• Ivan Jovic

Standing on the Tower of Lights

Ivan Jović: (short essay on acting) - Translated from Serbian



"....She tells me, quite seriously, that we should go and live in a light tower, in Brittany, where we were in our youth. On the island of Ouessant. He says let's calm down once. Then a sentence in Spanish comes to my mind: to calm down only the dead - se quedan solo los muertos. (Milos Crnjanski)"

..."Only when we leave the theater does its real effect begin - while every party stops coming out of the hall. We are talking, then, about art that has a revolutionary character - but an internal revolutionary character;"

Considering the further course of this consideration, it seems that it cannot be without the attitude attributed to the diva of old Hollywood, Bette Davis: "Acting should be bigger than life. Scenarios should be bigger than life. All this should be greater than life. ”So the condition for the following ideas to be understood in the right way is that the main precondition for their understanding be based on art that is“ bigger than life ”and that testifies to universal values, those that have the power to search; in the art that addresses us long after the departure of the one who embodied it.


This "limitation" must be expressed at the beginning - acting, as an interpretive skill that aims to entertain, to agitate daily, to be useful, utilitarian social commentary - is not the subject of this consideration. The basic condition for consideration is, therefore, still an artistically inviolable template - a text whose value exists independently of the actor who embodies it on stage. Just as we could claim that the liturgy for the one who experienced it continues after leaving the temple, because man then begins to live it in his daily relationships, as he absorbs the light that allows him to change - so it is after an artistically strong theatrical experience .


After leaving the theater, we begin to experience change - and that feeling or state that remains with us is what separates great, high art from low and small. Only when we leave the theater does its real effect begin - while every party stops coming out of the hall. We are talking, then, about art that has a revolutionary character - but an internal revolutionary character; which changes and rethinks both the one who creates it and the one who receives it. We believe that what testifies to the importance of a work of art is its capacity to change us, to permanently influence us by becoming part of our inner repository, an experience as important as our intimate memories.


In those moments when the actor's art leaves us breathless, allows us to empathize with the character and finally leads to catharsis - we are left with the question of what we actually attended, with the feeling that we attended a mysterious transformation, experience a bit mystical. At the same time, we are aware that the actor in front of us is only the most advanced point of a more extensive artistic endeavor - before him there was a text, then directing.


Here we can create the image of "standing on the tower of light" - we can experience the writer and director as someone standing on the tower above the sea and watching the open sea, like a guard whose job is to light a fire on that tower that ships will see in the distance. That fire from the tower of lights is an actor - the passengers on the ships are the people in the audience - if we are to be consistent in this metaphor. This, then, is seeing the actor as a bearer of light; more precisely - in order for that experience to be fully functional, the actor must be more than that - he must be light.


We believe that this happens only when the acting is understood as a testimony and not as a representation of a certain character. Just as in other arts, the criterion of expressing one's own experiences and one's own personality applies - we must see that in top acting as well - it is not and cannot be just playing characters; it is not a symbol but a reality. Thus, we come to important connections with iconic art in which the icon depicts the secret of the person, but also its deep divine - therefore superpersonal paradigm. What such an actor gives on stage is reality and not a symbol of reality.


In the literature, we find a distinction between three types of consciousness in the theory of acting - the so-called three-layer consciousness in which common sense consciousness represents the controller of the game through rational frameworks of existence on stage, which keep the actor from psychopathological empathy. Then follows the over-self, which acts at the moment of inspiration, when the creative subconscious takes control of the creative processes, eliminating the rational.


Finally, there is the third layer - the game of character consciousness, generated from the subconscious; embodied in the transformation of feeling into compassion, completely cleansed of egoism. We could call this psychological stratification.

If we reached for the spiritual stratification of the art of acting, we could present the construction of the character anew through the icon, through the threefold relationship between the icon painter, the icon and Christ. At this level we are talking about the text - both as a literary template and as a specific director's manuscript (icon painter); then about the character that the actor confesses (icon); and about pralik, the universal paradigm without which there is no deeper content (Christ). This deepest content is embodied in the charisma of the actor, in his very being from which he acts, and not in the aesthetics of the character. Without this charismatic layer, there is no deeper content, but we are looking at an empty picture on the stage.


On a small Cycladic island, I had the opportunity to see the miraculous local icon of the Mother of God, which has completely lost its visible image. Beneath the wrought silver is a completely blackened figure of the Mother of God and her divine Son, attracting people to fall to their knees in prayer. Even completely deprived of any aesthetics, but with a being that pulsates with pure charisma - that is the mystical dimension that takes place in front of us on the stage in the presence of great acting.


Without that deepest dimension in which the original is reflected - the actor generates an empty image that has no deep meaning and does not lead the viewer to rethink or catharsis. In order for an actor to achieve that, he dies for the world - he extinguishes his own ego and plays for the audience with the intention of transforming it, not liking it. It is a process of translation, of bringing to an intuitive realization of what is behind life.


Following this spiritual methodology, the actor overcomes death because, in a way, he always goes through it again and again. We believe that acting makes sense only in the ambition of victory over death - in the theater, where nothing remains behind a specific performance - behind the actor there is only a trace of change in himself and in the audience. This change takes place precisely through the ascension of the charismatic third dimension, through the eternal, universal primordial. The encounter with the first character is what transforms the audience to the same extent that it transforms the actor on the stage. In one sense, the actor with the appearance on the stage - goes down to the grave; offering a sacrifice, putting yourself, your ego, on that altar, becoming "crazy for Christ's sake" or, to be consistent, "crazy for the first time". This is what he shines with and that is why this experience is very special and unique for the audience in relation to all the long available aesthetic experiences (reading an artistic text, listening to music or experiencing a work of art). The ritual that worship has, which was also possessed by the ancient theater, is deeply scenic and is at the core of our archetypal theatrical experience. That is why the viewer has the experience of participating in a ritual whose meaning, if the work is successful, always remains "behind", mystical and hidden and inexpressible to the end - an experience that eludes final objectification and is basically unrepeatable.


To achieve this, the actor confesses his character, just as a faithful does in the sacrament of confession; through this act he learns about it, which creates the conditions for the person and the character to unite - the actor must therefore know about the character what neither the director nor the author of the text who conceived the character knows about him. That relationship between the actor and the character, the person and the character is, therefore, connected by a sacred secret. This is true for both positive and negative characters who are portrayed on stage.

The villain bears witness to scattered humanity, a "little god in the mud" - and the actor can live on stage only after he has confessed - and then the truth of the relationship between what the character and the person exchanged is played. This is, therefore, all the taking of the light that must already exist in the text - and which then spills over to all the links in the chain of creation - all the way to the actor whose task is to constantly shine ships from the tower.

By the joy of that light, the actor can know if he is on the right path; by the joy of the game which introduces the fulfillment of sorrow that the limits of the soul are felt in which nothing else can be accepted into oneself. That overcrowding could be defined as joyful sorrow. As in other cases, it must be validated in the performing arts by distinguishing spirits: this experience must not be empty euphoria but possess the quality of silence of the spirit, which must not be shaken by the noise of applause. In the end, every theatrical performance ended with the lights being turned on in the audience, and by turning off the lights on the stage - the stage returns to the darkness - the light was transmitted.


The light traveled from the tower of light to those on the ships that are now, transformed, spreading further around the world.

Cover photo: From the shooting of the film Shady Mediterranean,

author Milan Kolarski


Ivan Jović, director








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