“One Week” vs. “In a Lonely Place”: the performances

It could be strange compare a comedy movie from the 20s, for instance, One Week by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton, with a drama from the 40s, such as In a Lonely Place by Nicholas Ray. The genres are completely different, so the techniques in both movies to accomplish their final purposes are also distinct. But it could be an interesting exercise if we focus on the performance of the actors.

OneWeek1In One Week, Buster Keaton’s character had to express himself through gestures. His primary goal was to make the audience laugh. In this film, there is a scene where a storm starts outside while all the characters are inside the house. Due to the poor construction of the house, the rain gets through the ceiling. Keaton’s character decides to go outside to check what is wrong but instead, his house spins with the wind, and he is unable to go back inside. What makes this scene funny, besides the odd situation that would not happen in real life, is the actor’s performance.

Keaton movements are faster than the regular rate in real life, which accentuates its exaggeration. It is clear that the primary intention of this kind of performances in the early comedy films is not to try to be the most accurate to real life but to create funny situations to make the audience gag. The gestures are very theatrical and unnatural, which means the actor exaggerates the way he acts facing these circumstances. However, this type of performance used in the comedy films is what makes this genre unique and distinct from the others.

OneWeek_1On the other hand, the movie In a Lonely Place has a completely different approach. The performances of the actors look very authentic and real. For example, one of the final scenes is when the main character Dixon goes to the house of his fiancée Laurel while they go through a hard time in their relationship. Laurel is not happy so she decides to leave without Dixon’s knowledge. However, while she packs, Dixon gets to her house and she tries to hide her suitcases to avoid Dixon to see it. The behavior of these characters is what makes this scene look so close to reality. The actors imitate the actions people would have if this situation happened in real life.

While Dixon talks with Laurel he understands something is wrong when he sees she is not with her engagement ring. She looks away from him while she answers, which shows she hides something. The actors’ performances rely a lot on their facial expressions. While in One Week the actor’s performance is characterized by its exaggerated movements, in In a Lonely Place, the characters behave as real people. They show real emotions – such as Dixon’s hurt face expression when he finally gets into Laurel’s room and sees her packed suitcases later in that scene – and have very natural movements, that mimicries real life.

The actors’ performances have a significant influence in the way the audience sees the movies. In One Week, the theatrical gestures are what make it hilarious but it somehow creates a barrier between the character and the viewer. It is hard to relate because that is not the reaction someone would have in real life. However, in In a Lonely Place, it is the opposite. The viewer is more connected to the characters. It is possible to imagine a situation like that and to feel related to it. The performance is more authentic and closest to the reality. In fact, the movies have different approaches in the matter of acting, but both accomplish their main purpose, whether it is to create a comical atmosphere or a dramatic one.