Patrick Krivanek’s “The Knocking” illustrates one of Alfred Hitchcock’s key principles. According to Hitchcock, “If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” In “The Knocking,” winner of the Golden Dragonfly International Short Film Festival, the star Alois Antal, uses a variety of nonverbal techniques to convey a growing sense of terror.
Casting is a big part of creating a movie character. Here, with the help of costuming and make-up, Antal looks the part. But what brings the character to life in this wordless performance are the actor’s gestures and actions. Many are so subtle you’ll need to watch the film two or more times to catch them. But doing so will reveal four areas of body acting that even a novice can exploit:
- Eyes: When the movie opens, Antal’s vacant look shows us that he’s lost in thought. Even when he’s watching TV, his eyes reveal emptiness. Later, his wide-open expression conveys the emotions of surprise and fear. Then, a quick look back at the door suggests relief. While in everyday life, we use our eyes as an outwardly directed organ, an actor can turns the eyes into windows that invite the audience to look inside the character.
- Mouth: Look closely and you’ll see Antal frowning, moving his lips, grimacing, and smoking cigarettes. He even smiles—fleetingly—when he thinks (or hopes) that he’s out of danger.
- Posture: Antal uses his entire body to convey weariness, boredom, and—when he opens the door—curiosity. Every movement is intentional.
- Hands: While most of the hand acting involves smoking, a meaningful action occurs at 1:50 when the smoker runs a hand through his hair, signifying perplexity.
Developing nonverbal acting skills is challenging. But the task is easier in a non-talking movie like “The Knocking.”
Of course, it helps to be working with a masterful director like Patrik Krivanek. Note, for example, how the director opens the movie with a slow camera movement that introduces us to the smoker, and later how he uses close-ups and slow motion to build tension. You can see more of Patrik Krivanek’s work on his Vimeo page.
“The Knocking” was chosen as a Mobile Movie of the Week by the editors of MobileMovieMaking Magazine.