Acting for Film – Looking for Alibrandi, the Rabbit Proof Fence Essay
Acting on film may look easy from an outsiders perspective but rather, it is a complex and confusing process which is extremely different to on-stage acting. Different actors and directors may take different approaches when taking part in the making of a film. There are techniques and processes which need to be taken into consideration before filming, which can be vital to putting on a good performance and taking a realistic approach.
Two Australian films which use various acting techniques are ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ and ‘The Rabbit Proof Fence’. ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ is a film which delves into the slightly messed up life a seventeen year old girl. A certain scene from this movie looks at Alibrandi’s home life and the relationship between her, her mother and her grandmother. As the scene revolves around the mother and grandmother fighting, most of the dialogue in this scene comes from them, however the camera is on Alibrandi for majority of the scene.
This is a making technique referred to as reaction shots. When watching a film, viewers like to relate to the character on screen and reaction shots are a great way of allowing this. It is quite easy to tell from the sound of the speakers voice what is being portrayed on their face, however there is no way of understanding the listeners emotions without being able to see their reactions. The listeners expressions should be depicting how we feel as an audience and this is exactly what ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ brings forth.
As we see Alibrandi’s reactions we get a better understanding of her perspective and so we can understand the different view points of each character. Another very emotional scene from ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ occurs between Alibrandi and her grandmother. Alibrandi has just realized that her grandmother has been lying about who her real grandfather is and goes home to confront her. At first Alibrandi has higher status than her grandmother and is in control of the situation as she acts aggressively towards her. However her grandmother wins the scene over in the end.
The actor who plays the grandmother definitely had developed her character well, perhaps using ‘The Actors Questions’. Her character was extremely strong and truly believable. The relationship of the two characters was adapted exceptionally. Her objectives were fairly obvious; to make Alibrandi forgive and understand her side of the story. She had figured out her obstacle which was Alibrandi’s stubbornness and took a good approach in getting what she wanted. She made herself look fragile and helpless by dropping what she was holding in her hands.
This made Alibrandi sympathies for her and forget why she was angry in the first place. Throughout the scene the camera angle is mainly a close up on the grandmother reminiscing about her old lost love. The reason why they don’t show as many reaction shots in this scene is because the main focus of the scene is supposed to be what the grandmother is saying. The intensity of the shot pulls the audience’s attention and creates visual imagery for the viewer. You start to feel what the grandmother is feeling and empathies with her.
Of course this isn’t all to do with the camera angle. The acting has a significant affect which could only truly be affective if the actor prepared her character. The actor used an acting technique called emotional memory and abstracted real memories from her personal life, which then was portrayed through her character’s storytelling. The making of the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ was an emotional rollercoaster and an extremely difficult process. Unlike other films the actors were untrained and had never had experience in film making before.
Because of this, and because of the fact that they were children, the director had to build up a lot of trust with them so that they would feel comfortable on set. They had to be away from their home and friends for a long period of time and it was very hard for them to adjust to the filming location and routines. To be able to give directions to the children, the director had to be sure that they trusted his judgment and respected him, otherwise there was no way that they would obey his directions.
He did this through a series of drama workshops and activities. However, the director had to be sure he didn’t push the children too hard into doing things which they didn’t want to do. There were certain boundaries that he couldn’t cross which had to do with the age and maturity level, but also to do with their cultural background. After all, their parents had to live through the stolen generation and so their definitely would have been some emotional vulnerability involved. Another disadvantage of using untrained actors was their confidence levels.
As they had never done anything like this before they were uncertain of their acting skills, especially being on a movie which would be aired all around the world. To overcome this situation the director brought certain people into the studio to boost their confidence – people they could relate to. These people were mainly of Aboriginal culture and carried out a number of drama workshops with them. Cameras were present from day one, even in workshops. They followed the children around most of the time to get them comfortable and relaxed around them.
Although their were a lot of downsides to using untrained actors, there were also a number of advantages in terms of dramatic elements. For example the fact that they were so young and almost oblivious to the effects of the stolen generation brought innocence to the film making. Much like the real children of the stolen generation, these actors are pure, innocent beings. That is, before they were taken away from their parents. At the end of their journey their innocence has been stolen from them, and at such a young age.
As the actors didn’t have much knowledge to begin with of the stolen generation, they also went through something similar in the film making process. A particular scene in the film is one where the children are being stolen from their parents to be taken away to a camp where they will be brought up to be of a white culture. Quite a different form of emotional memory was being used here. Even after the scene had ended, all members of the cast continued to cry and hold each other.
Whereas in other films actors use their memories to dig up their own personal situations, in ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ they could actually put themselves in the situation of the scene and use the emotional memories of what their families had taught them of the stolen generation. What goes on behind the scene of films is chaotic and intricate. It involves the use of well involved actors and an extremely talented film crew. I believe one can only truly understand the working of film making if they have personally experienced it for themselves.