A great example of using body language to tell more of a story than you got time to say in words is a scene in the movie Independence Day.
I still remember reading the novelization of the film as a kid. The part where we meet Russell Case’s kids. We are introduced to a throw-away character who’s whole point in existing is to unveil that the missing character (Russell) has got a serious problem: a drinking problem. That’s a problem that (as yet to be revealed) got him spraying the wrong field with his plane. In this scene, the guy accosts Miguel Case with a handful of his dried up and rotten crops. Now, in the book version (and this part has stuck with me for all these years, only being loosened like a ripe fruit from its branch when I got way too drunk one night) there is an entire back story that has this man feeling bad for Russell because of the hard hand life has dealt him—his wife passing…yaddy yadda yaaa. But in the movie, in one single scene, you see all that back story with him remonstrating the boy all pissed off at first, “you see these,” he scolds, “I got a whole goddamn crop full of these!” Then he throws the muck down on the ground along with the rest of his ire. But in the next beat, there is a split second where all that commiseration stemming from knowing what Russell’s whole family has gone through seeps out in his eyes, and a simple, compassionate nod of his head. It says all you need to know: that there is so much more you don’t want to know. It’s all preserved in only one single gesture. Against his better judgment, (and all the less stressful alternative options at his disposal) the farmer warns, “If ur father’s not there in 20 minutes…” cue in that beautiful, poignant gesture that says all the things not said with dialogue, “…I’m getting someone else.” Wonderful acting, wonderful editing. Wonderful scene.
Body language can say more than a thousand words can sometimes. Because speaking wasn’t always our first way of speaking to each other.