Blesok no. 28, September-October, 2002
Theatre Reviews


The Impressionable Naturalness of the Style
- Risto Shishkov as an actor in the TV-medium -

Goran Trenčovski


     We often had an opportunity to face ourselves with the archived glances from the film and TV screen, and along with that, considering the components of the historical values on their acting performances, we note the intermittent changes between the naturally convincing above the artificial non-convincing acting performances, or vice versa. After the kilometers of edited film (and/or video) tape (already as firm and precious rarities), it’s quite clear that the impressionable naturalness of the film alchemy of the actor’s expression can enchant even after the first frames of the film deed, in which, in reasonable amounts – the actor used his own emotion as a binding fluid between the author/director and the audience. But in the same time, we witness the quite long row of the film titles, in which, for the actions of some characters we claim that they seem artificial. Exactly in that antagonistic variety of the acting performances exists the wholeness of the film-image suggestibility, as a record, document or fiction. The extraordinary film-acting format of Risto Šiškov we can only define as a whole of the examples in the nourishing of the natural relationship with the camera eye, producing the performances freed from the clichés and standard (common, plain, simple, etc.) patterns and solutions.
     To speak (or write) with arguments for the “film-man” Risto Šiškov is a firm challenge because of the numerous aspects – generally literary or strictly cinematographic. Considering numerous researchers of the acting performance phenomenon, and looking from the aspect of our art situation, we can note that the claim about the (at least) three key levels (phases) in the development of the Macedonian art in the acting performance, are marked with the works of the representative actors of certain generations, namely: Petre Prličko, Risto Šiškov and Nenad Stojanovski. After the third one, it’s really difficult to select the most specific acting-style representative of the newest generations. Our experience guides us to the notion that, maybe, few more years are needed for that, who knows. In this particular “Šiškov” case, until now, the most of the researches on his acting performances are being done upon his theater acting performances. Now, looking upon his intermedia opus (in whole), we can verify numerous and complex acting performances of his – in the TV medium. The most of them can show that he’s a serious and deeply profound carrier of numerous main roles. But, is it possible to reconstruct some of the elements that make the existence of the “Šiškov phenomenon in this media?! Surely – yes, but we instantly face the question of the comprehending his specific model of acting performance. Moreover, especially now, when we speak of his participation in numerous TV, film and radio projects.
     One evening, in the midst of the 70’s, from the small screen of the black&white TV-set newly-bought by my parents, label „Ambassador“, the presenter of the Skopje TV-News informed us that some new TV-feature serial starts, with duration of six episodes. The same summer, because of the popularity of that TV-serial named as The Way Toward the Future, this man-actor in white shirt named by many as – Shile, made quite an impression on the TV-audience in the summer camp in Star Dojran, among which was me myself, then just a little kid. In the chapter “Abducted Hope”, from the interesting published book about this actor, the TV-director Dushan Naumovski, lively encloses the intimate contacts of his, on the relation director-actor with Šiškov, recalling the long years of creative co-work of theirs in the field of the TV-medium
[1]. Further, as I recall, this actor’s name became a synonym of the domestic TV-production, and in no-time, there appeared his unforgettable roles in “The Sunset Above the Land of Lakes“, “The Magic Saddle“, “The Longest Journey”, and many other excellent performances of that kind. Putting this personal and mosaic memories in public, directly linked with my interest on the film actor Šiškov, whom I never saw in theatar, I would add the fact that my own study made for my University entering-exams was on the theme of the film-adaptation of the Chingo’s anthological story “Zurlo’s Greatest Day”, and this dramaturgy analysis was so highly colored with Risto Šiškov and my imaginary “encounters” with him. I think that I thoroughly defended my imaginary thesis that Šiškov would be the most authentic interpreter of the role as Zurlo. Then, in front of me, there were the high authorities (until then, known to me only from TV) as Branko Plesha, Rade Markovic and Rade Sherbedzija, beside the man who were the mentor of the theater & film directors class I’ve applied to, with that exam. That happened only two years after the death of Šiškov, to whom the Strumica Theatar “Anton Panov” dedicated the play “The Great Python”. The spirit of Risto Šiškov seemed to wander around and within that cult play for the Strumica ensemble. Anyway, he made his first acting performances on the battens of this town’s theater scene.[2]
     The approaches toward the acting style performance’s dissemination are various. The film critic makes, in its own ways, a vivisection of the style-concepts of the acting performances in the film medium, by the nomenclature of the French theoretician Marcell Marten, extracting Risto Šiškov in the examples of the expansionistic style, placing him side by side with actors like Laurence Olivier, Nikolay Cherkasov i Toshiro Mifune. This film acting style “is the concept by which the acting performance abandons the conventions of the realistic play and the actor strives to the stylization close (by some of its specific marks) to the theatricality of the game“[3]. From the other side of things, what’s different at the expansionistic style, is the “the amount of the overstepping of the expression[4] (highlighted by G.T.). By the analyzes on the actor’s art-means of Šiškov in three TV films: “Tabakerata”[5], “The Diogenes Paradox”[6] and “Rainy Sun”[7], we can conclude that we speak of a rarity model of acting performance, which analogues with a lot of the great actors’ acting modalities worldwide (an it isn’t by chance when many mark Risto Šiškov as – the Macedonian Marlon Brando.) All mentioned TV deeds are made in the period of ten years. In that period (since 1972 until 1978) one can openly observe the process of strengthening the style characteristics of this suggestive actor, in his acting in front of the camera. The first screening of the TV-film “Tabakerata” was of a significant value for the further path of Šiškov’s career. Since this early example, one can prove the significant sense of Šiškov in building of the drama characters. “… By the logic of the transparent narration, this train encounter invokes (as a motif) the motif of the recognition. Sulejman-beg will recognize Goce Delčev – that’s the logical, expected order of things that we look out for from a adventure chronotop”[8] (highlighted by G.T.). And in all of his posterior examples later, Šiškov manifests high coefficient of selectivity in the choice of his roles.
     And instead of the argumentation on the specific impressionability of his style, here I place one sequence for each of the mentioned deeds, where the acting style and performance’s specifics of Risto Šiškov is described: two TV-films (one of them is a short-length feature, and the other is a middle-length one) and one TV-drama. His transforming diapason of roles lay within the sphere of the same drama-expression, although at some moments he shows some affinity for a discreet irony and grotesque. “Between the tears and laughter, Šiškov chose the first one, letting it to crawl down his chick, and to drop down on the hot dust at the ground.”[9] Now, let’s look on the three selected examples from Šiškov’s, modest by number, but filigree-like acting opus in the field of the TV art.

Example 1
: the role of GOCE Delčev in “Tabakerata” through the analyzed sequence named “r e c o g n i t i o n” of 17 scenes; Risto Šiškov and Blagoja Chorevski
1. Middle plan of Šiškov. (“You haven’t been in Kukush for a long time?”)
2. Middle plan of the partner. (“Yes, more than a ten years”; Šiškov in “off”: “And, what were your studies?”; “Law, on Sorbonne”, he replies.)
3. Middle plan of Šiškov.
4. “American” of the Turkish police officers who search the train.
5. Close-up of the partner.
6. Middle plan. Šiškov shows something to the partner through the window of the moving train.
7. Middle plan. Turkish police officer looking into the coupe.
8. Middle plan. Šiškov and the partner observe each other.
9. Close-up on Šiškov.
10. Close-up on the partner. (“A lot of policemen in our trains.”)
11. Close-up on Šiškov. (“Thank God for that. A man isn’t save anywhere. Even on the trains one can encounter villains.”)
12. Middle plan on the partner. (“Really? So, it’s true… Some time ago, in Paris, some high Turkish diplomat came and he spread the story that in Macedonia appeared the rebel ‘with wings’. He wandered everywhere, and nor the police nor the army couldn’t catch him. There is a reward of a thousand gold coins for his head.”)
13. Middle plan on Šiškov. („Well, well, who knows what would be next?”)
14. Close-up on the partner. („I think that your head worth more.”)
15. Close-up on Šiškov. („Not my merchant’s head, full of textile, salt, oil, wax?!”)
16. Close-up on the partner. (“You are Goce Delčev.”)
17. Close-up on Šiškov.
     In this sequence we can follow, in continuity, the extraordinary strictly dozed micro-reactions by Šiškov, which are produced by two certain phenomena: first, by the fear of getting captured by the police, and as second, by the suspense of the pleasant conversation with the (not to forget – the Turkish although) friend from his childhood. During the whole time, he expresses the holding-back attitude in his play with the partner, but at the same time, his relationship with the camera is full of the constrained thrill up to the edge of the needed dramatic tension.

Example 2
: the role of DRASHKO KAROVSKI in “The Diogenes Paradox” through the sequence “d e f e n s e” with duration of 20 sec.
Middle plan of Šiškov.
“… What do you want from me?”
Brief pause.
“… The ‘Splendid’ hotel didn’t collapse because of my wife’s dullness or excellence, but only because of my faults…”
Brief pause.
“… Why do you place such comedies here?”
Brief pause.
“… I’m not the only one with the guilt on his head…”
Brief pause.
“… Why you just don’t stop this silly – who, what and why?”
Brief pause.
“… Shoot me, hang me!”
Brief pause.
“… I spit on your defenders and prosecutors!”
     In this sequence, in which Šiškov plays a monologue form in front of the auditorium in the courthouse, we can note the brilliant blend of an impulsive, almost revolted charge during the interpretation of his text with, figuratively speaking, the intelligent fight for reaching the justice. This kind of expressing the almost crazy, but still sufficiently focused and shaped in a positivistic manner – individual rebellion, signifies the epithet of a special harmony in this actor’s performance.

Example 3
: the role of LEDENIK in “Rainy Sun” through the scene “m e d i t a t i o n”; with duration of 6,5 min.
     In this sequence (by the way – it’s the starting sequence), Šiškov produces the meticulous lyrical articulation during his reading the contents of the letter, in spite of the fact that as an illustration base, some scenes of the exotic small town are edited in the sequence. Along the way, the emotional charge of his voice that runs the narration is at the same dramatic level as the showing images.

*   *   *

     The TV camera recorded Šiškov as a unique, alive character with some biographic characteristics, like those from the Neo-realism. By the telling of his colleagues and co-workers, and also according to the preserved film materials with his film and TV roles, it’s more than clear that he didn’t spare himself in his work (making “doubles”, etc.), always acting in his full strength and capacity. Therefore, now we can only extract and express the great and doubtless support for his original contribution within the Macedonian film and TV art, evaluating his respective actors opus in that sphere as a paradigmatic and very specific (even we can say – special), with the consequent and emphasized style line of his impressionability high above the average.

Translated by: Petar Volnarovski


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1 See: Goce Ristovski, Šiškov: The Way Risto Šiškov Lived and Died, Skopje, 1999, 104-111.
2 Compare with THE STEPS ON THE STARRY BATTEN: A Contribution on the Researches on the Phenomenon Called Strumica Theater (monograph), by Goran Trenchovski, Strumica, 1999, 137.
3 A quote by Georgi Vasilevski, “The Mimetic Value of the Captured Moment and the Chained Reality”, in: ACTING AND DIRECTING IN THE MACEDONIAN THEATER (miscellany), by Jelena Luzina, Prilep, 1999, 73.
4 Ibid., 73.
5 TV-film, directed by Dushan Naumovski, scenario by Tashko Georgievski, by the same-named story of Gjorgi Abadziev, D.O.P. Dobri Janevski, editing by Boris Mirchevski, 38 min., TV Skopje, 1972.
6 TV-drama, directed by Aco Aleksov, scenario adaptation of the same-named theater play by Tome Arsovski, D.O.P. Pero Stojanovski, 98 min., TV Skopje, 1975 god.
7 TV-film, written and directed by Kole Malinov, by the story “Love in the Kasaba“ by Ivo Andrić, D.O.P. Dragi Tanevski, edited by Boris Mirchevski, music by Ljubomir Brandjolica, 62 min., TV Skopje, 1978.
8 A quote by Jadranka Vladova, THE MAGIC OF THE WORDS, Skopje, 1993, 40.
9 Branko Stavrev, DELOS or Floating Island, Skopje, 1992, 39.



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