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The Greatest Showman – Chapter 74

Chapter 74 – First signs of ambition.

How to define a decent movie and an outstanding movie?

Every movie has its specific audience and unique attributes. For example, popcorn movies are meant to entertain the audience, comedies aim to make them laugh, and thrillers are meant to evoke fear. As long as a film achieves its intended purpose, it can be considered “decent.”

Take “Transformers” as an example. The series has been heavily criticized by film reviewers, yet its box office performance has consistently been high because it successfully ignites the audience’s adrenaline, fully utilizing the visual effects and action-packed nature of a popcorn blockbuster. From this perspective, “Transformers” can be regarded as a decent work.

So, what does it take for a movie to be considered “outstanding”?

A movie is like a proposition; every work has a core idea, even if it’s a crude and lowbrow comedy. Whether it revolves around family, friendship, or personal growth, the key question is: has the theme been effectively conveyed? Have the audience understood it? Does it offer something more to the viewers? Does it reflect their lives, society, and provoke profound contemplation? How deep and impactful is its reflection? Apart from providing a purely visual and auditory experience, what does the audience gain from it? How long will the remnants of the film linger in their minds?

These are the key factors in defining an outstanding movie.

As for what qualifies movie as a classic, that is another level entirely. From being decent to outstanding, and from outstanding to a classic, there is a significant gap that is not easily bridged.

According to Rodrigo’s original concept, the core idea of “Buried” only extends as far as what Renly mentioned as “the first level.” As Renly stated, if Rodrigo can successfully manage the camera angles, control the pace, create atmosphere, and lay the groundwork for emotions, he could create a decent thriller film, standing out from the ordinary works.

However, that’s as far as it will go.

What Renly just mentioned as “the second level” is precisely what could elevate “Buried” from being decent to outstanding.

The fatal weakness of most thriller and suspense films lies in their lack of a compelling story or, in other words, insufficiently developed characters. The lack of connection between the characters and their backgrounds or societal context keeps the suspense of the film at a superficial level. “The Shining” became a classic in film history because the background information about the hotel and the protagonist’s family enriched the entire story, allowing the suspenseful atmosphere to take root and extend in the audience’s hearts.

Paul’s personal attributes can achieve this. The world outside the coffin is a supplement to the plot, establishing a bridge that allows the audience to empathize with him both inside and outside the movie screen. It further enables the twists and turns of the story to stir the emotions of the audience, making the entire movie more fulfilling. Additionally, Paul’s societal attributes elevate and refine the core of the film. After the scares, the fears, and after watching the movie, people will contemplate Paul’s experiences on a deeper level.

Rodrigo’s brow furrowed more and more, his thoughts growing deeper, and his astonishment surging while his excitement bubbled!

It’s hard to imagine that Renly hasn’t even seen the script yet. He has only read the simple information left behind by the union, yet he could outline such a grand blueprint. It’s truly incredible! Of course, Rodrigo could sense that Renly was considering things from a character’s perspective, with all the ideas revolving around Paul. From a director’s point of view, there are still some differences in true intellectual height, but even so, it was still too unbelievable!

Rodrigo looked up and once again started to size up Renly. Above that invincible youthful face, there were calm and serene eyes, and deep brown pupils radiated a dim brilliance within the hazy shadows, just like a black hole, bringing an unfathomable shock as if gazing up at the starry sky.

In a trance, Rodrigo once again felt the same amazement as when they first met—mature yet steady, introverted yet rough, every detail between the eyebrows and eyes was filled with traces of Paul Conroy. This was definitely not the temperament one would expect from a twenty-year-old, absolutely not!

“Ahem.” Rodrigo became aware of his own loss of composure and couldn’t help but cough lightly twice, disguising his embarrassment. “… You know… I mean, you should know, if interpreted according to your understanding, this will be a challenging task for the actors. No, to be precise, it will be almost an impossible task.”

“I know,” Renly smiled and said. His casual and concise words were full of undeniable confidence, even a bit arrogant and conceited. The sharp brilliance that burst out in an instant made it impossible to look directly at him.

By choosing “Buried,” Renly showed that he had no intention of playing it safe. Unlike “The Pacific,” “Buried” could be considered as a challenge beyond Renly’s current abilities. This is precisely what made Renly’s blood boil with excitement.

Acting is an art with a long history, tracing back hundreds or even thousands of years. After long periods of accumulation, it has developed to its present state. Generally speaking, people’s understanding of acting involves performing a character through actions, expressions, and dialogue. This has been the basic concept of acting for thousands of years, forming the classical school of acting, also known as the representational style.

The representational style is not difficult to understand. “Representation” refers to body language, facial expressions, line delivery, and so on. Actors need to accurately understand emotions, comprehend characters, and grasp the plot. They then present their performance through precise control and accurate techniques.

This style of performance has no shortcuts; it completely tests one’s foundational skills. It truly embodies the saying, “Ten years of practice for one minute on stage.” Every actor must undergo systematic learning, extensive training, and professional guidance, meticulously honing every detail from physical posture to appearance.

Each actor has a different level of comprehension and practice in acting, resulting in distinct performances and lingering charms. The authenticity of their talent is evident at a glance, especially in traditional performing arts such as Peking opera* and stage plays. Different actors or the same actor in different performances can offer diverse flavors.

Renly is a typical representative of the orthodox school, having studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in England, they start from the basics and persistently uphold them. In fact, thanks to the advantage of experiencing life again, Renly began receiving systematic acting education from a young age. Within the noble education system, plays, operas, and ballet are also considered refined arts, with the learning of foundational skills being the same and incredibly arduous. It truly requires the accumulation of blood, sweat, and tears.

Therefore, Renly has a solid foundation in basic skills and never slacks off. He is a representative of the traditional representational style.

In addition to the representational style, another style of acting has risen strongly in the past half-century, gradually becoming the mainstream in the industry. That is the Method Acting.

The so-called Method Acting, in short, refers to the current state of actors completely immersing themselves in their roles. Based on the character’s situation, they integrate their own understanding and then express the character’s emotions.

The most famous example in film history is Robert De Niro’s performance in “Taxi Driver.” In order to experience the real life of a taxi driver and to feel the era in which the script was created, he actually worked as a taxi driver in New York for three months. He truly experienced the protagonist’s confusion and madness. This is a typical method acting, where he strives to blend himself into the role, allowing the character to drive the performance, immersing himself in the story, being genuine and impactful, while also being bold and crazy.

The highest level of this acting style is “madness is necessary for survival,” completely ignoring the boundaries between reality and illusion, reaching a state of self-forgetfulness. Heath Ledger, in his portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” reached this state to the point that he could never escape it. He ultimately chose self-understanding bringing an end to his short but brilliant life.

For proponents of Method Acting, they firmly believe that the lives of characters are diverse, and no one can truly feel their emotions unless they experience them firsthand. Take “Buried” as an example. In the eyes of Method Actors, they need to personally experience the feeling of being confined in a narrow space to truly understand what it feels like to be buried alive. Merely relying on the techniques of the representational style may accurately convey the emotions, but it would lack authenticity.

What’s more important is that the representational style is firmly rooted in academia, with a very high threshold. It requires years of accumulation as well as training and teaching from professional teachers. This demands from actors to undergo systematic learning. On the other hand, Method Acting has no such threshold. Anyone can participate, interpreting the emotions of a character based on their own understanding. Even without any formal education, one can become an excellent actor.

In the contemporary film industry, Europe advocates for the representational style, believing that acting requires a threshold. The United States, on the other hand, promotes Method Acting, and Hollywood, as a representative of the film industry, has realized countless grassroots dreams, offering opportunities to everyone regardless of their non-professional background or lack of historical heritage.

As a reborn individual, Renly has received education in the representational style, but deep down, he is still Chu Jiashu, who comes from a grassroots background. Especially because of his unique experience of living two lives, he has a distinct sensitivity when it comes to understanding characters. That’s why he has always wanted to try Method Acting, and even further, to integrate both styles and explore a whole new realm of acting.

Clearly, “Buried” provides such an opportunity.

What Renly mentioned earlier about it consisting of two levels. The first level is the representational style, and the second level is the Method Acting. In other words, it is a bold attempt to merge these two acting styles together!

*Peking opera – Peking opera, or Beijing opera, is the most dominant form of Chinese opera, which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It arose in Beijing in the mid-Qing dynasty and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century.

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