Genuine Emotions on Screen

Some actors are more expressive than others… Click to enlarge

As an unfortunate side effect of years of examining facial expressions I’ve become quite critical of what I can only describe as poor acting. As much as I love Criminal Minds, it ruins it for me to see someone being attacked who is not actually showing fear, a touching moment during a movie where the actor merely frowns rather than expresses sadness – and in particular – where an actor attempts to demonstrate real loss / grief / despair.

Genuine sadness is most often identified with the raising of the inner eyebrow (AU1) and lowering the brows (AU4), creating an arch-shaped eyebrow /   \.  As this eyebrow movement can be challenging to imitate / mimic, it’s regularly missing from an actor’s repertoire. In saying that, convincing happiness is also alarmingly absent in many television programs – and regularly in high budget movies. Surely it would be worth their while hiring an emotional / FACS specialist to scan the material before things are immortalised on screen..?

Tobey Maguire frowning to demonstrate sadness

Genuine sadness and overwhelming joy can look very similar

With this in mind, television programs such as Lie To Me appeared to force actors to physically express the most correct and genuine expressions they could. And then there’s Dexter. As a Dexter fan, I’ve been really impressed with Jennifer Carpenter’s acting – who plays the character “Debra Morgan”. One clip in particular I thought to myself comes across as such genuine agony and grief – coming from an actor who truly throws herself right into the role. In my opinion, actors like this are few and far between, and fall into the category of a great actor – actors such as Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Meryl Streep & Natalie Portman.



About Stu Dunn

Stu Dunn, Founder of SDL Behavioural Science Consultancy and Head Consultant, International Speaker, FACS Certified, Micro Expressions, Body Language & Deception Detection Expert. Stu Dunn is the first Facial Action Coding System (FACS) Certified consultant in New Zealand. Stu has had a natural interest in human behaviour and non verbal communication for most of his life. Stu's continued study of psychology, body language, micro expressions and FACS has helped him become New Zealand's leading expert in micro expressions, emotional surveillance and FACS (FACS is the most detailed de-coding of the face, and universally recognized by psychologists and physiologists worldwide). Stu is also one of the first in the world to achieve Master Level on Humintell's Mix Elite Micro Expressions software. Stu has been studying body language since 2001, and has worked with participants from New Zealand, Australia, United States, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Germany, Afghanistan, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Macedonia and Sri Lanka so far. This includes working with participants from the NZ Defence, IRD Fraud Investigators, Sri Lankan Customs, Homeland Security, Telecom NZ and Vodafone to name a few. Stu's areas of expertise include: micro expressions, emotions and emotional surveillance, body language, deception, interviewing, training, business consulting, video analysis (evaluating truthfulness & credibility), FACS coding (videos, pictures and animation), sales training, assistance with criminal and private investigations.
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2 Responses to Genuine Emotions on Screen

  1. SDL says:

    I must add Claire Danes (who plays Carrie Mathison on Homeland) to this list

  2. Pingback: Robbie Parker Statement “Off” | The Blog for Stu Dunn

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