Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lincoln

Over Thanksgiving, my family went to see the new movie, Lincoln, a movie which provoked a lot more thought about acting than I could have imagined. These are just some thoughts I had about the movie.

When I stepped out of the movie theater, I was in awe, but I wasn't sure exactly why. Immediately, I thought that it must have just been a stunning movie, like The King's Speech had made me react two years ago. But after a bit of reflecting, I found that what had truly impressed me wasn't the movie itself but different elements of it. In fact, I wasn't too crazy about the plot. While I learned a lot about Lincoln's final months and about the dynamics of government in the 1800s, I thought the focus on the Thirteenth Amendment was slightly too narrow for the complexity of the period. Also, several of the characters and side plots seemed underdeveloped, such as that of the Mary Todd Lincoln's chambermaid and Robert Lincoln.

That said, something still stuck with me. While I was watching the movie, I found that every other scene I was thinking I know that guy! Later I kept thinking about all of the famous actors who had crossed the screen and realized that this was what had stood out. Most movies contain one or two high-quality performances from dedicated and talented actors, but Lincoln had many more. I thought Sally Fields, David Strathairn, and especially Tommy Lee Jones were outstanding in each of their roles. And, of course, Daniel Day-Lewis' performance was legendary. From his voice to his mannerisms to his very distinctive walk, he was so deep in character that I could barely recognize the actor buried beneath. This is what I think makes him such an incredibly captivating actor. He leaves no traces of himself on the screen even when delivering long monologues or simply sitting in silence for long periods of time. He believes he is Abraham Lincoln and the audience does too.

Another element that impressed me was the cinematography of the movie. It's hard to create a look-alike for President Lincoln, a man whose face is well known and extremely distinguished. Day-Lewis did his part, but the camera work was essential to making the transformation occur. While making Lincoln seem taller than everyone else might not be too big a challenge, making Day-Lewis' face look exactly like Lincoln took much more. One of the main way this was done was through profile shots of Lincoln. In the dim light with exaggerated shadows falling on his face, Day-Lewis couldn't have looked more like Lincoln. While I might not understand all of the technical elements that went into making this possible, I do know that they were pulled off nearly flawlessly.

~Julie

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