Shots to the Heart: For the Love of Film Performance

Shots to the Heart: For the Love of Film Performance

By Steven Rybin

Anthem Film and Culture

This book continues the author’s project, begun in the 2017 monograph Gestures of Love, of exploring the place of film actors in an emotional and thoughtful reception of movies. Shots to the Heart aims to provide both concrete critical engagements with moments of performance as well as philosophical explorations of and reflections on the implications of a love for performance in viewing cinema.

Paperback, 250 Pages


August 2022

£20.99, $24.95

  • About This Book
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  • Author Information
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

Shots to the Heart explores how the work of the film actor inspires, provokes, and refigures our feelings and thoughts about the cinema. The book closely considers the art of film performance, the combined effect of actors’ gestures, movements, and expressions, in relation to the viewer’s sensitive and creative eye. As discrete moments of performative incarnation onscreen slowly accumulate, actors also become figures of meaning. For many viewers, the screen figures which result from performance are simply called “characters.” But in thinking about cinema, the words “character” and “characterization” signal post-experiential abstractions: when we quickly identify characters or summarize characterization after seeing a movie, we are leaping over the emotions felt through our loving attention to the bodies flitting through a film. Such concepts can never replace a careful regard for what actors onscreen are actually doing, moment by moment, gesture by gesture. Shots to the Heart is finally not too concerned with the narrative machinations within which these gestures are inscribed, and even resists the attempt to assemble these descriptions of performance into a “full” account of the film as a whole. What Shots to the Heart does is let little moments of performance live on, in writing, as they are strung together alongside performative fragments from other films, in a kind of alternative, cinephilic account of what was felt as actors moved on the screen before us.


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Author Information

Steven Rybin is an associate professor of film studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato.


Anthem Film and Culture

Table of Contents

Part I: Making an Entrance; Part II: A Performance of Cinephilic Life.


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