Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Christopher Reeve: More than Superman

You no doubt know that actor Christopher Reeve passed away months ago. That was a sad day for this world. But, it was also rather personally sad for me for not only did a great human being die, but possibly one of my greatest influences died.

Most people (at least those younger than myself) probably remember Christopher Reeve only as Superman. And, in more ways that one, he'll always be remembered for that. Though, I don't think people give him enough credit for that role. In essence, he had to play two entirely different people, or at least play one person trying to fool the world that one personality is not the other. That is, Lois Lane couldn't figure out that goofball Clark Kent was, in fact, the heroic Superman. Here's my point: That is incredibly hard for an actor to pull off.

Next time you watch Superman or Superman 2 (we'll just not acknowledge the horrors that came after), watch Reeve carefully. Notice his mannerisms as Superman and notice how different he is as Clark Kent. They are two completely different characters. He's bold and unstoppable as Supes, while Kent is a klutz. What impresses me is that despite Superman's physical size, Reeve was able to make Clark Kent seem small. I'm nearly blown away that this man never won or was nominated an Oscar.

For Valentine's Day, we watched "Somewhere in Time" starring Reeve and Jane Seymour. Sorry for the plot spoilers, but to get my point across, it is necessary. I don't want to get into the whole plot, but know that Reeve's character falls in love with an actress from 1912. Somehow, he is able to time travel through hypnosis. He convinces himself it is 1912 and soon he is meeting his love in that time. They fall in love and everything is wonderful. Love story. But this one has a tragic ending. Reeve finds a coin from 1979 in his pocket and is suddenly and sadly back in 1980. The coin reminded his mind what was real. This is where the best acting I have seen begins.

He wakes up from his hypnosis and realizes he lost the love of his love. He struggles and tries in vain to hypnotize himself again, but to no avail. An empty soul wails... WAILS... in agony at the thought of lost love. Soon, the lost love is all he can think about. He doesn't move. He doesn't eat, he doesn't sleep. Eventually, the hotel staff tries to check on him. They find him catatonic, sitting in a chair. His eyes are near-empty and he look quite ill.

They get him to the bed where a doctor checks on him. And this is the most wonderfully tragic moment. The lighting on his body suddenly but subtly changes. His expression goes from empty to exuberant to at complete peace. If you don't pay close attention, you don't see it. It's happens in less than 3 seconds. He dies. But, you can physically the transformation in his face. That's all that moves. His lips faintly smile; his eyes dimly shine for a brief moment. Then, all that happiness relaxes into death as his soul leaves his body. You don't see the soul, but you know it's gone. You can see the precise second it leaves his body. That, my friends, if fucking acting.

I cried at that moment. Not so much at the emotion of the movie. No, I found it much more tragic that this world will never be able to see Christopher Reeve's outstanding acting again. It's truly sad that such a wonderful creative fire burned out of this world. If I could be 1/10 of the actor he was, man, that would be good.

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