Ever since my childhood, I have had a strange desire, which I may yet fulfil, to play the Arch-Villain in a pantomime! The prospect of coming on, stage-left, to a crescendo of boos and jeers from Mums and Dads and their little darlings fills me with joy! (I am a bit weird like that!). But on a serious note, I am drawn to villains, and one thing I have always noticed is that the most terrifying baddies are not the ones who shout and scream, but those who exude absolute power, and do so with a softly spoken voice. Think of Al Pacino's character in: The Godfather, when he confronts Carlo over his involvement in Sonny's death. Or another one, a great favourite of mine, Ricardo Montalban's Khan in: Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan. His first scene where he slowly reveals himself and then calmly, and in absolute control says: "I don't know you. But you. I never forget a face. Mister... Chekov, isn't it? I never thought to see your face again."
And whoever the character is, the entire interpretation of a scene can be changed by different levels of volume. As we were told at the workshop today, a low or dropping volume can 'draw an audience in', captivating them in the story in a way that a loud delivery may not.
That said, another important factor in the use of volume, and one which I asked about at today's workshop, is how the variance of volume can play a crucial part in making a powerful scene. I would ask you to look at the clip above featuring my favourite Actor, Denzel Washington, and the marvellous Gene Hackman in the late Tony Scott's: Crimson Tide. This is a shortened clip and I would recommend watching the longer cut, or best of all, the movie! These two naval officers are discussing whether to carry out the orders they have, to use atomic weapons. Or whether it might be an idea to find out what this other message says first. Quite apart from the wonderful tension created by these two Actors as they work off each other, consider the changes in volume. How it starts softly, with the Captain trying to convince his Executive Officer without the men overhearing. But then he blows and reminds his subordinate who the Captain of the boat is. Then, as he loses control of the situation, the volume falls back again. Of course we are looking at wonderful Actors, a wonderful Director, a wonderful Director Of Photography and undoubtedly a blinding sound man to work with a furious exchange between two characters speaking over each other. But the principle is universal. And the importance of volume is one of the most valuable things I have learned at these fantastic workshops...