Blind spots and mind games: performance, motivation, and emotion in the films of Stanley Kubrick

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Taylor, Aaron
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University of Texas Press
The acting style in Stanley Kubrick’s films can be regarded as a symptom of the “other minds problem” and its ramifications for the cinema. Performances in Kubrick’s work reveal the complications involved in positing narration as a rhetorical system with a priori claims to direct and accurate evaluative knowledge of characters. For Kubrick, narrative discourse is not a systemic correlative for authorial mastery over characters, and so, his actors help establish narrational patterns that collide with the intricacies of fictional subjectivities. The performative techniques that complicate our ability to conceptualize and engage with characters’ emotions are itemized with the aim of precisely conceptualizing the director’s unique approach to performance. These strategies include strategic improvisation, excessive ostensiveness, expressively neutral action, and artificially immobilized expressions. Such techniques allow us to appreciate Kubrick’s “skeptical classicism”: a mode of narration whereby we negotiate various avenues and impediments surrounding our longing for knowledge of an other’s mind.
This is a pre-copyedited version of an article accepted for publication in Velvet Light Trap following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available through the University of Texas Press
Stanley Kubrick , Acting style , Performance techniques , Strategic improvisation , Excessive ostensiveness , Expressively neutral action , Artificially immobilized expression
Taylor, A. (2016). Blind spots and mind games: Performance, motivation, and emotion in the films of Stanley Kubrick. Velvet Light Trap, 77, 5-27. doi:10.7560/VLT7702