The Fourth Element: The Powerful and Invisible Element of Rhythm

We come to the last of the 4 elements of human communication. This one is a little more complex and harder to define. I call it the invisible element because it is something we don’t see as much as sense. It is like the air we breathe but do not see. Thought, Action, Behavior are buoyed by it. We all have different rhythms and each of us has different rhythms depending on our mood, what we think, if we are hungry or have just had a big meal. 
Picking up other people’s rhythms
If somebody you know comes into work or comes home, and you pick something up about their movement that tells you what kind of mood they are in. You know something’s wrong. You pick up their rhythm. There are people you would experience as very cold or energetic, then something changes. It is often rhythm. People’s rhythms affect us deeply. It can produce euphoria or dread within milliseconds. We can experience this sitting next to someone on the subway, a bus, or an airplane. We feel a certain vibration or rhythm. It can produce a “sicky” feeling. It can get oddly nerve wracking. We often use people’s behavior to determine a truth from a lie. We also pick up a lie based on timing (rhythm)

For example:
Say you want someone to come see a movie with you on a Saturday night: the length of the pause or the speed of their response will determine whether someone wants to go or not. A short pause will tell you that you’re not so sure whether they want to or not. It will quickly tell you if they are excited to go, just waiting for you to ask. Obviously rhythm doesn’t operate in a vacuum. We often require more detail to understand and confirm one’s suspicions ie. match it with other physical behaviors to determine the full extent of the meaning of the communication. It doesn’t take much more than a microsecond to know what’s going on with the other person. 

When you’re in the beginnings phases of a relationship. Oh my god! The attention to detail. We think animals mating habits are ridiculous. Human behavior is no different. Knees touching for just a split second: so many clues depending on how long the touch lingers. Speed is also a factor i.e. if the pull away or advance is to slow or fast. On a more serious note a woman’s ability to read these signs is the difference between a good night and a bad night or between horrible memories and good memories. One’s very safety is dependent on our ability to read these elements. 

Prepping for a Role
In review: What does this have to do with prepping for a role? Analyzing character, understanding story and relationships? Plenty! Often what we call subtext (a useless 19th / early 20th century concept) Is experiencing the invisible power of rhythm. Or as Robert McKee says…..

“The length of scenes establishes the rhythm, but the tempo within them establishes the energy.” Story, character and relationship are bound and revealed through what McKee says “to understand the unconscious desire” you must look at the “unsayable: the thoughts and feelings that can never consciously be shared.”