In his Masterclass, the intuitive Dustin Hoffman speaks briefly on the subject matter of relatability and its correspondence to acting. This technique showcases the character to be interpreted to be human instead of a fictional individual and in turn, the audience is able to see themselves on screen. Hoffman states,
“The actor shouldn’t pretend to be something they’re not. It disconnects the audience from the character. Instead, they should seek to give an honest performance and assess the character to find commonality. For example, when I saw a picture of Saddam Hussein in a swimming pool throwing his grandchild up in the air, I thought, ‘oh, he’s a grandfather… he ain’t no different than me.”’
Dustin Hoffman – Masterclass on Acting
What I’m referring to is that magical moment when you’re past the point of sympathy for the protagonist character and realize the story is about no one else, but you. It’s a rare occurrence when the story becomes a mirror because most times you’re simply along for the ride with hopes of escapism, but every so often there’s one which reminds you about yourself. The beauty of this moment lies in the delivery from the unexpected and the punching of it right where it hurts.
My mirror moment happened on October 4th, 2019 during the opening week of Todd Philip’s tremendous film, Joker (2019) and despite the news, I’m proud to have seen it on the big screen. Truth be told, I was embarrassed by when I related to the Joker. We’re talking about having empathy for the mortal enemy of Batman and mixing the concept of individualistic vulnerability here! Its definition is stated as “the physical quality or emotional state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed.” Living a lifestyle of constant anticipation linked with a common ground to the most known fictional symbol of anarchy is not something anyone (in their right mind) should strive for, but Hoffman’s technique in using your Achilles’ heel as a power of self-awareness made me feel otherwise.
I saw myself in the first five minutes of the film when Arthur, the protagonist checks his empty mailbox after going through his humdrum daily routine. I know it’s silly, but like Arthur, I had my routine of checking my mailbox every day back in 2018 when I rented an apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s nice to receive small gifts from loved ones, especially in the mail and especially if you’re a vulnerable artist who lives alone, but this particular scene sadden me because I, like him know the stagnate feeling of hopelessness while waiting for something special to magically show up knowing nothing will be there.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My daily routine was nowhere near the depression of Arthur’s dreary schedule in a slouching method up a mountain of wet concrete stairs to a crabby apartment after spinning a sign for a dying business on a trash covered sidewalk. I was a mid-twenty, financially independent, up-and-coming screenwriter… oh woe is me, right? But the reason I connected to Arthur in that small segment was due to its reminder of me being both periodically inactive and letting myself-significance wither away. My mirror moment hurt, but it was the perfect slap in the face to realize what’s going on out there!
As of 2019, inactiveness and its side effects are a social epidemic. Though Joker is based in the 1970’s, this problematic situation is a part of our contemporary world now. Look at the opening image for instance. We’re shown a struggling young man forcefully ‘putting on a happy face,’ in a world where self-worth is few and far between because everyone is trying to make ends meet. Personally, being unsure if this social issue is strictly an infection within my generation due to the surplus of artists on social media, I believe this film answers the question as to why there’s an influx of self-induced depression. We are all waiting for someone else to take the lead. This is just my interpretation, but when you watch the film, you discover that when Arthur finally takes control of his life, things begin to change for the better… at least for him anyway. Without getting too off subject in delivering a dissertation of what I believe is to be the root of our inactiveness and what we can do ultimately take control of our lives – I’ll go back to the point of this post being about mirror moments and the power they withhold.
Mirror moments can’t be found… they are revealed when you least expect it. However, when you find yourself sitting there frozen in that rare moment of flooding emotions, the best thing you can do is take every initiative to discover that burden of truth the story has resurrected in you and make it into something which you’ll never be ashamed of again.