Before movies had sound, which actors have now come to use to great effect for conjuring strong emotional reactions from their audiences, performances on film were essentially a mime act. So they relied heavily on body language for performers to communicate things. But unlike the vaudeville-type acts you’d see on stage at the time, silent movies could get right in tight on a person’s face, where the most subtle and expressive movements of a person’s face could be captured and projected for all to see, as if they were right next to the person. This was a pretty big deal. And it didn’t take long for people to realize that the most interesting thing to focus on in an actor on film was in those windows to the soul themselves, the performer’s eyes.
Today, most moviegoers are preoccupied with line delivery and physical gestures, which are of course immensely important and expressive and have just as much ability to surprise and intrigue us as any other choices an actor can make. And I’m far from an expert on acting so I could very well just be full of crap on this from the perspective of actual performers. As a recipient of their craft, though, like anyone else who watches, there are aspects of performance that are specifically enjoyable to any one of us, and for me, it’s in the actor’s eyes. I’ve heard it said that the best actors are the ones who look like they have a great deal of activity going on behind the eyes. In my experience, this is true, although the way to indicate what’s going on behind the eyes is within the front of the eyes themselves.
Certain actors stand out for the level of expression they consistently contain in their eyes. Here are 6 pairs that I’ve come to really appreciate.
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