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Mise En Scene The stage pictures of the film world
Analyzing Scenes We have spent quite a bit of time this year analyzing scenes in theatre. We have looked closely at blocking and movement, we have discussed set, costumes and props, and of course characters and characterization
In the world of film, similar ideas are taken into consideration
“Mise-en-scene” is a term for this type of scene analysis
Mise-en-scene originally a French theatrical term, meaning “placing on stage.”
For the student of film, a useful definition might be: ‘the contents of the frame and the way they are organised’.
Mise-en-scene, then, is the manipulation of staging and action within a shot during the filming,
So, what do directors need to take into account when staging a shot? … lighting, costume, decor, properties, and the actors themselves
… framing, camera movement, the particular lens employed and other photographic decisions.
Mise-en-scene therefore encompasses both what the audience can see, and the way that we are invited to see it.
Mise-en-scene is the process of visualizing all aspects of a scene I think that one of the biggest problems that we have in our business is the inability of people to visualize. Imagine a composer sitting down with a blank music sheet in front of him, and a full orchestra. “Flute, give me a note if you please. Yes, thank you very much,” and he writes it down. It’s the same thing, but a man can compose music directly on paper and what’s the result? It comes out as gorgeous sounds. The visual, to me, is a vital element in this work. I don’t think it is studied enough.
--director Alfred Hitchcock, Directing the Film
Systemic Mise-en-scene Analysis In a step-by-step Mise-en-scene analysis of a scene, what specific questions should be asked?
Shot and camera proxemics What type of shot is it? Extreme close-up/close-up/medium close/medium/medium long shot/long shot? Where does this direct our focus?
How far way from the action is the camera? In the scene from Psycho, most of the action is a medium close-up, as Hitchcock emphasizes the small space of the shower (and avoids showing any nudity)
Angles Are we looking up or down on the subject, or is the camera neutral (eye-level)?
High Angle ”looks” down on the subject
Low Angle “looks” up at the subject Flat Angle the camera is at eye level and on the same plane as the subject
In the Psycho scene, most of the scene is shot at a flat angle, placing us in the scene with the victic and the killer. However, the shots of the shower heard are from a low angle, again putting us into the victim’s shoes to increase suspense
Lens/Filter/Colour How do these distort or comment on the photographed material?
For example, in this image an amber filter on the camera makes the entire scene look like it is lit by the orange glow of candles, even though in reality the scene would have been filmed in a reasonably well lit room.
Lens/Filter/Stock cont’d Directors will often play with different camera lenses, filters, or stock (types of film) to achieve a certain look.
In The O.C., one of the greatest T.V. shows of all time, every time the characters visit the grungy, poor neighbourhood called Chino, a dirty, grainy lens was placed on the camera in order to make Chino seem rougher and poorer than the nearby rich Orange County.
Lighting Style High or low key? High contrast? Some combination of these?
high key lighting: bright, even illumination and few conspicuous shadows; comparatively little contrast between the light and dark areas of the shot--used most often in comedies or musicals
low key lighting: emphasizes diffused shadows and atmospheric pools of light; there is a strong contrast between light and dark areas of the shot--used often in atmospheric thrillers, horror or noir
high contrast: harsh shafts of light and dramatic streaks of blackness
High Key Lighting
Use of high contrast to heighten drama
Composition What is dominant in the scene? Where does our eye travel first? Why does our eye travel to the dominant area first? Is it use of light? Placement on the screen? Camera angle? Motion? Intrinsic interest (that is, what is happening in the story)? This concept is very similar to focus in stage pictures
Composition Continued What are the subsidiary contrasts to the dominant image?
That is, where does our eye travel after we have taken in the dominant image? Why?
Density and Depth How dense is the texture of the mise-en-scene? How many different stimuli do we take in at once, and how are these significant?
Is the background to the scene important or symbolic? Is the emptiness of the scene important or symbolic? On how many planes is the image composed? Does the background or foreground comment in any way on the midground?
Framing “the amount of open space within the territory of the frame” tightly framed: a close shot--often suggests entrapment or confinement
loosely framed or wide framed: a long shot—often suggests freedom
internal framing: the suggestion of entrapment by using a neutral object (such as a doorway or window frame) to symbolically “confine” a figure
Do the characters have no room to move around in, or can they move freely without impediments?
What does this suggest about the characters or their situation? How does it make the audience feel?
Stage Positions and Characters Proxemics Staging positions Which way do the characters look vis-à-vis the camera?
Character proxemics. How much space is there between the characters and objects?
What does this suggest about the focus of each character? What does this suggest about the relationship between characters, and about their environment?
Actors! And of course, it goes almost without saying that the director must take into account the actors
How do they look, what are there costumes, what is their makeup, how do they say it
Etc. Etc. Etc. For hours and hours and hours. Shot after shot after shot.
And anything else the director wants … As you can see, directors must take into account an overwhelming number of factors when planning each scene – and indeed, each shot
You would be amazed how much time can be lost of a film set to these sorts of issues
Anyone working in film – including actors – requires and understanding of the importance of these elements to successful filmmaking
The O.C. The O.C. is the best Therefore, we are going to watch the pilot episode and stop in several places to consider elements of Mise-enscene
Then, I will give you your next assignment. Which, you guessed it, will be a Mise-en-scene analysis of a scene of your choice.