By popular demand: hot SB video, in case you haven’t seen it yet

StrikeBack Viral from HD on Vimeo.This is confusing. It shows up in my posting window but not in preview. OK, I can’t embed for reasons I don’t understand. I’m not exactly a computer whiz. I’m doing this to help the video get as much exposure as it can. And because Violet wanted to figure out what is so compelling about it. I wanted just to embed it on the blog surface and then walk away this morning, but as I watched it I got sucked in. So I went to the rare books reading room first before looking at the rest of my Armitage correspondence. To prove that I could just walk away from Mr. Armitage at any time. Yeah. (Cough.)

It is really hot. Watching it definitely makes me sticky (or maybe that’s the humidity in Lower Saxony right now. Though it rained this afternoon, thank G-d). If you haven’t looked at it, it’s worth the minute it takes. It belongs to the genre of apocrypha about John Porter (it’s Mr. Armitage as Porter, but not a scene from the series; it’s also not a fanvid that cuts together scenes from the series). It takes me longer to think about these things than it should, and I have only watched this maybe a dozen or so times, so your reactions thoughts below on plot, aesthetics, intertextuality, dynamics will be much appreciated. I am not sure I am seeing the video as the auteur intended, as over the internet it looked and sounded choppy, and it was even harder to watch once I had downloaded it. I have had to make some inferences about how it was intended to be seen. Damn Vista. (ETA: about halfway through writing this I discovered that if I turned off HD I got a much better impression of the whole piece, but the choppiness of the HD version pointed my attention to a few things anyway. Go figure.) All caps mine, from the original video by Sean Pruen.

I. Superficial aesthetic notes

Off the top of my head: like iz4blue, love khakis and the stepped-back color scheme. Occasionally the camera makes his skin look hyperreal, almost like a videogame, as here:

These brief really high resolution shots are contrasted with a more general grittiness throughout that evokes the mood of Porter’s captivity with Katie Dartmouth in Strike Back 1.2, as here:

John Porter (Richard Armitage) convincing Katie Darthmouth that they’ll escape, in Strike Back 1.2. I’m pretty sure the original source was Richard Armitage Central Gallery, but they redid all their caps after the DVD came out. Their present gallery is here. Posting this mostly because I love it, and because I am the blogger, I can.

The bondage theme of the film (Porter tied to a chair, wrists in raspy rope, hook to aid in torture sessions next to him) is totally gauged to the sort of thing that provoked frissons in the 1980s — it’s amazing how many citations of those early Madonna videos one still sees — and as in many of Armitage’s roles I felt that the producer was appealing directly to my teenage aesthetic. Putting him in fatigues in this particular bound position emphasizes the massive, static thighs — you know how I feel about that — as for much of the video they don’t move, and the major muscle group that we see moving is the shoulders. Though I can’t imagine it was intentional, the fly of these particular fatigues catches the lightest shade of the camo, so that it’s outlined every time we see it, as here:


II: The “story”

As a structured piece, the video intrigues because we see the character all alone, in a sustained narrative sequence. This technique is fairly unusual in Strike Back, which shows Porter alone for limited periods — as in 1.1, where we see him alone at the veterans’ memorial, as a security guard, working out in his impoverished lodgings, etc. There, these brief scenes without the presence of an implied other usually indicate either plot points or mood. It’s also unusual in terms of Mr. Armitage’s preferences; he’s stated that he’s not interested in a one-man show just because characters emerge fully in their encounters with others. So the video repurposes a technique used in the film for different purposes to undertake a radically different task than the film. Mr. Armitage is starring here in the dreaded one-man show, and the point of the video seems to be characterization: the video wants to tell us something about John Porter. In order to do so, its compressed narrative makes veiled allusions to the captivity and waterboarding scenes of Strike Back 1.2 along with Porter’s screaming rage of the helicopter scene near the end when As’ad is left behind in the Iraqi desert. The video works in a way akin to the dream sequence in Strike Back 1.3, in which fantasy and reality elements of Porter’s memories are used as a method of characterization. The significance of this insight becomes clearest near the end of the video, so watch for this theme to come back.

Armitage naturally knows that in a one-man show, the solo actor has to create and make present the other characters as well. The invisibility of the other character thus focuses our attention more strongly on Porter as we have to get twice as much information from him. Porter not only tells us his own story; he offers vital clues as to the narrative arc of the video in terms of the other as well. We’re used to looking closely at Armitage, but this plotting technique necessarily intensifies our attention. Even were he not so good looking, the narrative style means that we couldn’t stop staring if we wanted to.

Just as Armitage creates his interlocutor via audience extrapolations, the video makes a lot of points by implication. Hence, for example, the repeated editing cuts to images of Porter’s bound hands struggling painfully against the ropes, occasionally enhanced by black marks that imply perhaps dirt, perhaps wounds on the hands. Thus, though we never see him being tortured, the piece tells us with subtle visual cues that that’s what’s happening. Porter’s implied other character is the captor / torturer, whom we don’t see, but who is symbolized by implication in our field of vision by the presence of the chain and hook slightly to Porter’s rear.

Though this symbol puts the implied other metaphorically in our field of vision, when Porter responds his demands, he speaks forward, toward the frontal camera position, which is the implied location of the other. This juxtaposition creates the impression that Porter is surrounded by threats, and hence vulnerable. We might thus consider that the extreme uprightness of the figure in the shot above speaks both of his resolution not to break and of a posture taken defensively against the risk of breaking. It’s all he can do, as his legs are by implication tied, splayed apart, throughout the entire sequence, thus maximizing Porter’s physical vulnerability and forced openness to the demands of the captor / torturer. (Actually, Armitage’s feet don’t seem to have been tied; he creates a slight continuity problem in that he sometimes places them toward the back of the chair, while other times they line up with the chair’s front legs, but he successfully creates the impression of bound legs if you don’t look too closely, as he keeps Porter’s legs splayed throughout the sequence until he breaks free from the ropes — facilitating the break-free was presumably the reason he couldn’t really be secured to the chair. But we end up believing that he is, which is the main point.) Also important to note here: in that shot above, the birdseye view of Porter, the viewpoint of the implicit other is shared with our viewpoint as spectator. Later, these stances will diverge and then meet up again. 

But back to weakness. The vulnerability of Porter’s pose, of course, is reflected in the subtle but expressive acting we see throughout, in Armitage’s ability to reveal for just a fraction of a second a facial expression of weakness, fear, humiliation, or surprise. Most of these revelations are not really microexpressions because we can easily and readily see them. However, when we do get a frontal shot of his face as he answers his captor’s questions, we sense several microexpressions, as at approximately 0:05ff. (These times are inexact, as they seem fall differently on the actual video than on the screencaps.) At 0:06, for instance, his right eye narrows almost imperceptibly; when the camera cuts away from this shot around 0:10 he lowers his chin just marginally, as if bracing himself for what he fears may be coming. The most obvious one occurs at 0:08 or 0:09, in this portion of the video:

Just as Porter is saying “that,” he blinks, and the blinking makes the remainder of his face look really tired. (I’d never have noticed this if the HD hadn’t hung me up on it a couple of times.)

The combined impression is thus of both anger and exhaustion.

As the video moves forward, exhaustion eventually gives way to anger and anger to vengefulness. The general narrative arc of the piece thus moves Porter from vulnerability to strength, so after its allusion to the interrogation episode above, in which Porter still seems to be speaking with autonomy and power, the video must work hard to establish Porter’s subjection, for instance, beginning at 0:14, where Porter struggles against his bonds, and at 0:15-16, where he is seen shaking his head slightly. Here again the microexpressions are of fatigue:

The attempt of the implied other to establish authority over Porter begins at 0:18, when he is doused with water and attempts to shake it off, leading us to a series of shots that show him reacting to, rather than mastering, his situation:

Note the bitten lip, above.
Here, a slight gasp in response to the inundation.

Another abbreviated upper lip sighting that establishes the emotionality of his response.

In each case Armitage shields Porter’s gaze from the camera and presumably from the implicit other, thus grounding his subjection and vulnerability in this scene but also establishing a basis for his resistance. He refuses to comply with the demands of the unseen other by showing his eyes to him while he is being humiliated. We only see Porter in abject position in camera shots from a position slightly to the right of the position where the captor / torturer appears to be. The editor thus appears to give the viewer his or her own perspective, which lets us see Porter’s humiliation and suffering, but hides it from the implicit other. The writhing of the hands, which is also the editor’s signal of Porter’s subordination, is also completely hidden from the captor /torturer position and visible only to us. And it looks like it hurts.

The resulting perception of vulnerability not only attracts us in sympathy to the bound figure, it plays a second role — in turn, it enhances our reception of the physical power and potential brutality of Porter here, because Armitage regularly moves Porter from these brief vignettes of weakness or humiliation into intense rage. In particular, when we look closely, we can often see the intense strain in the muscles and tendons of his neck. For instance, beginning at 0:32, when his head is lowered and he looks abject:

to the back of 0:32, where his head moves upward explosively (I can see it but not cap it), into 0:33, where we’ve got essentially three  complete separate motions going on, scream, duck / struggle, scream:

But at 0:35, apparently without any editing, Porter’s position is pulled back quickly into subjection — note the barely perceptible but threatening presence of the hook at the right margin of the cap:

Sometimes Pruen aids in creating this great contrast between vulnerability and power, for instance by taking on the vantage point of what the captor / torturer must be thinking, as at 0:40, where Pruen inserts another picture of the bowed head, the eyes turned down rom under the brow, taken from above to emphasize the superiority of  the captor / torturer, but also to show Porter’s resistance to directing his gaze at his tormentor:

but which is then followed by another explosive sequence that demonstrates Porter’s rage:

Why so much rage, and why do we not read it as overplayed at this point? I think that this step compensates for the problem of the one-man show that Armitage hedged around in the Vulpes Libris interview linked above — that a one-man show is to a dialogue as masturbation is to sex. Although you may achieve a good result, you will never be surprised as you might with another player or a sexual partner, as you already know everything that is in your head and can never be surprised by yourself. The characterization of the implied other can never be surprising to the actor — so he has to do something via his own reactions to the implied other to surprise the audience. The ferocity of these responses and the intensity with which Armitage plays them thus makes us ask: who is the implied other, and what is he doing to provoke such animus?

At this point in the video, the editor starts to combine the two perspectives — that of the implicit other, captor and torturer, from the front, and “ours,” from the side, so that instead of seeing refusal to comply vs. abjectness, we begin to see the defiance that Porter is showing his captor from our own perspective. Porter’s reactions to the other and his perception by the audience are thus unified by the camera perspective. The shot of what the captor / torturer sees shifts to the face:

Note the creases under the eyes and the clenched jaw;

the fully open mouth that mimics the shot in 1.2 when Porter is screaming at Collinson to give the order to turn back and pick up As’ad;

and the way that Armitage here almost fully conceals the pupils of eyes. Impressive.

By 0:45, what we see from the spectator’s perspective is no longer subjection, but the same defiance that Armitage has been showing to the unseen captor, in the resolute form of the interrogation passage:

This perspective established, the video then moves on to the break-free, which is established in a series of beautiful, dance-like moves.


Almost balletic.

Here the attack on the hook as the symbol of the implicit other begins; note that Armitage’s head is cut out of the frame and we see only the rotation of the torso and the hips.

And then the dizzying victory, as the chair is thrown at the hook and Porter is almost off-balance;

Followed by the step back to regain equilibrium.

and then this classy, defiant exit from the screen that the break-free suggests it cost Porter no effort at all:

He almost dancess off the screen.

The compression of the format virtually requires that Armitage be the only actor in the video, and also that nothing be undertaken that requires a great deal of explanation. Captivity and torture can only be implied, not actually visualized here. But the ending of the video, after so much effort, so much roaring like a lion, so much visceral work, with an almost casual marching off the screen makes us ask again: who is the implied other? Who is it that Porter is responding to? Who is he looking at in these final caps? And why can he leave the frame without any difficulty?

On the explicit level of the story to which it alludes, the video clearly makes the implicit other into a terrorist captor or torturer. But the ease with which Porter exits the frame seems in the end to suggest, with all its illusions to captivity that are then broken, that the implied other, the captor or torturer, may be Porter himself.  In the end, the camera reunifies the perspective of spectator and implied other / capturer / torturer to provide a picture of a single, resolute individual who is capable of breaking free — thus erasing the implied other entirely and leaving only the spectator perspective.  Just as his dreams in 1.3 are of captivity (jail) vs. freedom (sex), this video sequence thus suggests that the most important captor that Porter has to defeat may be: himself.

III. The Beauty of Armitage

On a separate point, Mr. Armitage or someone else (cameraman, director, editor?) is throughout drawing the absolute maximum aesthetic benefit from his marked facial physiognomy here — whoever filmed him knew like no one since the North & South people how to light the nose and exploit the profile to their advantage, either to throw one side of the face into shadow, as here:

or to indicate emotion: see here how the nose pulls down in a reflex to show disgust with the water Porter’s been doused with:

See here how the nose almost seems to be withdrawing into the face, Porter’s so angry:

or here, where the brow and nose are so extremely scrunched down that the nose works like a violent slash across Porter’s face:

In the end, plot and characterization notwithstanding, you can’t take your eyes off his face as he does so many intriguing things with it.

Was I hooked? By the end: definitely.

~ by Servetus on July 23, 2010.

100 Responses to “By popular demand: hot SB video, in case you haven’t seen it yet”

  1. Another masterly detailed analysis. The camera-work and lighting in this scene are reminiscent of that insomniac scene from Spooks7. These scenes continue to bring to mind classical artists.

    You cap #14 (I hope I didn’t lose count) 0:35, suggests an el Greco saint, with that chiaroscuro notable from the Spooks scene. Something about the extended neck.

    #16 0-33, mouth stretched wide and as you noted, nose/forehead withdrawing, is almost Bosch – scenes of the tormented in Hell. Despite the actual scene context, my first reaction was that of pain/agony, not of anger. (though I realise it is contextually anger).


    • Nice points. If you read this video as half being about Porter’s struggle against himself, it could certainly be read as pain/agony. It’s pretty multifaceted for a single minute — that’s what made it worth talking about.


      • There is so much packed into 60 seconds. Bravo to both Richard and to Sean for creating such an utterly compelling minute in time. I wonder if Richard has seen this?


        • One would think that someone would have to sign off, as he presumably retains rights to the dissemination of his image.


          • You’re right. I remember when I was shooting actors on set during “Honeydripper,” Maggie asked me to keep those photos aside for my scrapbook rather than publishing in the newspaper for just the reason you cited. They have legal control over their image. Anyway, I hope he’s pleased with the results – I don’t think he could have done it any better.


  2. Thank you for doing this, Servetus. I have watched this so many times I have lost count. For an actor who expresses no desire to perform in a one-man show, what an utterly masterful single minute in time. I agree, fitzg, I see elements of El Greco and Bosch.
    Art and dance meshed together in an apparent hostage/torture scene . . .

    The intensity of the emotions expressed is searing. You are right, Servetus. You just can’t look away.

    Add to that his amazing beauty. The textural feel of the photography makes us feel as if we could reach out and touch that skin, taste the saltiness of the sweat . . . it’s terrifying and beautiful and erotic all at once. And isn’t the greatest enemy most of us face, the one we see in the mirror?

    I have to describe this as haunting.


  3. What a great analysis. I admire you. You know yesterday I was watching the video in an endless loop and I admit my thoughts were not very intelligent…Awesome. It is powerful, violent and wickedly erotic.


  4. You’ve done us proud once again with your detailed analysis. I find this video so visually appealing that I was moved to quote Keats on RAFrenzy’s blog.

    The texture and colour of the floor and walls are echoed in Porter’s camouflage clothes, as well as literally on his face and places him in a desert country, as well as pointing to the desolation of his situation. The water that trickles down his cheeks becomes a viscious stream thrown at him, in turn adding to the play of light and shade. The darkness of the setting reflecting the darkness of the situation and of the captors’ hearts. The planes of his body and the movements which are fluid and in balance work together to make this a work of art.

    And a few months ago I would have said that I hadn’t the slightest interest in macho war themes and that khaki was boring!


    • Milly, you should be writing your own blog! Great analysis.

      And I agree. Khaki? Yawn. Khaki on Armitage? Wow.


      • Our MillyMe is good, isn’t she, Servetus?

        Richard takes everything to a new and different level.


        • Thanks, lovely ladies.
          I think these deep reflections warrant some Keats on this blog, too.

          From John Keats’ epic poem, Endymion, 1818:

          A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
          Its loveliness increases; it will never
          Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
          A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
          Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing (in this case, heavy breathing/panting!)

          Of course Elvira was my inspiration when she calls several of her fan vids with Richard’s characters “A thing of beauty”.


          • I have always loved that particular poem, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Layla turns up pondering it this weekend at Claridge’s in “Truce.”

            Art imitates . . . art? ( :


            • Well, and Mr. Thornton calls Arkwright’s invention “a thing of beauty” in N&S. 🙂


              • Good point, Servetus. But Mr. Thornton, of course, was undoubtedly the thing of greatest beauty in N&S.
                The man does inspire us to write poetry and prose, create artwork and videos and simply . . . to dream.

                And to properly dissect such creations as this most excellent video.


            • Mmmm, Layla waxing poetical at Claridges! Certainly the right man in this luxurious venue would inspire poetry of all sorts!


              • I reckon so, MillyMe. Porter being a feast for the eyes, ears and mouth . . . all the senses, surely. And a beautiful soul. I am just the tiniest bit jealous of Layla. But happy for her, too.


              • Wonder what poetry Porter would recite back?


                • Why do I think Porter loves naughty limericks?

                  Seriously, I think he has a very sweet and romantic side.


    • Also, nice point about the trickle growing into a flood.


  5. His dance steps are very evident in episode 3, when Porter and Masuku escape the prison and Porter is shooting at the guards. Ever so often he makes two or three sidewards steps in quick succession, gliding over the ground very elegantly. It looks very balletic (as does his jump at the end of Spooks 8.8).


    • Will have to look at this again. I will admit that I spend most of SB time watching 1.2.


      • 3 and 4 are my favourites. Satisfyingly action-oriented, beautifully filmed (the more violent, the more beautiful the lighting and filming), a very lovely character (Masuku) who manages to appeal to Porter’s conscience like no one else, and bodage again (this time with chains). What more would a fangirl want?


        • Also my favourites eps, @Nietzche. My husband also greatly enjoyed those eps (he finally sat down and watched an entire RA project with me. I wanted to prove to him RA was more than delicious eye candy for his wife, but a very good and versatile actor).

          I thought the screen chemistry between Shaun Parkes as Masuku and RA was terrific and would love to see Masuku reappear in SB 2 (please, let there be an SB 2 . . .) It was quite the total fangirl delight, wasn’t it?


          • A lady from C 19 allegedly got an email from Sky saying that there will be SB2!


            • Squee! *a happy dance commences in the wee hours of a sultry summer morn somewhere in rural south Alabama*

              Oh, I most certainly hope that is the case, Nietzche! The thought of more Porter is most, most pleasing to my heart . . .


            • oh gosh, let’s hope!!!!


    • I was able to see those scenes in my head, Nietzche . . . you know, thinking of Richard in motion brings images of both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly to mind. Astaire for his seemingly effortless elegance and Kelly for his muscular athleticism.


  6. Wow, you noticed a lot of different things than me. I like to add:
    1. Blink of an eye on ´that´ at 0:05: confidence
    2. Sand in stubble at 0:18: vulnability by showing the cheek and neck side of his face
    3. Did he shout ´Oy´, ´Nay´ and ´Waaah`?
    4. Slight grunt at 0:52 🙂
    5. Pacing alongside the camera and bumping it: at the end 🙂
    7. Aspect ratio slightly off? His torso seems shorter
    8. Luckily you didn´t call it (cough) chair porn

    First we see JP on a screen with an automatic lipreading recognizer (as seen in Spooks). Then, we see JP without text in screen, so we are in the room? with different camera perspectives as you mentioned (viewer, interrogator/other).

    9. I know it was compelling. 😛
    10. This ´one man show´ involves the acting with one male body and is stylized and fragmented by close-ups. Our look is direct – because there are no other characters shown- and is heavily mediated by the looks of the character involved. And those looks are marked not by desire, but by fear, or hatred, or agression.


    • I forgot to add this big issue:
      What was the question JP didn´t want to answer?

      Me thinks:

      Why are you so uptight about having sand in your stubble?
      “I´m sorry, Sir. I can´t answer that question!”

      Oh, I like the idea that it´s about JP´s inner struggle. Might it be a dream, I now wonder?

      Your remark, that you´re hooked, is very funny!


    • Super comments, Violet, and that’s why we need different people to analyze the same thing — because we don’t always all see the same things. I totally missed the camera bump, though I had wondered what that effect was. Also great questions about what he is saying.

      Nice point about the sand in the stubble — may imply his face has been on the floor of the room in the vid?

      In light of this comment and one other, I tried to think more today about where the desire is coming from. I feel severe desire when I watch this video, though I agree that is not the surface intent of the characterization.


  7. I haven’t thought about Porter trying to escape ‘himself’, though it fits perfectly.

    I like the part of the video where we see the scene as we were there and then ‘through a security camera’, there’s where I’m ‘sure’ there was a captor.
    Pics 9 and 10, counting from the bottom, gives me the impression that the captor has fleed (Porter looks in the direction where he’s…running maybe?) and him or a 2nd captor is watching him through the security camera. With no one there anymore Porter has no difficulty leaving.

    On a very shallow note, t-shirt very tight because of the water thrown at him…*sigh*

    OML 🙂
    OML 🙂


    • Great point about the security camera: definitely a first signal as to the “other.”

      Interesting point about a second captor — will watch again.

      Yes, loved the T-Shirt. Esp. the dirt on it. Wondered for the first time what Porter smells like.


      • I’ve been wondering what he smelled like for a while now. I always wonder for RA’s characters smell like. I’m very into that for some reason. Not just the visuals, but the texture of skin, hair, the scent . . .


        • I know Natalie always wants to know how he smells. That is not such a big issue for me. But somehow in this particular setting …


          • Is it the grittinees, you think, both actual and metaphorical? The sand, sweat, water, stubble . . . do fear and anger and terror have a scent?


  8. So ´sucked in´ means: watching it 12 times of which sevaral times frame-by-frame for the screencaps. 🙂

    No-one talks about the accompaning sound. We are visually distracted…
    There is a jungle-like sound (didgeridoo) followed by metallic sounds.
    I first watched it with sound off amd I liked that more than with sound on.


    • sucked in=not being able to watch just once or twice 🙂 (for me)

      This is a great point about the music. I think the music is the major element that interferes with the video’s eroticism and reminds us not to get too aroused.


      • I actually watched it the first time with the sound off and got extremely – warm. I agree, the sound – harsh, discordant – makes it seem more violent and cautionary somehow.


  9. While I was reading your analysis, I wondered how difficult it is for actors to really “go” to that place — being tortured, held hostage, etc. I didn’t doubt that he was “there.” That hook kills me. You wonder what do they “do” with that?

    Is this a fan vid? A promotional vid?


    • Hoist his arms up behind his back, perhaps? I have other ideas as well.

      Gosh, I must have a sick mind.


      • Oh, Nietzche, don’t feel bad. It’s hard not to go there (well, look how many opportunities TPTB have taken to subject his characters to bondage, shackles . . .)


        • What is intersting is the way he averts his gaze most of the time. IIRC that’s what soldiers learn in resistance to interrogation lessons. A direct gaze may be interpreted as aggressive and possibly lead to even more hostility in an already hostile environment, especially if the interrogator in inexperienced and/or insecure himself. So, only when Porter feels the ropes breaking he allows his gaze to lift and a triumphant stare.

          It is all so cleverly done, and without any actual violence shown. A delight to watch, and hats off to Richard to create such a brilliant piece in a field he doesn’t feel particularly comfotable with. That’s a dedicated artist! 🙂


          • You know what struck me when you said that about RA reverting his gaze as part of his training . . . you are also taught when encountering a potentially unfriendly canine to avoid staring directly into their eyes.
            They can view it as a threat and make them more likely to be aggressive toward a person.

            So you let them think they are the Alpha male.

            Seems to work the same way with the interrogator/hostage scenario.

            Yes, in RL, Richard, who loves nourishment and nurturing and sees himself as a pacifist, is a far cry from the violence of an SAS soldier’s life.
            He is definitely taking himself out of his comfort zone to play such roles. His dedication is just extraordinary – like the man himself.


          • didn’t know this, but fascinating!


      • That’s why they put the hook there, because they want you to go there. And be simultaneously drawn and repelled by your thoughts.


    • From comments Richard has made in the past about the impact of filming scenes like his water boarding in Spooks and the attempted suicide in the prison, it appears he is almost terrified by how close to the edge those acting moments take him.

      And, yeah, I never doubt he is totally “there” in those scenes. What an amazing actor he is. The hook sends chills down my spine.

      I assumed the filmmaker – as this is not a fan vid – make this for possible use as a promotional tool by Sky? And if so, why didn’t they use it?

      Because if I, for one, had never seen Richard Armitage before and I saw this video, I would bloody well feel I HAD to see this production just to discover more about this character and the actor behind it.


      • And I should add that I would feel that way even if he wasn’t totally gorgeous. That’s just the icing on the amazing cake of an actor.


        • Um, btw, I am really looking forward to your next chapter 🙂


          • Thank you, Nietzsche. *grin*

            As I have been battling a rotten sinus infection this week and then had busy, tiring days at work to follow, I haven’t made huge inroads into it. Been giving it a lot of thought, though . . . unfortunately I have to work tonight and tomorrow afternoon. But never fear, the good times are coming for our golden couple. Hopefully you will feel it’s worth the wait. ( ;


            • With you is always worth the wait. Hope you feel better now 🙂

              OML 🙂


              • Thank you, OML. I have been insufferably lazy today. ( ; Re the fan fic, it’s a good feeling to know I’m bringing a bit of RA-inspired enjoyment to lovely ladies around the world from right here in sultry south Alabama (and frankly, I am ready for winter again!)


        • Affirm Nietzsche’s statement and hope you are feeling better.


          • Thank you much. I do feel considerably better; I think my new BP med is not sapping me to the extent my other med was doing. On flip side, sleep is still difficult; there is always something, I suppose. I’ve got a good start on the next chappie.


      • His reactions in the torture scenes in Spooks 7 and 8 seemed frighteningly real to me.


        • Oh, yes. After seeing the waterboarding scene in S8, I was fully convinced it is full-fledged torture. And when he was having the flashbacks in his kitchen in S8, I truly believed those horrific scenes were going through his mind just as if he had actually lived him.

          That’s talent.


  10. How can anyone, in any area of working/professional life, not be influenced by personal experiences? And in the “creative” professions, this must be particularly significant. Even though an actor might not be consciously “Method”, it is all grist to the proverbial mill.

    Which leads to profound respect for actors who decide to risk their personal phobias (fear of water?) to putting thmeselves in positions of personal (not necessarily physical), discomfort.


    • @fitzg,

      Totally agree. My personal experiences shape me and my writing, both the professional stuff I do in RL and my guilty pleasure of fan fic writing. (Apparently in my RL features and columns, my “folksy charm” comes through, or so my former editor said). Grist for the mill, absolutely.

      I have the utmost respect and admiration for someone like RA who is willing to face his own demons, so to speak, to bring us a look inside a character’s life and psyche. It makes it all the more authentic and compelling for us as viewers.


    • Absolutely. I am profoundly afraid of water and could never do what he does. Watching him do this kind of thing makes me think I should make another attempt to try to get over it.


      • I’ve struggled with a phobia about water from childhood, so I guess that is why knowing he shares some of the same fears and is able to face them makes me respect him ever more.
        (BTW, I took an introductory swim course a few years ago. I can’t really swim (too uncoordinated, I suspect!) but I can easily hold my breath under water without panicking, glide through the water and do other things I never had before, so maybe you should give it a shot, too, Servetus.


        • Swimming really looks like a lot of fun, as well as being good exercise. But having my head submerged just feels psychologically impossible to me. The fear is so severe that I’d probably have to have my therapist go alone with me and hold my hand.


          • I’ve gotten past the worst of my water phobia, but I still have a real thing when it comes to snakes, so that scene with the snake in SB gave me the willies. Of course, my father was bitten by a rattler when I was a child and that has stuck with me for years . . .


  11. Thank you for the astute appraisal of this fine one minute film. My initial reaction on first viewing was “How did the director manage to tap into my own darker fantasies and extract this clip for all the internet to see?!” Of course I realize what I’m getting out of this video is heavily influenced by my fascination with its subject, and it may be possible for those not so afflicted to view this without the least consideration for how erotic the images are. But gawd, what a waste if they are somehow blind to it 🙂

    I think my greatest fascination with the vid is how it came to exist. What were the scripted goals compared to the final creation?

    I thank you for the insight into the symbolism of the sparse cell and few items on screen. I had originally taken it to be a straight forward interrogation scene, Porter versus the unseen other, but I like the idea of Porter versus himself much more. The actual details of the video make that a more plausible explanation. I wonder if there would have been more audio if they had used it as advertising.

    All in all, quite a gem!


    • Welcome, darkjackal, and thanks for your kind words.

      I think this video is erotic whether or not you know who Mr. Armitage is beforehand. All of the struggling against ropes, and the specific postures Porter is portrayed in. Ummm. Speaks to my forbidden fantasties, too.

      I also think this is a super question. I wonder if there’s any way to ask that of the person who posted it on vimeo. Was there a script? Did they just have a few “moods” that they wanted to shoot Porter in and then edit them together?

      I think if they’d used it as an ad, they’d have had to incorporate at least one intermediate text explanation or voiceover.


  12. Actually, AngieK, the voice of the South frequently emerges in your comments; a certain rythym and turn of phrase.

    Armitage in motion is always a pleasure to watch, especially in fight scenes. There’s an intriguing hint of almost awkwardness/coltishness, which is somehow held in control, so that the viewer is more conscious of gracefulness.


    • Well, fitzg, I will take that as a compliment, being a true GRIT (Girl Raised In The South).

      Indeed, RA never fails to please the eye, in motion or, for that matter, at rest.

      He is wonderful to watch in fight/action sequences. He sometimes describes himself as being clumsy or gangly (and he is a bit the latter with those long limbs and big hands and feet). Is his perception of his said clumsiness a sort of left-over, perhaps, from sprouting up to his full height at an awkward 14?
      The coltishness and gracefulness are such a lovely and somehow endearing combination.

      I also find him utterly breathtaking when his characters are feigning sleep.

      His features seem to take on an otherworldly beauty – think of that scene in the prison in SB just before he saves the boy from being raped, and again when he is waking up after his injury and looks at the nun. I imagined that surely seeing that visage the sister would have known without a doubt Porter was “a good man sent by God.”


    • Very insightful about the contrast of awkwardness and gracefulness, fitzg. I wonder if our perception of some of that is a reaction to the extreme length of his legs. I sometimes thought when I saw Porter running in SB that his legs were just too long for him to crouch gracefully, for instance.


  13. It IS a compliment, Angie. A favourite mystery writer incorporated the music, intonation and phrasing of Irish speech into his dialogues. The ability to do this is an asset to a writer, and a pleasure to the reader.

    It is an “otherwordly” beauty in certain of his work – an asceticism to the face (yes, servetus, monkish, Becket would be perfect!) Then again, utterly sensual in RH – well, the guyliner helped! 😀


    • Thanks, fitzg. I have written many features focusing on fellow southerners and I do enjoy the musicality of our speech patterns.

      Yes, that face of Richard’s does have an ascetic look at times, perfect for a holy man . . . and then there is the gloriously sexy Sir Guy. My avi at LJ is a shot of S3 Guy in the throes of that nightmare . . . sporting Guyliner AND mascara (you can see it in the close-ups)with that mane of raven hair spilling across his pillow, lips parted . . . *sigh*


    • I’m so wed to my image of Richard Burton in the film, “Becket” that i wouldn’t want to let go of it. But I’d willing to have Mr. Armitage play Henry. Have some affection for Peter O’Toole, but he often was a terrible ham. When my students watch this film they always laugh at him.


  14. Echo what everyone has said about this analysis Servetus – great stuff. It helped explain for me why I found the contrast between his explosive, animal rage and defiance and the still, almost pensive quality of the ‘subjection’ images so disconcerting.

    It takes me back to a comment Richard made in an early message to his N&S fans:
    “[…] I am amazed at the way in which you have all picked up on the very fine details we were all working towards, even subliminal moments which I thought were secret and would pass unnoticed have been observed. Thank you.”

    I’m always touched by his appreciation and amazement here. (The phrase ‘subliminal moments which I thought were secret ‘ is interesting too. So typical of RA and his approach to his acting.)

    I keep thinking he’d be thrilled by your analyses of his work, which bring out so much that’s subliminal and subtle. How wonderful for a detailed actor like Richard to have such an insightful and articulate reviewer.

    I really hope he reads this blog, or that someone is reading it on his behalf.


    • What saddens me are the people who don’t “get” RA as an actor, who miss out on all those subtle little details which make up a rich and layered characterization. And, which make the insightful viewer want to watch again and again, giving articulate individuals like Servetus the impetus to analyse and discuss his work.

      My heavens, he may not be your cup of tea as far as physical appearance goes (if you are somehow opposed to the whole “classical statue come to life” vibe), but give the man credit for his dedication to his craft and how compellingly he gets it right again, and again, and again.

      And I am with you, feefa. I think he’d be thrilled, pleased and downright chuffed at what servetus does here.


    • Thanks, feefa, for your kind words. I think he’d be embarrased, though.

      Your comment brings up an interesting point about what’s perceptible in acting. I.e., one does something which one thinks will not be noticed but it contributes to the atmosphere (compare this to the practice of putting statues in Gothic cathedrals “where only G-d could see them”). But then the atmosphere becomes charged such that the action is noticed as a part of the atmospheric effect?


  15. Oh if this SB viral would be used as a teaser trailer for SB2 then it would be HD-licious!


  16. He’s so detailed — I love how while he is “sleeping” his eyes are in REM.


    • Amen to that, @Rob. I remember noticing that REM eye movement and thinking, “Man! He’s good!” He is simply such a pleasure to watch at work on so many levels. You know, there are actors who I see in photos and think, “Well, he’s attractive,” and then when I see their work or they simply open their mouths in an interview – they lose me. My interest is gone. Richard never fails to engage my mind, heart and spirit.


    • agree, esp. because it’s hard to do. In real REM the eyes move, but not as broadly as they do during conscious eye movements. He’s an amazing observer of the world!


  17. Great analysis, servetus and wonderful comments, ladies. He’s like a caged animal in that video.


  18. […] [Warning: this piece ranges far afield from the sort of thing I usually write. It's a response to this comment. Don't worry. I am not arguing for the suspension of conscience, just trying to describe one effect […]


  19. I am coming into this discussion really late but just to throw a last thought in, I think that what we see here is not just pain and agony but fear. I agree that the “battle’ is not just against the captors but himself and the fear is that of limitation. How much before he knows he breaks (because I’ve read everyone does, if that is true)..the fear of his breaking and what is experienced up until that break happens has to be…what? I cannot think of a word horrific enough. Just a thought..


    • Great comment, Ann Marie. I read a little of that in the initial posture of resolution, but I agree that a more complete reading empahsizing his fears might illuminate the anger at the end — fear fueling the energy that allows him to break the rope, for instance? Fear also as a component of the averted gaze?


  20. Another thing I really admire about Mr. A is that he has no hesitation whatever in distorting his features to an almost ugly level; unlike the pretty boy actors (you know who you are!)He’s done it in RH and certainly these caps show it. Much more than a ‘pin-up’ boy….

    @Ann Marie, “fear of breaking” is really good!


    • Oh, yes, so much, much more than just another pretty face and fine body. RA often pulled “a face like thunder” as Guy and even in some N&S screen caps, he looks rather terrifyingly ferocious with those angry scowls and contorted facial expressions. No preening, posturing pretty boy is he, but a proper grown man who can act rings around so many others. Hooray for RA!


  21. […] clothes off. Looking back, I feel like I’m being pushed. At the time it appeared, there was Servetus’s analysis of that viral video. I could never make myself publish anything about my reaction to that video last summer; what I […]


  22. […] are my comments from way back when on how the video worked, by joining the perspectives of spectator and captor. Here are my comments shortly thereafter on possible viewer perspectives and the way in which the […]


  23. […] (and his desire to avoid situations in which he’s not reacting to anyone present, although we have seen a brief one-man performance that was more than convincing). He’s an actor who gets an unusual amount of mileage from his reactions, and he mentioned […]


  24. […] scene (and his desire to avoid situations in which he’s not reacting to anyone present, although we have seen a brief one-man performance that was more than convincing). He’s an actor who gets an unusual amount of mileage from his reactions, and he mentioned more […]


  25. […] If you haven’t seen this video, you’re in for a treat.  It was shot alongside some other promotional photos for Strike Back, and surfaced in 2012.  Servetus published a not-to-be-missed analysis of Richard Armitage’s  gritty performance on me and Richard. […]


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