Three Angles of Grief
My initial reaction to these three views of Mark at his mother's funeral was that the differences were due to Elijah's acting. I still think that's the most important element, but not the only one. It's been noted that one of the interesting things about Elijah's face is that it can look older or younger, depending on the camera angle used. Not as true now as when he was a child, but still quite noticeable in Frodo.
In all of these caps, BTW, there's a reddish tinge which fits in with the desert-like landscape. My guess is that this was done to make even more of a contrast with the greens and blues we see when Mark is staying with his relatives.
The first view is definitely the one of the three that I personally like least. Mark looks like a young child, which he isn't. This is partly due to showing him standing next to his much-taller father, but I think it's supported by Mark's "sad little kid" facial expression which (IMVHO) is more stereotypical than natural. Elijah was twelve when he made The Good Son, but he looks much younger than that here.
What a difference in the next shot! Mark is by himself now, so we're not subconsciously comparing him to taller people. The camera angle emphasizes the mature lines of his face. I have no trouble seeing a twelve year old here--or maybe even a boy a bit older than that.
What's even more striking to me is how Mark's grief has become internalized here. No more "sad little kid" face or "puppy dog eyes." Within the reality of the movie, this is plausible because he's separated from other people now. In fact, this could be the reason he's gone off by himself in the first place--needing to get away from the expectations of how he should be feeling and looking in order to deal with his grief more internally. Not stereotypical at all (IMVHO) and utilizing Elijah's talent much more than the previous scene.
The following shot ends in what was arguably one of the earliest Froshadowings recognized
(probably one of the comparisons that actually got the whole "Froshadowing" idea started in the first place). We've also seen a similar move from Mikey Carver
. There has to be some reason
that directors like to show Elijah turning slowly toward the camera in one continuous shot. The prerequisite, of course, is that he can do it (and could do it at a young age). Such slow, even, subtle movement and expression change isn't something most actors could accomplish--and to make it look natural instead of staged is even more of a feat.
But even beyond that ability, IMHO, it's all in the eyes--and I don't mean what they look like, but what he does with them. In all three cases, he leads
with his eyes (there's a bit of this in the Huck Finn fishing scene
, too, even though it's not part of a full turn in that case). That is, his eyes start to "turn" before his head does, and always stay a bit ahead of it. What this does--at least to me--is heighten the effect of Elijah's character looking straight at us
. An actor looking straight at the camera tends to look like... well, an actor looking straight at the camera. But turning this way--having the actor's eyes looking straight at the camera when his head hasn't yet followed--looks very different, because his eyes are always looking a bit to the side instead of that full-front stare into the camera.
I'll make the admission here that this effect has very likely been known to movie makers for decades, but I doubt too many of them have been fortunate enough to have an actor who can make the shot look as natural as Elijah does. But if you compare this version at 12 years of age with the heart- and breath-stopping turn we see from Frodo, it's obvious that Elijah's learned and grown a lot in his acting between the two. So, no matter how natural the move looks on screen, it's not entirely "instinct."