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Intro to Media Analysis - Mise en Scene

First 'Language of Film' Lecture for Introduction to Media Analysis
by

Catriona Miller

on 4 November 2016

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Transcript of Intro to Media Analysis - Mise en Scene

Setting
The film maker can choose a LOCATION to film in. For example, 'Game of Thrones' (HBO, 2011-ongoing) made full use of different locations - Iceland and Malta - to show different countries and cultures.
Location
Set
The film maker can choose to build a SET to film in. For instance, Dr Who's Tardis interior. More control but not necessarily any cheaper!
Colour is a powerful tool and productions will often choose a limited colour palette. Colour does have a psychological effect on people, but you need to be VERY careful about assigning symbolic meanings to colour.
Red, for example, can be viewed as is the colour of blood and is associated with life, aggression, vitality and strength. It is also associated with fire, love and passion. Red roses are a symbol of love. It also is associated with the devil.
But in Chinese culture, red is a sacred colour denoting good luck. Take nothing for granted - symbolic meaning of colour is culturally specific not universal.
Intro to Media Analysis
Mise en Scène

'Ryan's Daughter' (David Lean, 1970)
A French term, originally dating from the theatre in the 19th Century. Literally means “having been put in the scene”.
What is Mise en Scene?
“…...mise en scène includes those aspects of film that overlap with the art of the theatre: setting, lighting, costume and the behaviour of the figures.”
(Bordwell & Thompson, 2004)
In 1896 the Lumière Brothers filmed the arrival of a train at a station. An un-staged, ‘real’ event.
But only a few years later, Georges Méliès was already interested in creating fantasy events entirely for the camera.
Industry/Academia
Industry and Academia don't talk about this in the same way... A film crew has a production designer who deals with costume and sets and a cinematographer who deals with lighting and cameras... Mise en scene includes lighting... but it's a useful portmanteau term for analysis...
Costume and Makeup
The vampires Spike and Drusilla have a very different look - pale, black, red and white are signature colours, plus the pale make up of course!
Costume
How a character looks gives a myriad of clues about them... and can demonstrate character development.
Buffy in Season 1, much less sophisticated look than in Season 7. Not just Buffy looking more grown up but both Willow and Xander also more polished and stylish
So when Spike, who normally looks like this...
turns up looking like that... the viewer instantly knows that something is wrong!
Figure Expression
and Movement

In this clip from 'Addams Family Values (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1993) the tango sequence is used to show up the differences between the two brothers (one suave, one goofy).
The Film maker also controls the behaviour of the figures within the screen, including action sequences and acting.
The key to this scene from 'Ryan's Daughter' (1970) is the lack of movement. The major contemplates suicide as the sun sets.
'Anna Karenina' (1997) Kitty is eager to see Vronksky.
LIGHTING
But it's a big topic so we'll come back to that in another lecture.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (Frances Ford Coppola, 1992)
A Case Study

Symbolist movement of 1890s a strong influence.
Dracula's armour not authentic period... but explore the 'man/beast' elements of his character. Signature colours red, white, black and gold. The only other characters who wear red are Lucy ad Mina, when they are under Dracula's spell.
All sound stages, no locations. English scenes relatively realistic, but scenes involving Dracula twisted the architecture.
Setting
"First I wanted to have a very young, talented, attractive cast. Second, and related to the first, I wanted to lead with the costumes, let them be the jewel of the show. Rather than tax the resources of the production with elaborate sets, I wanted to make a more imaginative use of space and shadow. We have tried for a unique, striking, visual style that immediately says you are in the realm of magic." (Hart, 1992: p.3-4)
Compare with other Draculas... for example 'Horror of Dracula' (Terence Fisher, 1958)
Costume
Figure Expression and Movement
Brides had to be both seductive and repulsive. A choreographer staged strange and exotic movement for them.
Colour
Costume can show change and development in a character...
Coppola, the director said...
'Crimson Peak' (Guillermo del Toro, 2015)
“Setting, costume, lighting and figure behaviour interact to create patterns of foreground and background, line and shape, light and dark, and movements. These patterns are systems – unified, developing systems that not only guide our perception from frame to frame but also help create the overall form of the film.”
(Bordwell & Thompson, 2004)
Try not to get too hung up on authenticity (or realism) when thinking about costume and make up
'Gladiator' (Ridley Scott, 2000)
Commodus's armour is very authentic. Lucilla's costume, however, is impressionistic of Ancient Rome, rather than authentic (bindi spots on forehead, and organza - the fabric her wrap is made of - didn't exist before 17th Century, for instance.) But that doesn't make it a 'bad' costume. It functions to give the impression of a Roman emperor's daughter, and that's what the film required.
Red is used to denote passion, violence and danger in Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, 2015) in a totally over the top manner, befitting a gothic romance of this type.
Full transcript