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Review: The Actor


A WHITE mask; stained by a drop of blood. This was the opening shot of actor and director Aidan Whytock’s The Actor. And it’s significant for the motif of the movie – exploring the masks actors wear in character.

When actors go method, they become so immersed, blurring that the line between reality and make-believe. The Actor explores this train of thought in a very interesting style. Viewers get to see different sides to the protagonist Simon (Wytock). On the one hand he is in ambitious actor, and, on the other, he tries to be a good father.

The story has a strong supernatural overtone, where, in Simon’s attempt to clinch an audition, he succumbs to the darkness of the character. The actor can’t seem to separate himself from his character; and the demon possessing him.

What’s also interesting is how the director uses sound design and imagery to propel the story of the actor being possessed. Working with a shoestring budget of R49 000, isn’t without serious challenges for the director. Perhaps, with a work workable amount, Whytock would have been able to invest more in the special effects on this psychological horror.

But, with the use of dark lighting, distortion of the camera angles, he managed to create a suitably scary atmosphere – a mirror to Simon’s darkening soul and his violent acts spiralled out of control.

Simon, meanwhile, also finds himself confronting his fears as well as buried emotions of anger. Some of these emotions are directed towards his ex-wife Emily and some are aimed at his agent Nathan.

As the possession of Simon grows stronger, he finds himself losing more of him. While he cannot remember his actions the next day, the camera becomes his reality and truth as everything is captured on it for him to see.

Many emotions are laid bare. There is an unmistakable sense of loss; a sense of desperation, and, rather interestingly, a yearning for change. Simon wants to change that struggling (more like stagnant) actor perception to one that is more flattering. It’s a yearning of most actors: to be successful; to make their loved ones proud.

There’s this sense of embarrassment and desperation with Simon. He seeks approval from Emily, Nathan and Sarah, his 12 year old daughter. He wants the kids to be proud of the acting pedigree they come from.

Sadly, in taking on the sinister role, he undid everything he tried to make right.

The concept of making a movie within a movie is interesting. Many of the shots are of Simon speaking to the audience through the camera. While he does so and becomes married to his mask, symbolically and literally, his daughter watches on, in the hope, that the “real” him would surface again.

This mask then poses some interesting questions: is it a good or bad thing – and for whom, was the sacrifice of his soul worth it?

That’s where the words of Oscar Wilde, quoted at the opening and the end of the movie, echo once again: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.”



This review is part of Talent press, a hands-on development programme of Talents Durban. The 8th Talents Durban is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in co-operation with the Berlinale Talents Programme with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, German Embassy, Goethe Institut South Africa, the Gauteng Film Commission and a range of other valued partners.


Sharlene Versfeld / Ayanda Mabanga

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