The Irishman-esque digital de-ageing: How tech is influencing the perception of art

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Published: January 15, 2020 3:45:12 AM

It is not the first time the technology is being used—it was used in 2006, in X-Men, and another Oscar-nominated movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), had Brad Pitt looking decades younger than his real age at the time.

The Irishman, Netflix original feature, GOAT directors, Oscar nominations, X-Men, Godfather series, Marlon Brando, Vito CorleoneIt has bagged 10 Oscar nominations, including for visual effects.

What to make of the way technology is influencing the way art is perceived? Take, for instance, the case of the Netflix original feature length film, The Irishman. It has bagged 10 Oscar nominations, including for visual effects. There is almost everything going for it—a stellar cast, including Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci, one of the GOAT directors, Martin Scorsese, and is made on a $160-million budget. But, critics are divided over the use of the de-ageing technology that allows the film to feature decades-younger Pacino, DeNiro, and Pesci for a significant length in the film. Some critics feel this deprives the viewer of a more authentic experience of the film—you have these stars looking 40 years younger than they are, but these young characters don’t move with age-typical agility because the stars playing them are old! The scenes, thus, seem “faux”.

It is not the first time the technology is being used—it was used in 2006, in X-Men, and another Oscar-nominated movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), had Brad Pitt looking decades younger than his real age at the time. But, this is perhaps the first time that it has been used so extensively—indeed, a big chunk of the movie’s budget went to visual effects. But, does such technology make an actor’s performance less real, or, more correctly, are viewers likely to perceive it that way? De-ageing technology has evolved a lot, but, clearly, there are aspects of the performance that this technology can’t bring in sync with youth. And, if the use of the technology is going to make performances seem less credible, it would be a loss to the art and the beholder. It is ironical that De Niro shot to fame playing the younger version of Marlon Brando’s iconic character, Vito Corleone, in the Godfather series. Today, his performance as a digitally-altered younger version of himself is nominated for an Oscar, but opinion seems divided.

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