Mise En SceneThe stage pictures of the film world
Analyzing Scenes We have spent quite a bit of time this year analyzingscenes in theatre. We have looked closely at blockingand movement, we have discussed set, costumes andprops, and of course characters and characterization In the world of film, similar ideas are taken intoconsideration ―Mise-en-scene‖ is a term for this type of sceneanalysis
Mise-en-scene originally a French theatrical term, meaning ―placing onstage.‖ For the student of film, a useful definition might be: ‗thecontents of the frame and the way they are organised‘. Mise-en-scene, then, is the manipulation of staging andaction within a shot during the filming,
So, what do directors need totake into account whenstaging a shot? … lighting, costume, decor, properties, and the actorsthemselves … framing, camera movement, the particular lensemployed and other photographic decisions. Mise-en-scene therefore encompasses both what theaudience can see, and the way that we are invited tosee it.
Mise-en-scene is the processof visualizing all aspects of ascene I think that one of the biggest problems that we have in ourbusiness is the inability of people to visualize. Imagine acomposer sitting down with a blank music sheet in front ofhim, and a full orchestra. ―Flute, give me a note if youplease. Yes, thank you very much,‖ and he writes it down.It‘s the same thing, but a man can compose music directlyon paper and what‘s the result? It comes out as gorgeoussounds. The visual, to me, is a vital element in this work. Idon‘t think it is studied enough. --director Alfred Hitchcock, Directing the Film
Systemic Mise-en-sceneAnalysis In a step-by-step Mise-en-scene analysis of ascene, what specific questions should be asked?
Shot and camera proxemics What type of shot is it? Extreme close-up/close-up/mediumclose/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 amedium close-up, as Hitchcock emphasizes the smallspace of the shower (and avoids showing any nudity)
Angles Are we looking up or down on the subject, or is the cameraneutral (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 sameplane as the subject In the Psycho scene, most of the scene is shot at a flatangle, placing us in the scene with the victic and the killer.However, the shots of the shower heard are from a lowangle, again putting us into the victim‘s shoes to increasesuspense
Lens/Filter/Colour How do these distort or comment on the photographedmaterial? For example, in this image an amber filter on thecamera makes the entire scene look like it is lit by theorange glow of candles, even though in reality thescene would have been filmed in a reasonably well litroom.
Lens/Filter/Stock cont‘d Directors will often play with different cameralenses, filters, or stock (types of film) to achieve acertain look. In The O.C., one of the greatest T.V. shows of alltime, every time the characters visit the grungy, poorneighbourhood called Chino, a dirty, grainy lens wasplaced on the camera in order to make Chino seemrougher and poorer than the nearby rich OrangeCounty.
Lighting Style High or low key? High contrast? Some combination ofthese? high key lighting: bright, even illumination and fewconspicuous shadows; comparatively little contrast betweenthe light and dark areas of the shot--used most often incomedies or musicals low key lighting: emphasizes diffused shadows andatmospheric pools of light; there is a strong contrastbetween light and dark areas of the shot--used often inatmospheric thrillers, horror or noir high contrast: harsh shafts of light and dramatic streaks ofblackness
Composition What is dominant in the scene? Where does our eyetravel first? Why does our eye travel to the dominant area first? Is ituse of light? Placement on the screen? Camera angle?Motion? Intrinsic interest (that is, what is happening inthe story)? This concept is very similar to focus in stage pictures
Composition Continued What are the subsidiary contrasts to the dominantimage? That is, where does our eye travel after we have takenin the dominant image? Why?
Density and Depth How dense is the texture of the mise-en-scene? Howmany different stimuli do we take in at once, and howare 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? Doesthe background or foreground comment in any way onthe midground?
Framing ―the amount of open space within the territory of the frame‖ tightly framed: a close shot--often suggests entrapment orconfinement loosely framed or wide framed: a long shot—often suggestsfreedom internal framing: the suggestion of entrapment by using a neutralobject (such as a doorway or window frame) to symbolically―confine‖ a figure Do the characters have no room to move around in, or can theymove freely without impediments? What does this suggest about the characters or their situation?How does it make the audience feel?
Stage Positions andCharacters Proxemics Staging positions Which way do the characters lookvis-à-vis the camera? Character proxemics. How much space is therebetween the characters and objects? What does this suggest about the focus of eachcharacter? What does this suggest about therelationship between characters, and about theirenvironment?
Actors! And of course, it goes almost without saying that thedirector must take into account the actors How do they look, what are there costumes, what istheir makeup, how do they say it Etc. Etc. Etc. For hours and hours and hours. Shot after shot aftershot.
And anything else the directorwants … As you can see, directors must take into account anoverwhelming number of factors when planning eachscene – and indeed, each shot You would be amazed how much time can be lost of afilm set to these sorts of issues Anyone working in film – including actors – requiresand understanding of the importance of these elementsto successful filmmaking
The O.C. The O.C. is the best Therefore, we are going to watch the pilot episode andstop in several places to consider elements of Mise-en-scene Then, I will give you your next assignment. Which, youguessed it, will be a Mise-en-scene analysis of a sceneof your choice.