In his Masterclass, the intuitive Dustin Hoffman speaks briefly on the subject matter of relatability and its correspondence to acting. He states the actor shouldn’t pretend to be something they’re not. It disconnects the audience from the character. Instead, the actor should seek to give an honest performance and assess the character to find commonality. In its aftermath, this technique showcases the character to be interpreted more as a human being instead of a fictional individual. Hoffman uses the example of wanting to play Saddam Hussein. He says, “Say what you want about him, but when I saw a picture of Hussein in a swimming pool throwing his grandchild up in the air and I thought, ‘oh, he’s a grandfather… he ain’t no different than me.’” His point is the actor should do everything in their power to play the character so an audience member can see themselves on the screen.
What I’m referring to is that magical moment when you’re past the point of sympathy for the protagonist and realize the main character in the story is no else but you. It’s a rare occurrence when the story becomes a mirror. Most times when you invest in a story you’re simply along for the ride with hopes of escapism, but every so often there will be a story remaindering you to who you really are in this singular moment of life. The beauty of this 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, when I saw my symbolic-self on screen I was embarrassed by it. Come on, 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.
Before I get into it, understand there will be no spoiler’s in my mirror moment explanation because I saw myself in the first five minutes of the film which is a staple of excellent filmmaking, but that’s for another blog. My mirror moment happened during the scene where Arthur checks his empty mailbox after going through his humdrum daily routine. I know it’s silly, but like Arthur, I have my routine of checking my mailbox every day. We all do it. It’s nice to receive small gifts from loved ones, but this particular scene with Arthur sadden me because it didn’t demonstrate that topic. Arthur checks his mailbox because he’s waiting for something special to magically show up and I know what it’s like to be a person with an unknowable stagnant dream of hopefulness waiting for someone in the world to make my life better.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My daily routine is nowhere near the depression of Arthur’s dreary schedule in slouching 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’m 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 my self-significance wither away. My mirror moment hurt, but it was the perfect slap in the face to realize what’s going on out there!
Currently, 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. Again, this is just my interpretation. 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 blog 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.