February 25, 2016

An Eye for an Ojo: Iñárritu, Aronofsky and How To Tell A Story Through the Eyes of Your Protagonist

Trying to pump up a character's emotional depth? The solution may lie within the pupils of your actor. 

It's looking like this will be another big weekend for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. You can credit Lubezki as much as you want for how beautiful The Revenant turned out, and sure, throw Leo an Oscar for putting his body through immense physical pain, but what really drives the story home is the inner turmoil going on inside the character of Hugh Glass. Namely, this:

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio is very cold in The Revenant

Last year, it looked like this:

Michael Keaton is disturbed in Birdman
Michael Keaton is disturbed in Birdman

As Nelson Carvajal explains:

Iñárritu definitely sees life as a beautiful chaos, and yet the bravery he emotes comes in trying to find the tenderness  that special, fleeting yearning for human connection and purpose in the midst of tragedy.

The eyes have it.

The prolific video essayist has compiled a pretty sensational supercut, displaying precisely the emotional power that Iñárritu draws from the eyes of his talented actors. Watch it below: 

It only seems natural that we, as an audience, would connect and emotionally respond to the eyes just as we would if we were interacting with a human being in the flesh. Eye contact promotes a degree of intimacy that is practically unmatched by any other physical human experience. But of course Iñárritu is not the only director to have discovered this.

The equally gloomy Darren Aronofsky also employs the eye as a gateway to the mind of his characters. Many times within his work, we dive even deeper into the uncanny than we do with Iñárritu. Iñárritu uses the eyes as a lens to humanity; Aronofsky uses them as a portal into the depraved. Take a look at Kunal Patel's video essay and see for yourself:

Which of the two directors do you think uses this tactic more effectively? What are the major differences between their techniques?        

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1 Comment

Both directors use character eyes incredibly well. I've always been a huge fan of Aronofsky. Him and Matthew Libatique are an excellent pairing and their shot choices have always impressed me. Iñárritu and Lubezski have worked wonders though and maybe it's recency bias, but that ending shot from the Revenant just resonates with you. That tiny fourth wall break is amazing.

February 26, 2016 at 9:22AM

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Alex Everingham
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