematic theory and practice, it is still impossible to speak of any definite system of work or system of training for the actor. Such a system has first to be created, and to begin with, as the point from which we must depart, we must take the establishment of the indispensable conditions that provide the possibility of organising such systems.
At this stage all I can do is to limit myself to the simple narration of the empirical experiments in my own and other people’s work.
CHAPTER XV. CONCLUSIONS
1. The new technical basis of cinema (non-stationary camera and microphone) renders not only unnecessary but senseless for the actor all the technique connected in the theatre with the wide distance actually separating the actor from the stationary audience. The following are therefore eliminated: stage-specialised voice production, theatricalised diction, theatricalised gestures, painted features.
2. In consequence of this the theatrical sense of an actor’s ‘range’ becomes altered. The variety of rôles he can play in the cinema is dependent: either on the variety of characters he can play while preserving one and the same external appearance (Stroheim), or, alternatively, on his development of one and the same character throughout a variety of circumstances (Chaplin).
3. Having lost the possibility of creating a ‘type’ with the aid of theatrical methods: stylised make-up, generalised gesture, emphasised voice expression, and so forth, the film actor in exchange acquires possibilities, inconceivable in the theatre, of closely realistic treatment of the image, maximal approach in his acting to the actual behaviour of a living man in each given circumstance. A ‘type’ is created in the cinema largely at the expense of the general action, at the expense of the wealth of variety of human behaviour in various situations. (Compare the development of the ‘type’ in the novel form and in drama—the cinema here is nearer to literature than to the theatre.)
4. From the culture of the stage actor is taken over into the cinema everything connected with the process of creating a united image, and its ‘absorption’ by the actor, everything that precedes the search for ‘stage’ and ‘theatricalised’ forms for the acting. (Of course, in practice no sharp division between these two periods exists. A feeling of ‘stage’ form will always be present with the stage actor, yet it is possible to some extent to draw a line.) For this reason the Stanislavski school, which emphasises (more truly, emphasised) most particularly the initial process of deep ‘absorption’ by the actor of the image, even at the expense of the ‘theatricalisation’ of its content, is nearest of all to the film actor. The intimacy of acting of the Stanislavski school actor, leading sometimes to an overburdening of the performance with little-noticed details and thus a loss by that acting of theatrical ‘panache,’ is inevitably and remarkably developed in the cinema.
5. All the means theatrical culture has created to help the actor wholly ‘absorb’ an image scattered in pieces throughout a play must be taken over into cinema practice. In the first rank of importance is rehearsal work, developed paramountly along the line of creating for the actor every possible condition for prolonged, unbroken existence in the image (the rehearsal scenario).
6. The editing treatment of the actor’s image (composition on the screen of the separately shot acting pieces) is in no sense a directorial trick, taking the place of acting by the actor. It is a new, powerful, peculiarly cinematic means of transmitting this acting. To master it is as important for the film actor as it is important for the stage actor to master ‘theatricalisation’ technique (stage delivery of his acting).
7. Hence it follows that the culture indispensable for the film actor will only attain the necessary heights when included in it is profound knowledge of the art of editing and its various methods. This desideratum has hitherto incorrectly been applied only to the director.
8. The growth of a film actor cannot be separated from practical work on his film, and accordingly he must be closely linked with it, beginning with the final polishing of the scenario in the course of rehearsals and not being discarded from it during the period of cutting.
9. In work in sound films, the actor equipped with this culture must strive to find examples of acting and its editing that will develop forms of powerful impressiveness, such as were found in its day by the silent film. He must not yield to the reactionary force that tempts both himself and the director —adaptation to mechanical use of theatrical methods alien to the film.