In all ways, according to writer/director David Mamet.
On a 2007 commentary track for his 1987 film House of Games (Criterion edition), Mamet explains his minimalist philosophy of acting:
Acting is like homeopathic medicine. ‘In what way?’ you may ask.’ And I would answer, ‘In all ways.’ Next question.
No, I’m kidding. The whole idea of homeopathic medicine is that, the smaller the dose, the more effective it is. So what you don’t want actors to do is to narrate what they think the quote character is doing, what they think the quote character is feeling, how they think the story is unfolding.
What you want actors to do is to do is to be as simple as possible […] in achieving the small tasks, scene by scene, that the author has indicated. And, um, it’s not that less is more. Because that means more is better. But less is better.
Mamet, who began as an actor himself, was trained in the Meisner technique, which seeks to have actors manifest emotions simply by reacting ‘in the moment’. I guess acting theorists would categorize this as an “inside out” form of acting, just like The Method, which is another American derivative from Russian theater director Constantin Stanislavski’s principles. Classical acting training is “outside in” — embodied by Shakespeareans like Laurence Olivier, who once, when Dustin Hoffman told him he had stayed up all night before a scene because his character was supposed to be tired, condescendingly replied, “Try acting, dear boy.”
As the commentary for this story of confidence games inside of confidence games continues, Mamet applies his “less is better” method beyond acting to storytelling in general: Continue reading