Forget Yourself–Be the Character!

         Good actors should be versatile, authentic and able to identify with the figure they are portraying. Especially when a movie is based on a famous book, the expectations of the audience are usually high; and they have a clear picture in mind how the characters should look like. Great actors become one with their movie character. They bring the figure they make out of the book character to life and please the audience with an authentic portrayal.

         One example for really good acting is Vivien Leigh as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. I had read the book a long time before I watched the movie, and I remember that Blanche was the only unpleasant character in it. All the other main characters are honest and straightforward; she is always shady and manipulative. Vivien did a very good job displaying this shady character. She was moving and talking in such an unnatural and imposed way that I disliked her from the beginning of the movie. The character Blanche was really out of place in the simple setting of her sister’s household. This was not the only place she got in trouble, and had to leave, and Leigh did a good job in making Blanche seem as a woman nobody wants to have around.

         Another example of brilliant acting was Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in the same movie. When I read the play, I did not picture him so intense and strong as Brando made him in the movie. He brought this character to life and intensified each one of Stanley’s character traits. He managed to do that without pushing himself to the fore. Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski is a brilliant casting choice, and the movie is dominated by the power and impression of this character.

         When I watch a movie that is based on a book and I have read the book before, I usually have a rough picture of the characters in my head. When I watch this movie, this picture is usually reinforced or slightly changed, and it very seldom that I am disappointed by an actor and that I do not buy his impression of the character. However, in A Doll’s House, exactly this was the case. The book created a picture of a weak, slightly dumb Nora that is dependent on her husband. Jane Fonda did not portray Nora in this way.

         I had expected before that an actress like Fonda would not be such a good cast for a figure like Nora and my concerns proved to be justified: It seemed as she was trying to create a different Nora from the woman than Henrik Ibsen did in his book. She played a strong, independent and bright person. Unfortunately the book proves that Nora is no such person. There is nothing wrong about a slightly different portrayal of a character, but this Nora that Fonda played was way too far from the model the book described. Besides, her acting was not very authentic, and I believe it was more about her personal showmanship. She failed to bring the Nora I had expected to the screen, and that is one main reason why I did not like this movie.

Bernhard Holzfurtner