Friday, October 21, 2011

Reflections on Acting - Part III

Caravaggio - The Taking of Christ, or Kiss of Judas (1602)

Let us take something we are probably all familiar with: Othello.
Jealousy, vengeance, rage. How would I feel IF I was told that my wife has been betraying me? Shock, first. Confusion. Disbelief. I would need to find evidence. Then I find it. This is when I would lose balance, even physically. Cardiac dysrhythmia would ensue. Knowing myself, i.e. aware of the way I usually react to a situation of emotional confusion, something would probably happen to my stomach. Doubt, after a while, vanishes and a mere suspicion becomes tragic and painful reality (I cannot help recalling here a quotation by philosopher Jean Guitton, whose words seem to strike a
delicate point through a self-evident truth: "He that loves a person too intensely, sorrounding her with limitless admiration, if he then grows suspicions over her, he will quickly pass from love to hate, from admiration to contempt"). Wrath. Disillusionment, sorrow, jealousy; all of these feelings slip into a new and inevitable phase: a blind, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable crave for vendetta.
Theoretically I have it. I more or less have an idea how I should feel. Now, all I need is to feel.
I just have to dig into myself because, in a form or another, it is there. Ask yourself, "Have you ever been betrayed", not necessarily by your wife? Betrayed by a friend will do, too. Never? Plan B: "Have you ever felt betrayed, have you ever considered yourself betrayed?" It does not matter whether it happened or not (After all, Othello was never betrayed by Desdemona). Have you ever, in the past, felt that way? Either for a serious or less serious reason, we have all felt betrayed at least once in our life. I just have to go back to the moment it happened. I have to rummage into my memory of the events and, most importantly, my emotional memory; as Stanislavski put it, I have to recreate the context that produced that feeling.

Granted, such a process is not devoid of dangers when it involves what has been a rough patch in one's past life. Fortunately, time heals wounds, at least a bit. But that is not enough. The risks are still enormous. A man's psyche is a most fragile apparatus. Reliving certain experiences without the proper psychic preparation might bring about strong and unexpected effects. It is not uncommon for many notable and skilled actors to suffer - or have suffered - from depressive disorders. Neuroses and psychoses are right there, waiting for the perfect impulse causing them to break out uncontrolled and implacable. Depression, obsession, mal d'etre, anxiety, how can one play a tragic character and then claim to have no trace of that emotional experience left in himself?
But I digressed.
The point I was here trying to make is that a character is a fictional entity. One cannot squeeze anything out of it. A human being, instead, is a universe of hypotheses, possibilities which never concretized because they always lacked the right context, the proper human disposition, and the necessary psychic attitude of the person involved. Each possibility represents the potential consequence given by the simultaneous action of many psychic factors.


  1. Hi Jacopo,
    First of all, I love the pic you chose. I love Caravaggio ;)
    Second, as I was reading the first paragraph, images popped in my head. Not of Othello though, but for some strange reason, scenes from the movie "Fatal Attraction" LOL! I don't know why. Hmmm I guess because a lot of emotions were conveyed by Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, (maybe because they both betrayed each other in some sick way).
    And yes, we've all been betrayed in some way. God only knows that I've been betrayed by some "so-called" friends and two bosses. :( but fortunately, this only made me stronger. It's a good thing I didn't become enraged like Alex (played by Glenn Close) or Othello. LOL!!!

  2. Hi Claudia,
    I knew you'd write something about the picture. I love Caravaggio too. When I started writing the post a few days ago, I already knew I'd use that picture.
    I'm also very glad you didn't react like Glenn Close in F.A.!! That teaches though: never betray!
    And yes: what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Or, at the very least, inspires you!

  3. Jacopo, hello! Thank you for finding me and reading. I'm always happy to connect with creative people in any branch of the arts. And thanks for the "follow". I'll be reading though your thoughts with great interest. I hope my work brings a smile and a chuckle.


  4. Thank you Tom.
    Your post definitely made me both smile and chuckle.
    I'm glad and eager to read your stories and anecdotes.
    See you soon in the blogosphere!