by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, October 9
Kristen Stewart is a poor actor. I say that not because of her performance on stage but in response to a statement that she once made. She asserted that she did not always want to be an actor forever because acting is being a “professional liar.” Actors pretend to be someone they are not – that’s their job, and we pay good money to see them do it. Therefore, they are paid to lie to us. Kristen Stewart’s logic is flawless. The entertainment industry is in the business of making money by selling a product: entertainment. Unfortunately, when the actor’s profession exists solely within the context of that industry they really are nothing more than professional liars, participating in the production of a product meant to allow us, the consumers, to escape from reality.
It is a rare moment when the entertainment industry touches our souls or ignites our passion. This is because it operates largely through making us numb instead. It is that sought after disconnect from the stress of everyday life, where we can “unwind”, where we can “zone out”, where we can live vicariously through the lives of people who don’t really exist in worlds that go only as deep as the images that flash before us. It’s a veneer painted over a cold reality we’d all like to forget.
But sometimes movies offer something other than a façade. Sometimes, movies can surprise us. They pierce our defenses and show us something about life we didn’t expect to see. Sometimes, actors don’t hide the truth but shed new light and that brings me to my ultimate question on the purpose of movies.
Should movies grant us an escape from reality or should they tell us something about life?
That, I think, depends on what you believe the purpose of Drama is as it is in the dramatic art of Theatre that movies have their origin. They are actors on a stage telling a story. The vehicle of delivery has changed: not many people watch live plays anymore, for example. However, the concept remains the same.
Ultimately, the purpose of Drama is not merely to entertain – though it does do that – but to reveal Truth through the provocative and emotive art of acting. The role of the actor is not to garnish a dreary world with distracting lights and colors but to pierce the lonely expanse of our own minds and let the light of reality pour in. Actors are called, like all of us, to be docile to the Truth. Actors should be like puppets who let the truth speak through them and, in doing so, their very bodies become conduits of the truth. The theatrical, then, becomes in a way more “real” than real life. Aflred Hitchcock describes drama as “life with the dull bits cut out” and so it is. We humans are thick creatures and easily distracted: in day-to-day life we lose sight of the forest for the trees. It is the purpose of Drama to be a thunderclap that snaps us back, out of our own solitude, to the dynamic world around us. Personalities are expanded, circumstances are exaggerated, scenes are condensed all so that some aspect of Life may be presented to us in a microcosm to see more clearly. That is the ultimate end of Drama and therefore what every movie should strive to achieve.
Any movie, if it is to be a true piece of drama, must reveal the world, not hide it. The actor must show us, by shedding a new light through his pretense, a truth we were too distracted to see before. This is why to reduce the role of the actor to mere entertainment, and to therefore see his job as nothing more than a pretty lie, is a poverty. This is why the entertainment industry is poverty-stricken and why Kristen Stewart is poor. Actors must expand beyond the poverty of commercial entertainment and embrace the wealth of Drama.
Christian Ohnimus is a registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He is a contributor to The Porch and The Catholic Renaissance.