Elwoodian Acting - Age 8
(How did he do that?)
This is one camera shot from The Witness - all eight frames of it. In order to be fully appreciated, it has to be seen in slide-show mode, so I've set it up one frame per page with simple navigation arrows above each frame and the frame numbers in the top border for any out-of-order viewing found necessary. IMHO, Elijah Wood geeks will find their mouths dropping open, their eyes widening, or at least their minds giving a silent, "Whoa..." This exercise is not advised for non-Elijah Wood geeks, who will probably just shrug. However, if you don't think you're an Elijah Wood geek, give it a try; you may find out you were wrong about yourself.
Here are the numbers for the eight frames. The first time, at least, start with 1 and go straight through using the arrows. Any further course of study is left up to you. My comments on each frame are just below - if you need them.
here is a highly-energetic, intelligent, well-balanced and happy kid. He's lived a fairly sheltered life, has always been cared for and loved, and thinks acting is fun
. The character
here has seen and lived through things no adult - let alone a child - should have to experience. He's lost anyone he has ever loved (or who has ever loved him), has no one to rely on but himself, and in order to survive has become hardened and cynical.
How does the first little boy become "Little Boy" (the character's nameless listing in the credits)? We can look at the frames and see what's happening physically. From an interview when he was about a year older than he is here, we know that Elijah had somehow learned to put himself into a character's place emotionally in order to react outwardly as the character would. How he was able to do this with a prisoner in a concentration camp is far beyond my ability to understand, and probably beyond his ability to logically explain - then or now.
Little Boy has come over to the barbed wire gate to watch Gary Sinese's "Soldier" (also nameless). From the earlier shot where Little Boy sees the soldier's cart coming, this doesn't seem to be idle curiosity. Little Boy's survival skills probably depend on his being aware of what's happening around him. For just an instant, in this second frame, he seems to decide there's nothing worth paying attention to here, and almost unnoticeably his eyes begin to turn away (or is that just the asymmetrical eyes playing tricks?).
His attention is caught.
A slight movement of the head to get a better look, and a slight tilt of the head in thought.
Watch the right side (our left) of Little Boy's mouth in the transition from 4 to 5, as it pulls up to match the already cynically curled left (this slight action also causes other tiny movements in the facial muscles on that side). After all he's been through, it doesn't take him long to sort out the basics of what's happened. We've seen that built-in cynical lip curl used to great effect in more mature roles... but at 8 years old?
From 5 to 6 is the transition that made me catch my breath. That tiny
eyebrow reaction. Is there a micro-expression expert in the house?
Full eyebrow acting here that should be obvious even to a non-geek.
Eyebrows straighten out and forehead unscrunches. Whether he's right or not, Little Boy has come to a conclusion about what's happening, and he's not about to lower his guard.
I found myself writing a lot here about the film as a whole that really didn't have anything to do with these screencaps. So I've added an essay
to give those thoughts someplace to go.