Every once in a while you run into things that are just really powerful. The show “Six Feet Under”
got me on quite a ride. And loved every second of it. It had really powerful storylines, it had really dramatic moments, it wasn’t your typical show and also had some of the most impressive acting I’ve seen on TV.

What made the acting so different to me was that every character felt a lot more internal than in other TV shows. From Claire (the younger girl) all the way to Nate (older brother) to even secondary characters. There was so much stuff said in scenes that had no dialogue. What that did to me as an audience was to start internalizing the situations myself. So take this next example of the 3rd season
Finale of the show (if you haven’t watched the show, don’t play this link, and don’t keep reading):

So a bit of information before watching this clip. Basically this character is going through a death threatening brain condition. So he has to have surgery or else he may have a brain stroke at anytime and die. Additionally, he’s told previously that the chances to make it alive from this surgery are also not that many.

In watching this scene the first time, it got to me. Quite fast. Sure there is the Thomas Newman music (that’ll get to me fast, guaranteed) but a lot more was going on other than the music, sound fx or the fade to white at the end (fades were used quite a lot on this show for different reasons). Specifically a lot more was going on in his acting. The moment he’s told to count to 10, a few things are going on:

  • Starts out with the camera pulling back from an ECU of his eyes, makes this shot and his acting a lot more internal than if the camera was still. It’s almost making me wonder what’s in his mind as the camera is moving away from him revealing his face.
  • He blinks a couple of times. Also his eyes get subtlety wider. Almost seems like he’s been getting ready for this, and now the moment has come.
  • “Count back from 10 please”.
  • To see him smiling automatically made the scene even more serious and dramatic to me. He knows he may die, he may not make it alive, yet the guy is smiling. That contrast in his acting was really powerful to me personally.
  • A lot of subtle micro expressions going on when he says “[…]…ten, nine…[…]”. Each of those micro expressions may mean differently to each person. So it can be interpreted differently.
  • When he says “Eight” his expression goes back to serious. This may not be intentionally written on the script, yet it added an acting beat to this moment before he falls asleep that made it that much more powerful. Almost as if you are joking with someone…you are joking, you are joking…but not really. There is a bit of truth to the joke. That’s how it felt to me. He’s smiling, being nice perhaps…when deep inside he’s scared as hell. And in the moment he says “eight” that comes out (Nothing written in stone here, just how it felt to me as I was watching).

Maybe he’s so scared he could only deal with it through smiling. Who knows. What’s true I’ve found out when studying clips of this kind is this.

The contrast of emotions through opposed expressions to what we’d normally feel sometimes can create a more powerful meaning.

So what this scene did for me that was so great is that after watching his performance not only it made me feel the severity of the situation, how much was at stake (his life), and/or make me wonder the million things that could be running throughout his head at this particular moment (knowing he may never wake up) but also it made me wonder how I’d feel myself if I was there. That’s quite a lot of work for an audience to sit through, but I loved every second of it. I felt that much more involved in the show.

Enjoy the week.