Monday, October 24, 2011

The Power of Acting

I just had to write a post about this. It seems so nerdy, but I was completely impressed that I wanted to write about it.

It's no surprise that I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. While I do much prefer the books to the movies, the movies still had much to offer in many aspects (the magic, Voldemort's rebirth scene, The Cave, among others). As the movies progressed, so did the quality of the acting, and the emotions the movies evoked became more genuine, as though things really were happening for real. Other movies had similar effects. For example, the King and Queen's Ball Scene in Enchanted, Sam carrying Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, the beginning of the battle for Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (as well as Aslan's return in the same movie), Stranger Than You Dreamt It in Phantom of the Opera, Changed for Good in Wicked, the death of the Phoenix in X-Men: Last Stand, and on and on. Each of these scenes, for me, provided a strong, raw emotion that made it seem genuine.

There is one scene that has trumped all these other scenes as the most genuine, most inspiring, and best-acted. It has brought me to tears each time I see it. One reason is because it is the culmination of 8 movies and 7 well-written books. However, the power of the emotion comes from the acting (the type that does not seem too readily available today). If you have not read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies, you probably do not want to go on any further.

The character of Severus Snape is, in my opinion, one of the most complex characters I have encountered. His true loyalties are never fully confirmed until almost the last chapter of the last book. And then, once you do find out his true loyalties, the truth comes with an arsenal of reasons as to why his loyalties are what they are; and it all comes down to Love.

In my opinion, this "postponing the truth" is easier to do in writing than in visual demonstrations. The fact that only one person knows the truth makes it less likely that the truth gets out. J K Rowling was the only real person who knew the truth about Snape. In addition, she was able to describe the feelings and emotions that were all tied to this character, which then evoked in the readers their own personal emotions as well. In movies, however, it can be more difficult because the actor needs to portray that in everything they do (their body language, their facial features, sets, music, etc). In my experience, it has been rare to have the movie produce the same type of emotion that a book does. In this one instance, the movie out-did what the book was able to do.

The scene is The Prince's Tale, and the actor is Alan Rickman. In the other seven movies (as well as the last one), the only emotion we see from Snape is either indifference or hatred; there's never a smile, a kind word, or anything to make the character agreeable. He also makes it quite clear that Harry would have been better off had he never existed, in Snape's mind. However, in this scene, we find out why. We find out about the relationship between Severus Snape and Lily Evans/Potter and the love that existed between the two, particularly the love that Snape had for Lily. Not the lust the world calls love, but the true love that involves sacrifice and thinking of the other person more than of self. When I saw Snape walking through the Potter house at Godric's Hollow with a dreaded anticipation in his face, when I saw him walk into the room and his face showed a tortured look, a dreaded realization, and then, when I saw Snape holding Lily's body and rocking her back and forth while sobbing, coupled with Snape's anger about Harry having been "raised like a pig for slaughter" and his answer as to why he was angry, I was amazed to know that this was all acting! It was genuine and it was real and it was genius!

I have always enjoyed Alan Rickman's work, but this took it to a whole new level. I have a new-found respect for acting (as it should be, not as it is) and am amazed at those who do actually have that talent. There is a clip of the scene on YouTube  I'd highly recommend the whole movie (and the whole series), but the scene will do if that's all you want to see. Enjoy!


mary.katherine said...

I 100%, whole-heartedly agree with this post. (at least all the HP stuff...I am not as well-versed in some of those other book/movies) Snape was one of my favorite characters from the beginning. To see what he became at the end was genius! I absolutely love Alan Rickman. Judge if you want, but I think he should be in the top 3 best looking old men of Hollywood. (Along with George Clooney and Johnny Depp) All gorgeous.

Anyway, HP is the best. Snape is the best. This post was one of your best.

Tyler and Julia said...

I'm probably one of the biggest Harry Potter geeks you'll ever encounter. I have no idea how J.K. Rowling managed to do this for me as I read these books, but she made me care about and really LOVE Harry as if he were in fact, a real person. I've never loved a fictional character as much as I love Harry Potter. I love the Weasley family & I LOVED (hopefully no one else is reading this, since it'll be a spoiler!)how Molly Weasley was the one who killed Bellatrix. You'd have to be a mother to fully appreciate this part of the books & movies. I agree 110% about Alan Rickman's performance as Snape. They could've searched the earth far & wide & would never have found a better actor for this role. In my eyes, he should've received an Oscar for this performance. It was truly amazing & only he could've pulled it off in a way that would satisfy someone like me who's loved the books so much. Tyler, my Mom & Elena don't believe me when I say this, but I really did know that Snape was loyal to Dumbledore & Harry, right from the very beginning. :)


"[Confucius] taught that the country which develops the finest music, the grandest poetry, and the noblest moral ideals--that is, the country with the most exalted culture--will always yield the greatest power in the world."

-Letters from the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears

"Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I am in Somebody's hand!'

-Mr. Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge

"...[T]he magnitude of [life] is not as to [one's] external displacements, but as to [one's] subjective experiences."

-Thomas Hardy in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

"...I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed--because 'Thou mayest.'"

-Lee in East of Eden