When we watch film, however, we are far too often tempted to sit in wonder of the visual spectacle rather than critically examining what comes across the screen. As we use film in my classes, we need to remember several things, which I plan to comment upon in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.
1. Since film relies on visual representation rather than textual exposition, the methods are different. If a character in a film literally says, "I am morally conflicted," this is generally considered poor acting and poor filmmaking. In the visual medium of film, interior conflict, emotion, and general depth of character have to be portrayed visually through the actor's voice, body language, clothing, lighting, and every other trick of the filmmaking craft.
To see one excellent example of this, consider Ray Winstone's portrayal of Captain Stanley in The Proposition. This man is stressed to the point of breakdown; he is being pulled in opposite directions by powerful social forces in his wife and the townspeople he ostensibly serves. He believes in his mission and his tactics. Rather than speaking these things aloud, they are conveyed in his slow, laconic speech patterns; the fatigue that is written on Captain Stanley's face; Captain Stanley's clothing, which is constantly filthy from long hours engaged in dirty, hard work; his shaking hands; his reliance on opioid headache powders. The character's inner conflict and stress are never spoken aloud. He never turns to his wife and says "Martha, I feel I'm going to break." But Winstone makes it all abundantly clearly through his method of acting.