Hokusai - Drake

Hokusai - Drake
Drake; Hokusai 1760 - 1849

lördag 16 maj 2015

True Detective - and the transformation of an actor

It rarely happens to me but this time it did: I became totally enthralled by an actors performance. I spent hours pondering on the enchantment of acting, what it´s really about, why generation upon generation have a few favourites that we connect to internationally and discuss with internally.
I´m talking about Matthew McConaughey, one of the lead actors in True Detective. I can hardly remember seeing him before, and if so, only in something lighter and completely forgettable. But now I´ve been following True Detective with manic attention. Partly because it´s so good - a tightly knit and yet lingering story - partly because the lead characters, Rust Cohles, transformations make me so curious. The insecurities surrounding his identity is a much more complicated thread in the story than the usual plot about murder and murderers: Because who is Rust? He is apparently two, three persons. Rust 1, the intense policeman with a concentration so sharp you could cut yourself on it. Rust 2, a laidback detective with philosophical statements as an armor around his inner life. Or Rust 3, who acts out a cop on the downside, works in a bar, has a dirty ponytail. Three parts in one part, so to speak, like dolls inside dolls. When Rust is interrogated about what he´s really doing, in his private reconnaissance, one doll is removed, another remains. Nobody is supposed to know where he´s at. 

That is the fascination of the character Rust, and in a crimi with unusually many layers. The other fascination is about the presumed discrepancy beteen the act and the actor Matthew McConaughey. For me, coming from an actors family, it becomes extra interesting: That one of the most welladapted performers, a neatly styled father of three, the man who keeps smiling in 300 photos, wearing Dolce Gabbana and a perfect set of teeth - that this very guy can turn himself inside out and become Rust; a dark figure who sacrifices himself and goes to pieces, totally fixated on a crime, and illojal to everything but his mission. How can he be so convincing?  

An unglamorous aspect of acting - is that "normal" actors often make a part greater justice than those who entertain their image; their Jack-Nicholson-style, or Malkowich-jargon. Nothing wrong with those two, but I can imagine them taking hold of a part such as Rust Cohle, filling it with their particular nonchalance. Not so moving. In contrast, I believe that the normal actor - someone like McConaughey - can save their energy for the real identification, one that has to do with concentration and intensity, to quit styling and become one with the part. Daniel Day-Lewis and Gena Rowlands are two others who can do that. And many more. But, from now on, Matthew McConaughey is one of the great character actors of our time. His demons have been waiting for their opening, one could say. That´s why they have such a definite form.  

Of course, he´s not alone. Nick Pizzolatto wrote the manuscript and created the TV-drama together with the photographer and the director Cary Fukanaga. Furthermore, the other detective, Marty, played by Woody Harrelson, also transforms into a great interpretation. McConaughey is just part of the web. Nevertheless it´s really his role - Rust Cohle - that comes off as the dynamite of the drama. He´s the one who´s been given a voice as unique and strange as someone in a Faulknernovel. Without him True Detective might have been a regular crimi, something one can notice in passages where Rust is running around with a pistol, like other cops - when he becomes action instead of dialogue/monologue.  

New expressions, other artistic voices
emerge when a Culture is fixated on a too tight idea about itself, when the surface norm is polished in such a way that it´s bound to crack: and there - in the cracks, and the fermentation - the new emerges. It´s not important whether it´s romantic music, expressionist art, TV-series or Hip-hop.  It´s not about values, it´s just a recognition: The upper pressure of Societys It-must-be-like-this gives rise to the Revanschist pressure from below: Hell no, It-can-be-like-this-and-this-is-more-true.

That´s the age-old liberation of scenic arts from the uptight limitations of Culture: Something is being played out in theater or cinema, that is otherwise suppressed. Call it katharis - a cleansing. Even more interesting is the fact that both the lead characters and Nick Pizzolattos text, seems to talk to miljons or biljons of watchers. People are on Twitter citing Rust. True Detective is the Dickens or Dostojevskij of our time: It´s about pinpointing the sore spots of a Society: In this case an emotional and moral degradation, a satanist hell hidden benath the mangrove marshlands of Louisiana. 

The fixation of Rust Cohle stares right down into an abyss: fleeting there are the capitalstreams between high-up positions and bestial exploitation, between satanistic sects, religious hypocrisy, violence, sex, ritual murders and pedophilia. Haven´t we seen this before? No. Not with that degree of blackness, not with that merciless demonstration of hell on earth. Not with such intelligent acting. And never with a lead character whose dialogues and monologues are überintelligent references to all the pessimists and nihilists of the world. 

I think that we love Rust, and True Detective, because it talks to us about our own darker parts, or - if they are not so problematic - it still talks about a world of degradation and depravation. We might have known this before, but we see it now ever more clearly: Where one is selling children and women as sexual candy and killing them, one is no longer worth the epithet Civilisation. This is our collective shadow. Rust forces us to see it.

            Text above originally written in swedish for the blog Gabis Annex.

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