Armitage’s microexpressions, Guy’s insecurities: the punchline

This is the analysis that presupposes the claims I am making in this post:

What we see here is that at the beginning of series 1, Guy is called upon to perform his humiliation in almost every scene. This had to be incredibly tiring for Mr. Armitage, but he rose to the occasion with literally dozens of microexpressions that nuanced those feelings, which ranged from surprise to rage to weariness, incredibly. For the purposes of the narrative this acting style is incredibly important in terms of making Guy a believable villain, a theme to which I want to return. I also argued before that it creates gender trouble, and it may be the case that it causes women viewers not only to ogle the body but to sympathize with the character. But where I started with the discussion of microexpressions was in reference to Armitage’s acting. I noted that scholars agree that microexpressions are incredibly hard to control, and yet Armitage appears–from our perspective, effortlessly–to present a broad range of them so that a constant emotion appears with shadings and colors.

No matter how “detailed” an actor he may be, it simply can’t be the case that Armitage plans *all* of this stuff out. It’s too subtle and too diverse. If he tried to do it intentionally, it would look like blatant overacting. His explanation, when interviewed by Joanna Bostock, that he “tries to think of the hate for Robin Hood,” is only sufficient as an explanation for this kind of subtlety if he as an actor either has unbelievable natural talent, or he has created a remarkable inner life upon which he can draw to project this sort of reaction to the events around him in the episode.

I think this is part of why we are so fascinated by him. Anyone who can present that much subliminal material must have an amazing inside. His acting draws us in, leaving us begging for more.

~ by Servetus on March 14, 2010.

5 Responses to “Armitage’s microexpressions, Guy’s insecurities: the punchline”

  1. You are verbalizing something I’ve been pondering for almost two years and didn’t know how to quite say it. Thank you!

    I guess that means I like your jabbering. 😀


  2. Yes, he DOES have incredible talent! And I am sure a remarkable inner life as well. He inhabits his characters (not just portrays them). He speaks about the importance of the costume in the DVD extras of North and South. How a simple detail like a patched knee in the trousers helped him with his characterization. (I didn’t notice any patch), but obviously it was of great importance to him.
    Have you seen his work in “Moving On”? The production is nothing special, but HIS performance, especially the last scene, is SO amazing!! I never tire of watching him…yesterday I watched North and South again, and it’s as fresh to me as the first time.
    It is very interesting, your treatise on microexpressions. I think you are absolutely right, and that must be one of the reasons he is so fascinating to watch. I should try to watch again in slower time.


  3. After I heard that bit about the patch I watched N&S in slowmo, looking for it, but I couldn’t find it either.

    I just got the “Moving On” CDs. I saw clips on youtube, but figured that I wasn’t catching the full context of the performance. I am waiting for the region-free CD player I bought to show up.

    Thanks for the compliment on the microexpressions stuff — it was a treatise! LOL. I can analyze anything almost to death, so I am glad that at least a few other people read it and found it profitable!


  4. […] extensively the many ways in which Mr. Armitage plays Guy’s humiliation, and evaluated the reasons for his success in doing so. So I am partially going over familiar ground here, but I feel like I need this basis […]


  5. […] away or somehow concealed must be a key weapon in his acting arsenal. It enhances his employment of microexpressions, many of which are vested in the eyes. Repeatedly in North & South, for example, we see his […]


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