I think I’ve made it clear by now that I LOVED the new film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy . I liked so many things about it that even the idea of trying to enumerate them conjures the vivid image of trying to drink from a firehose.

But I’m happy to let other people take a shot at counting the ways. I was struck by this passage from the review by Manohla Dargis of the New York Times about the performance of John Hurt:

That face, a crevassed landscape that suggests sorrow and history, has the granitic grandeur of W. H. Auden in his later life. In tandem with Mr. Hurt’s sonorously melancholic voice (and its useful undertones of hysteria), it is a face that, when used by a filmmaker like Mr. Alfredson, speaks volumes about a character who would otherwise take reams of written dialogue to discover.

Dargis can attribute the volume-speaking to Hurt’s face and voice, but let me tell you, the acting had something to do with it as well. And this was one thing about the film that was so successful: so many of the actors in it successfully embody the strain of a lifetime spent in high-pressure contests of nerve, the weight of a past. I have written several times before on this blog about the “great spaces of life and experience” that the actor’s presence needs to evoke; when it doesn’t, we are just watching someone go through the motions. But an actor who can, by means of technique, impose the imprint of someone else’s decades of aches and longings and joys and fears upon their own neuromuscular apparatus is like is a portal onto an alternate dimension.

This is what accounts for the inexhaustibility of acting: no matter how much good acting we see (and there is a vast canon of it in the history of film that is fairly accessible through modern technology), we’ll always want to see more of it. Our thirst for the actor to engulf us in another life is undying.