Emergency *ooof*: Thorin Onslaught

The onslaught continues. Or starts? The two-pronged assault on the collective ovaries of the fandom has started. Not only do we have to deal with the regularly scheduled mini-interviews with RA for the US-premiere of Strike Back Origins, but now we also have to brace ourselves for the Thorin images. The last couple of days has seen two new images emerge, and after taking a deep, deep breath, Guylty has pushed aside her extensive research for a regular *ooof* once again to delve into a quick assessment of the new images.

The action is about to take off. Well, we have already seen plenty of action in the first instalment of THAUJ, but as we all know, great adventures are waiting for the company of Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarves in part 2, The Desolation of Smaug. Hence, new images have to be produced for the promotion of the movie. New images? Well, they are by this point probably a couple of years old, shot all in one big session as they were still filming the main bulk of the movie in 2011. I assume this, because today’s image looks similar to some of the promo images from THAUJ.

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Thorin Oakenshield, poised and ready
THTDOS promo still
Sourced via comicbookmovie.com

There he is, the majestic dwarven king. Dressed in his battle gear, with mailed tunic and heavy leather waistcoat, Thorin is brandishing Orcrist. Poised for whatever fate is about to throw at him, he is leaning into battle, shoulders squared forward, the strong forearms in a protective arc in front of his torso. His mouth is slightly open (?) or his lips are pursed, drawing in breath, a threatening, assertive stare in his dark eyes, the whites showing. The sword in a firm grip, ready to swing and swerve right through he who dares to challenge this warrior. A bear ready to pounce – or a bison prepared to charge, to stay with RA’s preferred animal analogy.

Would you think the subject is a dwarf – suspending your knowledge that he is being played by a gloriously tall, 6’2” actor? No. Have you asked yourself why? Much of that comes from the perspective the image has been shot with. The viewers’ eye level here is roughly at Thorin’s elbow height, we are effectively looking up to him, and his slightly downturned face and hunched-forward stance emhasises this impression. However, Thorin logically should be shorter than us, and therefore looking up at the action = us. The question is, whether this is intentional or an oversight when the stills were being shot. On the one hand, Jackson wants us to believe in the glorious majesticity of the Prince of the dwarves, Thorin’s battle prowess and unwavering courage and determination, and he will emphasise that impression with all means, i.e. giving him (literally) heightened status. On the other hand, the viewer needs to see that this “creature” is not a man but a dwarf, and as such considerably shorter than ourselves. Not that easy to shoot when the actor in question towers over most people, possibly including the photographer… But presumably the stills photographer and the art department knew what they were doing.

How was this shot, anyway? The evidence of the grey backdrop behind Thorin makes it clear that this was a posed shot, not an action image taken from an actual scene of the film. (Those tend to be unusable for promo purposes as the quality of individual film frames does not reach that of actual still photographs. The latter have much higher resolution.) In practical terms that means that during a regular principal photography day, the actors were taken aside, in costume, to pose for the stills photographer. In this particular shot, there is action evident in the pose, and yet the image was most probably not “acted” but statically composed in order to get a clear and sharp image without any movement blur. However, the action feel is nicely evoked by Thorin’s flowing locks on his right. I find myself rather impressed by the hair acting. To me, it has almost become an independent extension on Thorin, emphasising his majestic beauty and noble, royal lineage. I get quite distracted by this hair porn. Richard, watch out – the old saying goes “never work with animals or long locks… Rather than making Richard flick his head or run forward to make his hair act, I find it more likely that a wind-machine was used. It is a small detail, but it enhances the image greatly as it adds the impression of forward movement to the shot.

These particular images are not “production stills” but “in-costume stills” (a production still is shot simultaneously as the scene is being acted for the film camera; an in-costume shot is produced off-scene with the actor in costume). As such they are an opportunity to characterise the particular movie character further while they are in front of a neutral, undistracting background. This is quite clearly the intention of the grey-background stills of the main TH characters. If you have a look at the complete series of stills on page 2 of the IMDb gallery for TH  you can see how the distinct personalities of the 13 dwarves are represented in each portrait. For instance, we see a slighty geeky, shy Ori, or a cheeky Bifur, a goodnaturedly smiling Dori, and a fierce Thorin. Published prior to film release these stills give the viewer the opportunity to gauge the character, and to connect with them even before we have seen the film.

That is further highlighted by the fact that the characters actually look at us, the viewer. By looking directly into the camera, a connection is established between character and viewer. In a way, the characters are here breaking what is known as “the fourth wall” – the imaginary (glass) wall through which we, the viewers, watch the action in a play or movie – or perceive a character/person in a photograph. However, as opposed to drama theory, the act of looking at the camera in this instance does not mean that the character is acknowledging his fictionality – he is merely reaching across the invisible boundary between himself and the viewer, using the locked gaze as a means of communication and connection while remaining the character. At the same time he is acknowledging the presence of a viewer, searching for a pair of eyes behind the fourth wall. This is effectively a parasocial relationship – or is it parafictional? – between Thorin and you. A delicious thought? And Thorin uses his fierce stance, his determined gaze and even his violent pose to beat us into submission. “Kneel! I am your King!” Ok, sorry, that is Loki, but the analogy is clear.

Although most of my *ooof*s have been images of Richard Armitage the actor, I do feel that Armitage is particularly effective as a photographic model when posing in character. Almost all of his major characters have me melt in a puddle or alternatively quiver in my clogs – either with strong, unwavering stares a la Thornton, Porter and North, or sweet, vulnerable glances courtesy of Kennedy and Standring. The method actor seems particularly good at posing when he can be someone else… And he is more inclined to look at the camera and thus us, than in posed RL shots (excluding fan candids, btw… an interesting observation that says a lot about RA.)

He lowered his gleaming sword and flicked the strands of his long hair from his face. Despite his aching arms and his tense muscles, he was irritated by the pause in the action. They had been fighting orcs, and screaming their battle cries. He was hoarse and sore, but while his companions were dropping their weapons and already half way off the platform to take a rest, he was catching his breath and trying to get the surging adrenaline under control. He hated unforeseen interruptions. And he was confused. Who had given them leave to turn their backs to their leader? His task had to be finished, the goal was so near, why stop now? A growl was building up inside of him, making its way from the depths of his belly, forcing itself up his throat. When a hand touched him softly on his quivering biceps, he jumped irritatedly. “This way please, we need you over there.”

“What is this interruption?” he demanded authoritatively. But the young woman did not answer his question. She had already turned her back and was walking away from him, expecting him to follow. Him, follow? He was the leader of the dwarves, the king under the mountain, he didn’t follow, he barged ahead. He had a mind to ignore the woman, insufferable peasant. Did she not know who he was? But seeing that he was standing all alone among the greenery, looking a bit of a fool, he turned and followed her… Grudgingly.

He was brought before a young man of Elvishly slim build with a curious black box in his hand. “Sorry to interrupt you, but I thought we could…” “What is it that you want me to do?” “Just… actually, hold that, that’s great…” He glared. Was he surrounded by imbeciles? Hold what? “Hold what, you fool? My tongue?” He was getting more irritated by the second. Not least because of the breeze that was pulling at his hair. He had to fish in his mouth with his stubby fingers and retrieve some greying hairs. He nearly spat them out. The peasant had the gall to giggle. “No, just stay as you are, turn towards me, a bit to the left.” “You dare command me, as if I were a lowly peasant?” he rumbled as his eyes began to glower dangerously with barely subdued rage. He pulled himself up to his most impressive height, leaning forward to tower over that ignorant rat of a stiff-necked Elf impersonator. “You shall taste the pain of your forefathers’ own creation, Elf-filth!” He raised his sword in a gesture of threatening menace. “Great, that’s fantastic!” Just as he was about to bear the sword down on the dim-witted cretin, a flash of lightening blinded him. He closed his eyes, Orcrist nearly slipping from his fingers. He swayed unsteadily for a split second. And then something snapped in his brain. When he opened his eyes again, the photographer was nodding at him with a wide grin. “Thank you Richard, you acted that marvellously. Done in one shot! That’s a new record.” He blinked. That could have been a close shave, he sighed inwardly.  

All text © Guylty at me + richard armitage, 2013. Please credit when using excerpts and links. Images and video copyrights accrue to their owners.

~ by Guylty on October 29, 2013.

57 Responses to “Emergency *ooof*: Thorin Onslaught”

  1. Not sure why, maybe it’s the quality of the pic, but this reminds me of the superheroes in cartoons I used to watch as a child. The wind machine is on overdrive, the gleam in his eyes is fierce, it makes me want to be a She-Ra to his He-Man.
    A resemblance, no?

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  2. subscribing.

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  3. His Majesty, slaying orcs, goblins and pesky photographers. ROFL
    I needed this laugh so much! Thanks for that and the level-headed analysis… both help ease the feelitage.

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  4. I loved this ficlet! I’ve often thought that RA must often get really deeply into his characters in his mind to accomplish the tiny little movements with which his roles are always suffused. Your ficlet portrayed this beautifully, Guylty! I love RA’s Thorin, but I’m not overly fond of this photo; it doesn’t say Dwarf to me. It says KLINGON in 4 foot letters. He just needs some brow ridges and gnarly teeth.

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    • Thanks Chai :-)! Yeah, for me this isn’t quite right because of the perspective. I think it should’ve been shot straight on at head level. From above would have undermined his authority, so I wouldn’t have liked it either. I am wondering also whether the make- up was amended for his look at a later stage than this shoot. The brow and eyebrows just looked heavier to me than in (most of) the film.

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  5. As usual you made clear something I had under my skin but never realized. He’s perfect in posing as character but not as RA. If he can *act* he’s perfectly at ease with the camera, he’s not as himself. Hence low eye, shy smile, apparent discomfort. The difference you can see during the audition for Thorin role. As soon as he ended it, Thorin (the first hint of him) vanished and RA returned. Low eyes, shyness, also fear? Was I good enough? Did I nail it? Am I failing the role of my life? Am I good enough to even think of trying to act in a movie like this? I sense all these questions in those few milliseconds of video. As the man said in several interviews, he’s only comfortable when he can be someone else.

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    • Spot on Micra, I think so, too. And the audition tape was a bit of an eye-opener in that respect. There seems to be different states of consciousness for him, depending on whether he is observed by a camera in character (= very effective), as himself in a fan-meets-star situation (= effective because playing the role of actor RA?), as himself in a fashion/beauty shoot (= uncomfortable because unable to subscribe to view of self as gorgeous man?) or at a promo event (= mostly effective because playing the role of actor/promoter RA?). Having said that, some of the recent fashion/beauty shots are very effective…

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  6. Loved the ficlet and analysis.I’m with chaifreak on the Klingon resemblance. I think RA morphed into a the sexy dwarf we know and love prior to shooting by letting Richard shine through. If I remember correctly, Fili and Kili were supposed to be the hot dwarves. The picture you chose reminds me of one of the first ones shown prior to the release of TABA. I remember thinking “Crap, couldn’t they let him be slightly attractive?” I haven’t seen the EE, but I assume he was hired primarily for his acting since the part required so much physical transformation. I am so grateful Thorin turned out to be a ten on the hottie scale, dwarf or no dwarf. Who knew?

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  7. Thanks for picking this one picture. Really nice one, impressive, majestic, glorious and all of that (porn). Gladly it doesn’t affect me too much. Probably too much silicon covering the beauty. 🙂 So I can enjoy the insight into in-costume-stills versus production-stills. I really have no idea what is happening behind the scenes of a film production and what the marketing guys and photographers have to take care of (and how dangerous their life is! Slaughtered by an actor who cannot get out of character? An unfortunate case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time).
    Fourth wall? Never heard of that expression but your explanation makes perfect sense – thanks a lot for that.
    The last few days were quite hard. Too much surfaced in too short of time and lots of those pictures and interviews affected me in a devastating way. Fangirling is still getting worse after all these months. I was looking forward to the EE version and was more than prepared to happily and patiently await it till available. But all the goodness that had drowned me on tumblr and several blogs during the last days knocked the wind out of me. And this will only have been the beginning? Oh, good gracious. Maybe I will not make it till the premiere of DOS in Dec. I will have died of dopamine poisoning before. But maybe Fortuna will have mercy and I will survive until the beginning of next year. But then (at the latest) I will be ready for a few weeks timeout in a silent order to recover my sanity.

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    • “An actor who cannot get out of character” – I have been thinking about that lately, and whether or not I like/approve/admire that. I understand the whole “ideology” behind it, the “method”. It makes sense, and usually I would say ‘to each his own’, i.e. if that is what it takes to conjure convincing, masterful acting, then so be it. From the fangirl perspective I completely disagree of course (because it effectively buries the actor under the character and therefore we are not getting to see the playful self off-set that most of the cast have been displaying in the extras – yes, an extra-selfish motive of mine). And on a more emotional level, it makes me wonder what kind of effect it must have on a person to be living another character in most of their working hours? And how damaging is that to the soul?
      I think, i.f., this is only a little taste of the proper onslaught that is going to rush at us, soon. Like you, I had decided to get the DVD when it came out. I am half annoyed with all the gifs I am already seeing on tumblr, and yet I cannot stay away from it either *duh*. It’s a Catch 22 situation, I suppose – you want to get the full experience, but you also do not want to miss out on the fun as it happens on the various platforms. But no worries – we will keep you sane here, i.f., and nurse you through the madness until the premiere. We have to get through it together 🙂

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      • Phewww, glad to know I can rely on (all of) you to help me through all of this. It takes up so much time to browse the internet for all the new stuff and to chew on it that I really really cannot spare any minute for therapy (that I probably need urgently). The upside on this hoopla is the constant rush I feel – and that is so exhausting that I have lost 12 kg since becoming a fangirl. My colleagues envy me, although they have no idea how terrible hard work it is to be a dedicated fangirl. After DOS I will need complete new attire. And I will send the bill to WB.

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        • Seriously? You’ve lost all that weight? That is fabulous, i.f. (unless it is something you didn’t want :-D) Well done! (And I must be doing something wrong because I am gaining weight by the minute… all that sedentary *ooof*ing, researching, tumblring, fanfic reading… I can’t even remember how to move my legs.

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          • No intention to loose weight when this frenzy started but accepted it gladly. Hey, loosing my mind must be good for something! When in need of some physical encouragement think of the King under The Mountain and scene 88. Or relentless takes of the same scenes. Whenever I imagine what the actors had to (physically) suffer for this film I get all exhausted and immediately need a rest. And a glass of wine.

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            • *sighs* I wish that worked for me. I try to remind myself of the dedication that the actors bring to their jobs, and then I have another crisp 😉

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        • As I sit here eating carrot cake, drinking latte….her weight is streaming through the ethernet to my figure. Go figure. Congrats i hope. ‘The New Thorin Thud Diet.’

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  8. I’m with you. Either the photographer gets it in the first shot or there is not second shot, because there is no photographer. You are so great explaining the picture and why he looks like a god. Why even though I have to sit in a chair that forces me to look down at at my screen, I still feel like I am looking UP at him.

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    • Particularly stills photographers have that skill, Arkie. They need to because when they are shooting production stills they can only work with a silenced camera that is hidden in a sound-proof case, a so-called blimp, in order to not disturb the sound recording with shutter clicks etc. That, however, means that the camera is pre-set and the settings cannot be changed once the scene is being played – hence the stills photographer needs to know exactly what he wants to capture, how he wants to capture it and when he needs to release the shutter. There is really only one chance (well, unless he’s working with Jackson and his “rolling re-set” method…)
      Oh yes, he is a warrior god, isn’t he? I think that is a very apt description of him. And the photography further enhances that. I think you have described that feeling really well – of looking up despite looking down on the screen.

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  9. My daughter’s school pictures came in the mail yesterday…the kind of out of context juxtapostion of Thorin against that nondescript gray backdrop reminds me of those pictures. This will now be Thorin’s school picture to me. *going to take my place among the cretins* 🙂

    Another great ficlet…love the spitting the stray hairs out of his mouth!

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    • Oh how I hate those school pics! Have they at least gotten rid of their horrible mottled backgrounds? Out of context is right. Like a fish out of water, especially when you make a child stand on their own, looking unanimatedly friendly…
      Stray hairs: even a warrior god has no control over wind and wig. Serves him right for showing off his mane! I had to peg the arrogant prince down…

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      • I think it was gray this year…I almost never order them, and I am reminded why as I look at them – my daughter, of course, is adorable..even if her hair is sticking up and her shirt is crooked! Seriously, a little adjustment is too much to ask?

        That blowing hair made me think of an AU fic where Thorin is driving belligerently growling at the passenger or something and then accidentally rolls his hair up in the car window…I have no control over the visuals that pop into my head 🙂

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        • Oh god, a whole school of children photographed in front of GREY??? Arrrgh. Full of life and fun… Mind you, it is a stressful enough job for a photographer. I remember a friend of mine doing it, together with a mutual friend as assistant – who proceeded to “crop” all the kids’ foreheads in her shots in her excitement. A day of re-shoots… made noone happy.
          That AU fic sounds brilliant. Thorin in his warrior gear but transported into the 21st century. I’d like to see THAT! Wish I had had the idea…

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          • Feel free to run with it 🙂 I owe you one after scooping you! (inadvertently of course!)

            Mini Me tells me that the “girl” photographer was combing hair and straightening shirts, but the “boy” was just snapping. LOL!

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            • Hehe, not to worry about the scoop – actually, I pushed the topic back to next week. (Need some more theory for that…)
              And grrrr, the typical sexism in photography. Girls assisting and boys doing the “real” work. Happened to me once. I was assisting a fantastic English photographer with an impressive client list (Deutsche Bank, Citroen, Oracle, Vodafone…) on a corporate shoot. A fellow (male) student was also assistant. Gues who was given the job of touching up the sitters’ faces, assuming that “as a woman” I’d be good at that? FFS – I nearly made it worse because I have simply no effing clue about make-up… Grrrmph.

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              • Yeah, it happens everywhere – I had a similar experience on my first dig. “You, with the mommy bits, organize the tool box by color despite your previous field experience. You, burly guy…go assist with the extraction of those intact 4th century cups” Ergh indeed!

                I think the “girl” was actually shooting – she was just taking time doing a little wardrobe adjustment here an there 🙂

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                • Grah! 20th/21st century! Wake up!!!
                  Glad to hear the “girl” was shooting at all. And well done to her for having an eye for detail that extends to pre-shoot.

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                  • Fortunately I was rescued from that tool (the assigner, not the box 🙂 )

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                    • Did you get to see your daughters photos before you ordered? Son2 choose the brown background from blue and gray, well due to his tanned skin he looks sick. He was going to do retakes and then choose not to. Son3 looks ok, I choose blue and it looks good with his shirt. Just got to love school photos. Got a dartboard for mine this year? Mr. 70 ran away this year, last year it looked like they broke his neck. Staff is to have there’s taken for are ID’s.

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                    • That’s what really irks me…we never get to see them before we order. I could have the retakes, but odds ste the won’t be better…just differently rumpled. 🙂

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  10. You’re right, Guylty, RA has an astounding ability to live in character … which makes me wonder how he felt when, after almost two years as Thorin, he had to leave behind not just the hairy goodness but the ferocity, the turmoil, the terrible conflict between ambition and that sense of having already drastically failed — all these things that bedevil Thorin and intrigue us. Would he have felt bereft? Relieved? Liberated? I hope someone asks him this in the media round for DOS. Dammit, I wish I’d asked him at the Sydney Q&A.
    Maybe he’s growing those adorable nape curls now because he misses Thorin’s mane and his neck is feeling the chill. Poor darling needs a warm cuddle!

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    • That is indeed a great question to ask him – let’s wait for whenever we have an opportunity to do so. I was going to say that it was a particularly long time to work within a character, but then I realised that in TV he played Lucas for three years… (although not filming for 3 years). Seriously, I think actors are all a bit woozy considering their “split personality”…
      The new hairstyle as a nod to Thorin… Maybe you are not far off, considering that he already said he “loved his long locks” 😀 Or maybe he has a bet going with Martin Freeman? I am thinking of that Cinemax interview where he said he had no patience to grow his hair… and now he does??? What is the incentive???

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  11. Thanks for the *ooof* day Tuesday post. A very nice photo to stare oops I mean look at.

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    • Have you seen the latest stare-inducing, ovary-destroying drawing that has been circulating on the net, Katie? I’d rather stare at that (in fact I have been, for several hours, since it came out…)

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      • No I have not seen the latest drawing. I seem so out of touch these days as well as playing catch up on the weekends. I only seem to get a few minutes to check thing before bedtime ( got to be up at 4:30 am to get to work tomorrow at 6:00 am). Homework calls my name and it is studying for a test on Thursday night. I also don’t want to destroy the only ovary I have left, kind of need it, funny as that seems. That is all that is left there and I don’t want to go into menopause before I have to.

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  12. Very interesting look at a different type of photo this week. Your ficlet reminds me of the story Samm the Make A Wish girl told of how fierce Richard looked as Thorin as the take ended, and how he morphed into our lovely, recognisable human being when he was told he had a young visitor to meet.

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    • I think that story was at the back of my mind, too, when writing this, Katharine – and the recent revelations that RA had asked not to be included in the Behind the Scenes stuff, and his frequent mentioning of staying in character between the scenes… What did I read recently? “I am an all or nothing guy” – yep, once Thorin, always Thorin. But then again, I can identify with extremes like that – I suffer from tunnel vision myself.

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  13. […] their distinctive looks, their facial expression, body language and context with each other. (cf. ooof: Thorin Onslaught) And we are allowed to connect with the characters because they break the fourth wall and lock gaze […]

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