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Performers of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of August - Cara Delevingne



The article was written by Ellys Cartin and Gina Kern. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

One of the greatest gifts is the exhilaration of being engulfed in a brand-new story through the eyes of one of its heroes. Cara Delevingne's performance in Kingdom of the Moons (1x3) in Carnival Row, is such a gift. She plays Vignette Stonemoss, a fairy trying to protect the country and people she loves in the midst of war. Every one of Delevingne's scenes is electric, as her complete immersion in Vignette's personality makes every heartbreak and thrill contagious. In this single episode, Delevingne conveys not only her character's dauntless spirit but also builds a connection for viewers to Vignette's entire world, enabling us to feel every shred of her grief and yearning when everything that matters to her is being torn away. She soars just as magnificently through the more peaceful scenes, not so much creating magic in this story as bringing the entire story to life. For her luminescent performance, Cara Delevingne has been named SpoilerTV Staff Choice Performer of the Month for August.

Delevingne memorably sets the tone for her character in Vignette's first scene of the episode. Vignette drops out of the darkness to hold a blade to Philo (Orlando Bloom) who has unwittingly trespassed in the library, of which she is the sworn steward. The first thing you see is her eyes, burning with indignation and purpose. There's a ring of pride in Vignette's voice when she mentions her status. Even as she grips his coat and holds the knife to his throat, though, you hear the briefest waver in Vignette's voice suggesting her uncertainty at how to proceed. When she talks about the library, the passion in her voice for its history and meaning enhances how formidable she is, the small part of her that is fearful in that moment is afraid for the library, not herself. Delevingne lets countless unspoken threats play across her face and out of her gaze when Vignette faces Philo and warns him to keep his word. When he leaves, she finally exhales, although the tension doesn't leave her posture. She continues to observe Philo from afar with a calm watchful glare that signifies her perseverance and caution. She is determined to not let her guard down.

When Philo later recruits Vignette to help with restringing a telegraph line, Delevingne slowly unfurls her character and shows more of Vignette's mettle. The scene here requires Vignette to fly, and it's noteworthy how Delevingne shapes realism. She straightens her frame to the point you can almost feel her lifting off the ground when her wings are meant to be propelling her. The wind buffets Vignette's face, but she smiles, thrilled by the exertion. You know she is comfortable in this dangerous space because it is familiar to her as a faerie, as solid as standing on the ground is to a person. That same body language is present when Vignette sits on the edge of a cliff, serenely sharpening her knife. The location isn't important what is important is the way she is nonchalantly conversing with Philo while quite thoroughly attending to her knife. Delevingne eases in other parts of Vignette here, her curiosity and humor. The cadence of her voice becomes more lyrical as if she might laugh, when she derides the premise of Philo's favorite book, The Kingdom of the Moons, with an amused smile. When Vignette points out a man reaching the moon is unlikely, Delevingne delivers the line with no trace of irony. She speaks only common sense, for this world, and it's here you start to recognize how Delevingne's performance is crucial to this entire show. Vignette is a character who always feels completely whole in whatever moment she is in. While other characters are moved by the story, Vignette seems to exist outside of it. She brings the show an authenticity that expands it in a myriad of invaluable ways. She is so alive, and her portrayer Delevingne so completely invisible, that everything and everyone Vignette touches gains life by association. When she opens Philo's book, Vignette speaks her name aloud for the first time in the episode. He is surprised, so she repeats herself very matter-of-factly because she is Vignette, she always has been and always will be. In this scene, Vignette also saves Philo's life when he's attacked by a marrok. The same strength and adrenaline that she threatened him within the library enable her to not only slay the marrok but also to pull Philo to safety. There is relief in her eyes when they are both standing there, an emotion that Delevingne brilliantly displays. Her body stance is calm because little physical exertion was required. She had the power already to save someone in danger. Her relief is borne from emotional conflict because Philo was the person in danger.

As Vignette's affection for Philo increases, Delevingne continues to open up the show's world, just as her character opens her heart. Vignette comes to find Philo to tell him she finished reading the book he lent her. She takes charge of the interaction, beginning with a jest about how he's sitting too close to the edge. When he asks how she's liking the book, she drops down to sit alongside him, carefully taking out the book and casually mentioning she liked it. Vignette expands on why the book appealed to her, and she radiates an enthusiasm familiar to anyone who has fallen in love with a good story. For a moment in the conversation, one can even see her slip away to relive a part of the story in her mind. Philo politely interrupts her happy recollections to mention that he's glad she appreciated the story. She looks at him for a long second and quietly, sincerely, tells him she loved it. When Philo responds by offering her the book, Vignette is so thoroughly delighted that her composure breaks. She overcorrects after giving Philo a big smile and thanks him in a faintly gruff voice. Her natural boldness returns at once, and she invites him to come see inside the library. Throughout this scene, Delevingne strengthens the connection between her character and Bloom's. There's an air of joy and pride in Vignette's nonverbal response to Philo referring to the library as being hers.

The arrival of a group of faeries fleeing the armed conflict ushers in another important facet of Vignette's life: her best friend and past love Tourmaline (Karla Crome). When Vignette spots Tourmaline, she swoops down to snatch her in a fierce hug, mixing a touch of anger into Vignette's gentle ministrations to help her weak friend. She listens with a quiet, angry expression as her hands rip apart plants which she grinds into a poultice. She is very gentle when she takes Tourmaline's hands in her own and applies the treatment. Vignette is quick to kiss those same hands when she tells Tourmaline what they had didn't end but instead changed into their current friendship. Telling Tourmaline about Philo, however, brings Vignette's own unsettled emotions to the surface. Even as she continues to care for Tourmaline, Vignette's voice becomes defensive as if Tourmaline has reproached her. When Tourmaline suggests that he will most likely leave when the war reaches a turning point, Vignette moves away, and her face is knotted with sadness.

She carries those doubts into the next scene with Philo, in which Vignette challenges him on what he sees happening in their future. She is withdrawn for the first time, almost cold, as she contemplates his answers. When Philo tells her, she gives him a sense of coming home, Vignette is surprised. He turns away, and she carefully examines the scars on his back, scars she caught a glimpse of before and tenderly but barely touched. He wrote them off as something he had always had, but she looks at them this time with a burst of compassion, quietly moving a step closer to him. Wonder and hurt on his behalf wells up in her eyes as she softly lays her palms exactly where his wings would have been. Instinctively, Philo begins to pull away, hurrying to put his shirt back on and saying she must think less of him for hiding it. Vignette doesn't allow his assumptions to last. She throws her arms around him, cloaking his back as the wings would have, and brushes a lock of his hair away from his cheek. They lie side-by-side on the library floor, and she listens to his own story, not so different from the one in the book he loves. It's a quiet scene, but it conveys so much about the mutual comfort Philo and Vignette find in each other.

As the time for evacuation draws closer, Vignette bids farewell to her loved ones. She shares a quick, heartfelt goodbye with Tourmaline, reminding her friend she loves her. The weight of the parting is in how Delevingne lingers when Vignette places her hands on the sides of Tourmaline's head and buries her face deep into her friend's scarf, reluctant to let go. Vignette is told to close the library, as everyone is packing up to leave with the fae and soldiers going their separate ways. Philo catches up to her to say she should go with the fae. Vignette shouts in his face that she will not leave him. Her courage is a ferocious beast that will not be contained, and Delevingne makes her so forceful here that she seems to tower over Philo. She tells him they can leave together, cross the mountains to start a life together. When he agrees, there is pure contentment on her face. She locks him in a hug and leaves him with a symbol of her heart. Their exchange of love is perhaps the second most devastating moment of the episode as her goodbye is full of purpose as she's already thinking of seeing him again.

Delevingne has the perfect intensity and sense of urgency as Vignette seals the library to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. When Vignette is told Philo has died, she slowly crumples, fighting back tears of denial. She tries to run back towards the village to find him, fighting against the others trying to hold her. Her face is torn and twisted with raging grief. You can feel her struggling to recover from the blow that struck her. Even as Vignette is pulled back, carried away by the other fairies, Delevingne continues to have her wrestle with them. The way she resists adds to the emotional impact, because her movements are so clunky. They are desperate actions borne of the pain. This scene transitions into the closing minutes that are set in the present storyline. Delevingne plays this conversation as if Vignette’s wounds are newly fresh, and she is clawing for answers not to soothe the hurt but to help her understand Philo’s actions. In the middle of the conversation, Vignette recognizes the truth that what Philo did was the result of his own personal torment. She pauses for a second, and you can see her shove down the desire to protect him. She reprimands him instead, with Delevingne so effectively breaking our hearts as she gathers up all the emotions in her face and puts them away. Vignette gives Philo a look of contempt and flies up out of his sight; it’s the first time this scene set in the pouring rain feels cold. Delevingne’s performance makes these scenes almost unbearably gripping, ensuring that viewers will both need and want to continue this story.

Cara Delevingne has said that she was drawn to Vignette's strength, how she has so much of it and how that same strength is her biggest challenge. In an episode that focuses on how Vignette protects, loves, fights and grieves with every ounce of herself, Delevingne truly embodies her character by doing nothing in half-measure. Crafting a performance of this caliber so early in a show's run requires nothing less than absolute dedication. It would be an oversimplification to call this performance magical when Delevingne's work does not merely enthrall us with Vignette but also absolutely transposes us into Vignette's world. She has crafted the rare new character that instantly captivates, and her performance was recognized by the SpoilerTV who chose her as August's Staff Choice Outstanding Performer of the Month.

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