mise en scene

May 16, 2020 12:48 PM
mise en scenearticle

Definition: The staging of events for the camera

  • what is put into the frame
  • B&T: a concept for understanding how a director controls what appears in the film frame.
  • OUR MODIFICATION: a concept for understanding how the elements within the frame come to signify.
  • Mise-en-scene is a group of elements that work in relation with other film elements to signify.
  • Mise-en-scene functions across a spectrum of Realism to Expressionism
  • Realism: specifity and detail

(The representation of character consciousness is a major sub-theme of the course)


  • Setting: Those elements within the frame that function to depict space, place, and time period.
  • In the cinema, setting can take on an active role, it need not be only a container for the action. [Current Example of Setting taking an Active Role: The Perfect Storm]
  • Setting can be an already existing locale, or a studio construction--either way critical decisions are made as to how the setting will signify in what way.
  • the overall design of a setting can significantly shape how we understand story action.
  • Example: The rural and simple setting of Waking Ned Devine is an important factor in mediating our judgement on the fraud that Jackie and the others are committing--it helps ally our sympathy with them.
  • setting also includes props: those objects within the setting that function within the ongoing action. (Lotto tickets, motorcycles, whiskey bottles).
  • Costume and Make-Up: The clothing and attire of characters--or lack thereof.
  • costume and make-up can function to express character situation, mood, or consciousness.
  • Example: The nakedness of Jackie and Michael as they go for a swim works to suggest their vulnerability and fraility which helps ally our sympathy with their attempt at fraud. As pointed out by someone in class, it also works to suggest their closeness, which is at the heart of what the scheme will ultimately be about: each for all.
  • costume functions through tree properties: color, texture, and movement
  • Example: The difference b/wn Morris jacket and the Lotto-Man's overcoat
  • costume can play important motivating and causal roles in the narrative
  • Example: The naked motorcycle ride
  • portions of costume can function as prop (six-gun in Westerns)
  • functions to define and articulate character
  • frequently strives for invisibility and realism.
  • Example: The make-up on Jackie makes his cheeks redder which we attribute to his walking in the cold rain, not that he is wearing make-up.
  • Example: Maggie's make-up in the bar is made to look like Maggie is wearing make-up for a special occasion--it's invisibly visible!
  • Lighting: Illumination by which objects within the frame can be seen.
  • In terms of its signifying function, lighting is more than just illumination.
  • Lighter and darker areas within the frame help create the overall composition of each shot, guiding our attention within the frame.
  • Example: Jackie watching television with Annie in the kitchen.
  • Lighting can also convey textures.
  • Example: The field-stone houses and thatch roofs are brought out by the rich lighting (of what is usually overcast and rainy Ireland) as is the smooth sleekness of the helicopter.
  • Lighting shapes objects by creating highlights and shadows.
  • Example: Jackie and Annie sitting by the fire.
  • There are four characteristics to lighting:
  • quality: refers to the relative intensity of the light--its harshness or softness
  • Example: The Ned Dream Sequence which fills the frame with light that is seemingly harsh, but is diffused and soft at several points.
  • direction: refers to the path the light takes from its source to the object being lit--directions like front, back, side, top, and under.
  • Example: Annie asking Jackie to stop the scheme is lit from underneath to show her troubled state.
  • source: refers to how many points of light illuminate an object.
  • Example: Ned's house as Jackie and Michael approach has only one source.
  • color: refers to the hue of light: invisible white, soft yellow, or tinted through filters and gels.
  • Example: The Ned Dream Sequence is filtered to give it a distinctly yellow hue.
  • Figure movement and Expression (Acting): The physical performance of character, including gestures, expressions, and actions.
  • Functions to express thoughts and feelings.
  • Example: The expressions on Jackie's face as he transforms Ned's eulogy into his gratitude for Michael's friendship.
  • can create various kinetic patterns.
  • Example: The patterns that are created in the closing shot of everyone raising their class on the cliff-side with the sun rising. The actors and their gestures start to function more as graphic figures.
  • frequently functions along a spectrum of individualized (probablistic) to stylized (expressive more than real for whatever contextual motivation).
  • Example: Though most performance in the film is individualized, the scenes of Maggie and Fin (It's the Pigs, Fin!) are stylized.