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Friday, February 22, 2019

Visual Syntax: The Role of the Director

The HBO series, My Brilliant Friend was an admirable production for many reasons; the script adaptation, the casting, the acting, the direction, the music, the work of art that results when the contributions of all the collaborators creates a compelling production from beginning to end.

I have many thoughts to share about My Brilliant Friend, and I might write more than one post about it, but would like to begin with the work of the director, Saverio Costanzo.  The actors I coach whose performances are affected by the abilities of their directors will recognize my observations about scenes that were either shot well or poorly; that there are directors who do or don't understand visual syntax and how important it is, not only for the best use of the actor's performance, but also for the dramatic telling of the story.  As much as I caution actors against performing a scene narratively, I think actors should be aware that the director's use of visual syntax is the narrative aspect of the drama.

In that regard, please view the first scene above from episode 7.  Note the director's narrative:  Elena leaves the shop.  As she walks toward the town square, she sees, in the distance, a portion of Donato's figure behind a building as he watches her.  She stares at him, frozen, when, suddenly, the full face and figure of her teacher, Oliviero takes up the frame and obliterates Donato, and as she and the teacher stroll through town, the teacher focuses her on her life and its future.  There were many individual scenes in this series that could be singled out for excellent visual syntax.  I chose this one now because I thought it was breathtaking.

The scene below it from episode 8, Lila's wedding invitation to Oliviero, is progression from the previous scene.  It speaks for itself, but, speaking of resonance, all you followers of Stella Adler -- remember her remark regarding all the very talented young women in her classes, who, for some unfathomable reason married, had children, and moved to Scarsdale?!  Remember how she pronounced Scarsdale?

The third clip, from episode 8, the end of the wedding scene, is total visual syntax without dialogue; the heartbreak of betrayal told with increasing magnitude with each succeeding frame.

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