23 January 2012

Birdsong: open-mouthed acting by a male of the species

Last night, Mary Ann Sieghart (@MASieghart) tweeted 'Does this actor in #Birdsong have any look other than a long meaningful one?

I knew exactly what she was referring to, as last night's hero (Eddie Redmayne) had already reminded me of a question I'd asked back in 2009: Is there an open-mouthed school of acting?

'...I don’t know if it’s just me (and the small, unrepresentative sample of people I’ve consulted so far), but it does seem that film and television actresses are spending more and more time with their mouths open – both when there’s no dialogue and when they’re listening to one of the other actors saying something – than used to be the case. Nor are those of us who’ve noticed it particularly impressed by it' (more HERE).

Men too?
Whereas I'd been prompted then by the likes of Keira Kinightley, Eddie Redmayne has now shown that men can do it too - and his open mouth is featured in 17% of the short BBC trailer posted on YouTube (above - or full version HERE).

I was intrigued to discover from the comments that I wasn't alone in having noticed the trend, and some interesting discussion emerged. If you've any more thoughts, here's a reminder of the five main questions I posed then:

'For one thing, once you’ve spotted someone doing it early on in a film, it becomes a big distraction - because you go on noticing the same actor doing it again and again. For another, it can be quite confusing trying to work out just what emotions and feelings all these open mouths are supposed to be conveying

'So here are five questions on which I'd welcome feedback:

1. Has anyone else noticed it?
2. Is it a recent trend?
3. Am I alone in finding it irritating/distracting?
4. Is open-mouthed acting being taught in drama schools?
5. If so, why?'

And another thing: an inappropriate continuity error

In the background to the pastoral scenes in early 20th century France, the only birdsong to be heard was the cooing of a dove that didn't arrive there until the 1940s (HERE).

The distinctive repetitive cooing of the collared dove has been an irritating distraction in large numbers of televised dramas set in periods long before this annoying bird had arrived and settled in the UK.

Presumably producers of television drama and nature programmes never bother to communicate with each other about such things.

Needless to say, I think it's high time that they did.


John Zimmer said...

Max, I have no answers to your questions as I do not know the series. Still, I have to thank you for the insight and the laugh. I watched the video after reading the post and could not suppress a chuckle.

I have two thories:

(1) He bit his tongue, which remained swollen for the entire shoot.

(2) He was secretly rehearsing for a remake of the Godfather while doing this film. Cinematic multitasking, if you will.



Max Atkinson said...

John - thanks for the comment and glad to hear it entertained. Plausible theories too.

You might also be interested in some of the 10 (at the last count) comments on the original piece on open mouthed acting - posted, I've just noticed, on 1 April 2009... http://maxatkinson.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-there-open-mouthed-school-of-acting.html

MARKABO said...

It tends to be young actors who haven't been to drama school, whose career relies on their good looks rather than actual acting ability.

Smith of Male Enhancement said...

I think being an artist is a passion and needs a lot of lucks.

outsider said...

Cannot answer your question but I shall always associate this look with Gordon Brown, in whom it was not attractive. I suspect that the jowly, men or women, are more prone to it.

Chris Smith said...

Hi Max,

Great comment and spot on! I had to walk out of the room as I had OD'd on open-mouthed-meaningful-look acting. However I left my teenage daughter glued to the screen - I think the casting agent had an eye on the target audience! As a graduate, some years ago, of a top drama school I can confirm that this particular technique was not on the menu at the time, although the victory of looks over talent has been a common theme since (he says enviously!) Best. Chris

Max Atkinson said...

Thank you all for these interesting comments.

Chris Smith might like to know that, after the earlier blog on the open-mouthed school of acting, I wrote to a number of top drama schools to ask if it was on the syllabus - but none of them bothered to write back! So good to have first hand confirmation that you were never actually taught it. What year was that, I wonder?

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