Michael Chekhov in German film

Authored by: Oksana Bulgakowa

The Routledge Companion to Michael Chekhov

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415710183
eBook ISBN: 9781315716398
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506867


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When historians research the art of an actor whose most brilliant work took place in the theatre, they encounter a lack of information that they try to fill with eyewitness accounts, critical reviews, directorial explanations, and other evidence (such as letters, diaries, and memoirs) although in fact written evidence is an absence inside a presence. When an actor’s work is conserved on film, the evidence seems to be more real and factual, but this art form rests on the substitution of another absence for a presence. That is to say, the reality that the screen confers on the actor is spectral. The movie actor, in a comment by Luigi Pirandello picked up by Walter Benjamin in his reflections on aura in cinema, gives the impression of an “inexplicable emptiness.” This emptiness occurs because the actor’s body “evaporates and ceases to appear real,” turning into a depiction that “for a certain time trembles on the screen and then silently disappears” (qtd in Benjamin 1989: 1/2.489). This spectral substitution, however, only partly explains the loss of the charismatic aureole that surrounded Michael Chekhov on stage and was missing on the screen.

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