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Intro to Media Analysis - Mise en Scene

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

Catriona Miller

on 9 November 2018

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Transcript of Intro to Media Analysis - Mise en Scene

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.
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 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...

How a character looks gives a myriad of clues about them... and can demonstrate character development.
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.
But it's a big topic so we'll come back to that in another lecture.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
(Frances Ford Coppola, 1992)
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.
"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)
Figure Expression and Movement
Brides had to be both seductive and repulsive. A choreographer staged strange and exotic movement for them.
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
(Ridley Scott, 2000)
Commodus's armour is very 'authentic'. Lucilla's costume, however, is more impressionistic of Ancient Rome, rather than 'authentic' (for instance the bindi spots on forehead, and organza - the fabric her wrap is made of - didn't exist before 17th Century.) 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.
Crimson Peak
(Guilermo del Toro, 2015)

Here in Nicholas Widing-Refn's 2016 film
Neon Demon
white is used to denote the innocence and vulnerability of the main character Jesse (Elle Fanning) near the start of the film. But there are also LOTS of reflective surfaces in a story all about appearance.
Rachel's style also references Marlene Dietrich in the 1930s and film noir of the 1940s and classic Hollywood which made some critics call it 'techno noir'.
Barbara Stanwyck in
Double Indemnity
(1944, Billy Wilder) and Marlene Dietrich in
Shanghai Express (
1932, Josef von Sternberg).

The super glossy lipstick, strong fringe, then the softer hair juxtaposed with the huge fur collar are part of all these characterisations.
Blade Runner
(1982, Ridley Scott) the character of Rachel firs appears in a suit with a very hard silhouette. During a softer moment (a romantic interlude) She takes her hair down and has a much softer look for the rest of film.
The story of the 'private investigator' and the 'femme fatale' was also very noirish.
Some location for exteriors, but the Allerton house itself was built as a huge set. The house carries a lot of secrets and the design reflects the interior emotions of the characters themselves.
The film has a limited but very powerful colour palette - strong, rich, jewel-like colours, with a strong focus on black, white and red. Reflected in both costume and setting.
Costume & Make Up
Figure Expression
and Movement
According to
The Guardian
, the whole movie is completely ciphered around butterflies and moths: Edith is the fragile butterfly of daylight and Lucille is a powerful, ugly moth of the dark. That detailing is featured in their costumes.
The ghosts were created with real actors and then CGI added.
Chastain said Lucille has a very insect like stare... in fact, she is only seen to blink 3 times in the whole film!
"I have always maintained that the difference between eye candy and eye protein is that the latter actually nourishes the storytelling values of the film: colour coding, shape-coding, texture and light can become tools of narrative and dramatic weight"(Salisbury, 2015: p.7).
Blade Runner
(Ridley Scott, 1982)
del Toro stated (Salisbury, 2015) that the inspiration for the film came from the Gothic novels of the 18th Century, but the springboard for the
mise en scène was the work of certain painters from the 19th Century.
John Everett Millais
The Bridesmaid
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's
The Salutation of Beatrice
Yew Court (1874) John Atkinson Grimshaw
Woman in the Morning Sun (1818) Caspar David Friedrich
Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1824) Caspar David Friedrich
The Dreamer (1820) Caspar David Friedrich
Nocturne in Gold (1872) John Atkinson Grimshaw
But if you still want more, here's an earlier piece of work from production designer Tom Sanders, drawing inspiration from a similar period!
Is Rachel a
femme fatale
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