Acting stylistics is an important aspect in the study of theatre and film. Choosing the right acting style is imperative for representation of a character in any sort of acting performance. Acting stylistics involves studying the body language, vocal quality, expressions etc. Successful acting includes the exercise of proper techniques and knowledge about the character which is going to be sketch through acting performance.
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In order to illustrate the necessity of acting stylistics, we shall discuss acting style of Jake Gyllenhaal and Russell Ira Crowe from the movies the prince of Persia and Robin Hood respectively. The paper aims to compare and contrast the two positions to evaluate acting styles.
Expressions are considered as the most important aspect of the acting style without which performance cannot succeed. Active acting depends upon the quality of expressions. The significance of expression can be understood by considering an animated movie without sounds. In such a movie, expressions will be the only way to portray the desired message (Butler). Similarly, body language, style of dialogue delivery, psychological complexity, simplicity, physicality and vocal quality are also important aspects of an acting style (Rauch and Carr).
The Oscar award winner and renowned Hollywood actor, Russell Ira Crowe successfully portrayed a lion hearted peasant masquerading as a nobleman in his recent movie Robin Hood. His performance was praised by many but on the whole disliked by critics. Despite the fact, that he looks quite bored, burly, grizzly, and has a public image similar to that of Ernest Hemingway, Crowe is known for his ability to portray complex emotions using his body language however this subtle physicality is missing in the movie.
The main thing that pleases critics regarding Crowe is his body language. Crowe is renowned due his body language, especially in films such as: L.A. Confidential, The Insider, A Beautiful Mind, Master & Commander. This aspect of his acting abilities has been overwhelmed by the action content of this film (Crowe).
Robin as envisaged by Ridley Scott is a complex character; Robin is an ordinary archer in King Richard’s army who steals the armor of a dead knight and escapes to England pretending to be him after an attack on a French castle goes awry.
It is obvious from this that Robin is not the simplistic hero of the legends and the earlier film portrayals; despite his heroism he is in fact something of a devious opportunist and a knave. Crowe attempts to portray this aspect of the character with a voice that is gruff and grumbling at times, sometimes he speaks out the side of his mouth and at other times has a shifty eyed look about him (Crowe).
Prince Dastan, the eponymous prince of the movie The Prince of Persia is a brave, handsome and charismatic prince though he is somewhat reckless and boorish. He has difficulty expressing his feeling which leads to tension with the love interest Princess Tamina. Gyllenhaal has portrayed his stereotypical role in a suitable camp fashion with a lot of chest baring and somewhat over the top and dramatic movements.
Gyllenhaal has obviously worked a lot to convey the physicality required from his character in action scenes such as the one where he recues the princes. Although Gyllenhaal is not a fit choice for portraying a Persian prince but his enthusiasm satisfies the soul of action. No doubt, there is a definite magic cast by the graphics and 3D animation but we cannot ignore his hard work in portraying the role (Gyllenhaal).
As stated above, expression is the most important element of acting style. This element is the soul of the acting style (Butler). If expressions are not there, there would be no charm left in acting. Russell Crowe is not only dull and boring but also seemed to be expressionless to some extent, in the movie Robin Hood.
At some scenes where he should be more expressive for example, in beginning when they were going to attack the castle, whereas, in prince of Persia, Jake Gyllenhaal is in his form of action. Jake has delivered the desired message with the help of facial expressions as well as body language (Crowe; Gyllenhaal).
The actor can draw the attention of his audiences by communication skill. If we move towards the communication skills or dialogue delivery, Russell Crowe is master in it. His gloomy, smoke-burnished voice captures the heart and minds of his fans. Moreover, no doubt that he is a perfect dialogue deliverer as compared to Jake Gyllenhaal.
His conveyances of message of the movie had been done through the use of perfect dialogue deliverance. He dims his tone when he plays the role of a lover and then his voice becomes shrill and strong when he becomes an action hero (Crowe; Gyllenhaal).
Believability in a film refers to the extent to which an element in that film faithfully follows the rules of the world portrayed in the film. A miraculous or magical event presented in a film does not necessarily make it unbelievable as long as the event is depicted as happening in the context of a magical or miraculous world.
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With respect to believability, Robin Hood, the archer who is tired of mindless killings and destruction of the Crusades and becomes an advocate for civil liberty in the 13th century is perhaps less believable than a swashbuckling hero in a mystical and magical ancient Persia.
Crowe’s acting style makes the film less believable, he behaves like a modern man rather than a man of 13th century when lives were nasty, brutish and short. The Prince of Persia does not set any high standards for itself with regards to historical accuracy or believability so Gyllenhaal’s performance as what is essentially a video game character is adequate for his role (Crowe; Gyllenhaal).
In Robin Hood Crowe attempts to portray a complex, more ‘real’ character and does not fulfill his potential. In The Prince of Persia Gyllenhaal portrays a cartoonish character and his performance is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the role.
Butler, J. Star Texts: Image and Performance in Film and Television. New York: Wayne State University Press, 1991.
Prince of Persia. Dir. Mike Newell. Perf. Jake Gyllenhaal. 2010.
Rauch, I and G Carr. The Semiotic Bridge: Trends from California . California: Walter de Gruyter, 1989.
Robin Hood. Dir. Ridley Scott. Perf. Russell Crowe. 2010.