by Audrey Watters on 30 Jul, 2010
Keanu Reeves is the world's greatest living actor. I'm the Guru of Keanu Reeves on Get Glue, so I should know. Oh, I can feel you bristle. I can sense you prepping a lengthy retort, with justifications for why Keanu's awful, why (insert actor of choice) is better. You've seen Point Break, The Devil's Advocate, Dangerous Liaisons. And you're, all, like, "Dude. No." Whenever you see Keanu Reeves act, you see Keanu Reeves act. If you are expecting to be swept into a fantasy world where you forget you're watching film or theatre, then you find Keanu's acting distracting. That's bad, you contend. That's brilliant, I say. That's Brecht. Playwright Bertolt Brecht argued that traditional theories and practices of the theatre deadened rather stimulated the audience. A Marxist committed to art in the service of political and social transformation, Brecht wanted his plays to jolt people intellectually -- make people think. Brecht set his formulation of acting apart from that of the naturalistic approach of his contemporary, Constantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky popularized "method acting" (still popular today) as a way for an actor to fully assume a role, so as to really immerse the audience in the fictional world. To the contrary, Brecht wanted audiences to always be aware that the actor is acting, that they are watching a play. One of the ways an actor accomplishes this is via the Verfremdungseffekt. To prevent audiences from forgetting their identity/history, to prevent them from losing themselves in a performance, actors must constantly disrupt, disorient, make strange. Unike Stanislavsky's idea that an actor should become the role, Brecht argued that an actor should not "become" or impersonate, but rather narrate the actions: The Brechtian style of acting is acting in quotation marks. And Keanu is always "acting." "I am acting," his gestures and delivery remind us. "This is acting," say his performances. "This isn't real. This isn't real. This isn't real." The problem with Keanu, of course, is that I'm not sure he (or his agent) recognize this Brechtian greatness. He ends up in films where he co-stars with Sandra Bullock, an Academy Award Winner herself, who is in fact (and I'm sure Helen Weigel would agree) a really bad actor.
Audrey Watters is an education writer, rabble-rouser, rambler, recovering academic, lifelong learner, serial dropout, part-time badass, mom.
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