A few weeks ago, I saw Captain Phillips. It’s a good movie. One of those high-tension, plot-driven films that is everything you expect it to be. I love a good action flick, but Hollywood action films aren’t typically heavy on the character side, and I’m totally a character junkie. 🙂 Anyway, I went into the film with expectations: I expected a formula; I expected action; I expected to be entertained–and I was. What I did not expect was to be moved. The last five minutes of the film actually blew me away. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you except to say that Tom Hanks is incredible.
As I drove home from the movie, I was still thinking about that last five minutes. It caught me off guard. Why was I still thinking about it? On the surface, there is nothing particularly “amazing” about what happens. It was an unscripted scene. No incredible dialogue, no unexpected situation. Just a raw honest moment of humanity. There was incredible truth to Hanks’ performance, and that last five minutes gave the whole film a depth and real-ness that I wasn’t expecting.
I once read a quote that I’ve always remembered and it popped into my head as I mulled over the power of great performance. “To show truth is the small heroism of the artist” That one short scene made the whole movie for me. Why? Because it was raw. It was brave. It was true. It was so damn vulnerable–and it made everything that had happened before it feel more real and human. That choice to be brutally vulnerable in service of showing the truth is what sets that performance apart from another performance. It’s what sets great art and great artists apart from anything else. I recognize that great art is more than being brave. It is years of studying, honing, practicing. But the most “skilled” artist is still only just exceptionally skilled if they can’t take that extra step and be vulnerable. There’s something that connects us… when we can achieve that fearlessness –that openness. It’s instantly relatable, instantly human, instantly real and incredibly powerful.
Great art manages to perfectly illuminate some intricate facet of what it means to be human. It goes deep and real. To be a professional artist is to be professionally vulnerable. And to be vulnerable requires letting go of the fear that holds you back and self-consciousness that masks what you are. It sounds so simple: don’t try to be anything. Just be as honest and authentic as you can be. I’ve probably seen some version of that sentiment on a hundred trendy gift cards in a dozen indie bookstores. Cliché though it may be, it is true and it is difficult. If it were easy, we’d have a lot more great art. Truth is striking. Truth is relatable. Truth is what we’re all out there looking for. To show truth is the small heroism of the artist. And we all know the world needs as many heroes as it can get.
Truth inspires me. What inspires you?