Seeing in “Abouna”

Seeing in Abouna is exemplified in the first moment the two brothers see their father.  He appears to them on a movie screen.  The three layers of gaze (the audience viewing the film, the children viewing the movie, and the questionable reality of the entire scene) make his appearance seem magical, confusing, and sets the visual tone of the film.

(25:39) Father appears on screen.

(25:39) Father appears on screen.

Some external reviews site that the film is more about the cinematography of Abraham Haile Biru than the story itself, and the pain of the film is in stark contrast to its cinematic beauty. 

The film shows us beautiful sun drenched landscapes and colorful costumes. Yet, all the while the two boys looking for their father find only emptiness.

(43:03) The most memorable moment for me in the film is this woman's gold dress.

(43:03) The most memorable moment for me in the film is this woman's gold dress.

An interesting side not about looking and film:  I was thinking about how the mark of a good actor is one who does not act like he/she is being watched.  We discussed how it is natural that our behavior changes once we know we are being watched, and the job of an actor is to overcome this tendency in order to appear more realistic.  In this way, the viewing of film is problematic in its very medium.  The natural tendency to change behaviors is over come by an unnatural mode of acting naturally?

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2 Responses

  1. I’m not sure that the job of the actor is to overcome the strangeness of being watched in order to be more realistic. I believe a great actor finds a middle place between appearing natural and communicating their character’s inner being. They need that layer of awareness of what they are suppposed to imparting to be great. That tension between presentation and representation is very different between theater and cinema—in cinema the director can present the actor’s representation, while in theater the actor has to indicate and thrust themselves into the audience in a different way. In Abouna, the scenes with the children playing across the field occupied this middle ground between naturalism and artifice. The children’s playing felt real, full of joy and minor injuries, while the wide shot defined their interactions against the wide field.

  2. I see where you’re coming from with “the mark of a good actor is one who does not act like he/she is being watched” and I feel like this is taking your argument a bit further (tell me if I’m wrong!) because the actor certainly should not show that she should not act as if the viewer is watching her, but she should fully interact with the other characters. If this is the case, we want the actor to be able to portray the sense that she realizes she is being watched by the others around her and therefore presenting a different sense of being “watched.”

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