Steve Jobs – Blocking & Realist Acting

While searching for videographic essays that focused on the films I’m using in my final project, I stumbled across this video. Initially, I was drawn to the piece because it dealt with a topic that was originally going to guide the argument in my final project; the acting of Michael Fassbender (in comparison to Ashton Kutcher’s performance in Jobs). While this video dealt only with Fassbender’s performance and didn’t attempt to relate the work to Jobs as I had planned, the subject of the video focused on one of the key elements of Fassbender’s performance that I had considered discussing – his physical interactions with other characters and his environment. Because of this common interest, I was particularly keen on seeing how the authors edited and constructed their argument. They started with the claim that Fassbender deserved his Oscar nomination, and maybe even the award, a point which I had considered drawing upon to distinguish Fassbender’s work from Kutcher’s. Because of these similarities between the video and my initial conception for a final project, I found that I had uncovered an intriguing opportunity to see how my initial ideas for a final project might have played out if I had decided stick with focusing on the performances of the two Steve Jobs instead of considering other elements of the films.

The meat of the argument starts when the narrator invites us to examine a particular scene where Fassbender exhibits precise blocking and physical interactions which guide his performance. After hearing this I began to wonder what scene the creator would choose to showcase the actor’s performance, but I was more interested in how the scene would be presented. Would the creator allow the scene to playout in its entirety? Or would they pause, rewind, and restart the scene, dissecting it as they went? The next line of voiceover answers one of those questions. The narrator states; “This two minute scene between Fassbender and Katherine Waterston…” By stating the length of the scene, it becomes obvious that the performance will be played out in its entirety, but next I’m left wondering if the narrator will continue to contribute through voiceover during the scene. It turns out that there are audio cues that answer this question as well. As a door closes on the pair of actors and the scene begins (just as the narrator said it would), the background music fades. The ‘tense’ rhythm which has propelled the voiceover up to this point ends and the transition is punctuated by the sound of a door clicking shut, which mimics a clapperboard marking the start of a take.

The editor then lets the entire scene playout, without any interruption. As the scene ends, the music that accompanies the narration fades back in, and the door to the room where the scene transpired opens. After watching this video, I felt that the editor was taking a risk by dedicating such a large chunk of their video essay to an unaltered scene – a full two minutes without narration. Upon reflection, I’m still not sure if I agree that leaving the viewer alone with unaltered footage is the best way to support the claims made in the video, but I think that the creator did an excellent job of guiding the viewer through the process and setting up such an approach. Convention would indicate that if voiceover is used in a videographic essay, it’s going to be used throughout the video – the narrator is our guide to the content, adding clarity to the edited footage. By temporarily breaking convention, and including a long stretch without voiceover, the editor takes a risk in allowing the viewer to explore the content alone. I think the editor does an excellent job of mitigating risk by clearly marking how the sequence will function – ensuring that the viewer knows the scene is left unaltered and open to their own judgement while not explicitly indicating so.