This is for Emma's blog-a-thon, if you didn't know, and you should get on over there and read all the other posts, after you've read this one.
I thought long and hard about who to write about here, the major problem being that I couldn't think of anyone- sure, there are a ton of performances that I love, but could I really honestly say that any of them changed me? (I take things very seriously as you see.) I didn't think I could. Until my brain finally looped round to a performance that it always went to, a seminal moment in my film-watching canon. It's a distinctly unconventional and even obscure choice, but be sure it's one that surprised even me in the way it affected me and stuck in my head. And here it is...
Let's get one thing clear first. I don't like The Last of the Mohicans. I think it's boring and long and visually dull (although that may be the video copy we own, for some unknown reason). And, for most of the film, I barely even noticed that Alice Munro even existed, sidelined as she is as the sister of lead character Hawkeye's (Daniel Day-Lewis) love interest Cora (Madeleine Stowe). Various native American parties are assisting on either side of the colonial French-British battle in colonial America (why, I'm not sure), and Hawkeye is an independant man reared as a Mohawk who ends up, with two friends, guiding these sisters through various difficult and dangerous situations (including one sequence involving a canoe chase which is about the only excitement I got out of the vast part of the film). Naturally, Hawkeye falls for Cora, but what interests us here is what's going on in the background.
This is never exactly made clear, and it took reading after seeing the film to clear up what had actually been going on. As the film nears the end, the group progresses up a precarious waterfall, one of Hawkeye's friends, Uncas (Eric Schweig) is killed by the men tracking them, and he falls off the edge of the waterfall. Suddenly, surprisingly, Alice gives a look to her sister and jumps off after him.
Basic description does not do this moment justice. Perhaps what I'm going to say is hyperbolic, but it is also the truth. Have you ever experienced a moment you can't explain, where something affects you in a way you never expected, in a way it will probably never affect someone else, in a way it may not ever affect you yourself again? This is what happened to me here. The look that Jodhi May gave to the camera in that tiny second of film startled me, made my heart stop, made me weep- and I didn't understand why. There had been no build up, no groundwork- it was simply a sudden, unexpected moment. It was overwhelming in its despair, its sorrow, its harrowing hopelessness. I've never had a moment like it since. I've never watched the film again for fear that I would lose the remnants of the feeling. I doubt that you, if you watched it, would feel the same, for I can only feel that it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. It is MY moment. Is there anyone else in the world who felt so strongly, from feeling so disinterested, in that piece of film? I doubt it, and, more importantly, I hope not.
Jodhi May's performance changed my life because it made me realize that performances don't always need deep groundwork to function, that someone can swoop in for barely a second and be as affecting as three hours of a performance. Jodhi May's performance is emotion in a captured frame, and, in a rare moment of foresight for me, I captured it in a photo. (From my tv, isn't it good!) (Oh, and search google for "Jodhi May Mohicans" and this image, my image, is the first to come up, on my Rotten Tomatoes page. Wicked.)
The link, here, behind the image, by the way, is to a youtube clip that includes the moment, which I haven't watched but managed to check for it's veracity. Watch it. I don't expect you to feel the same, and perhaps you won't have a clue what I'm talking about. But this moment is one that I can honestly say changed me: changed the way I look at film, change the way I understand it, change the way I see emotions. It is one of the few moments of my life that I can't understand, can't explain, can't put down to any earthly description.