Date Due: 09/10/16
Mise-en-Scene is used in Film to describe it’s visual presentation. It refers to basically everything that is on the screen of a movie, including the sound. The literal translation of this french phrase is ‘to put on stage’ and was originally used in theatre, to describe it’s stage. It involves the location, props, sound, clothing, actors, lighting and editing of a film production and they way that the audience decodes it. John Gibbs in ‘Mise-en-scene: Film Style and Interpretation’ (2012) explained that the’ organisation of the contents of the frame’ encompasses the relationship of the actors to one another and to the decor, he went on to say that this relationship extends to the lens of the camera, and thus the audience experiencing the film. This is very relevant, as Mise-en-scene has a lot to do with Semiology; how every single thing that is seen on the screen was put there for a specific purpose, in order to tell the audience a story.
I decided to analyse the first scene of the film ‘7 Pounds’ (2007) and take note of the use of Semiology.
These close ups of the characters put little attention on anything besides their faces. It emphasises their emotions, and gives the audience an insight into their personalities. Seven Pounds Ezra Starting Scene (2012).
The scene can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M22cNewlNLM
As this scene is highly centred around dialog, the actors and the way they express themselves are the most obvious aspect within Mise-en-scene that the audience will decode first. The dialog’s intensity is quite apparent, but what aids this significantly is the body language used by the actors. At the very start of the scene, Actor Will Smith who plays the character is sitting on a sofa looking extremely anxious and agitated. As he uneasily glances the room, twiddling his hands, it gives the audience an idea that something is bothering him and keeping him on edge. Although this shot is very brief, it definitely prepares the audience for what is to come. Furthermore, after the highly dramatic phone call, the scene only gets more piercing, as Ben’s reaction and body language is a total paradox to the crude insensitive attitude he displayed on the phone. After aggressively tossing the phone from his hand, he covers his mouth dramatically as if he is deeply regretting the conversation he just had. This immediately grasps the audiences attention even more, leaving them to wonder why it was so important for the character to make that phone call when he clearly despised himself for it. A blogger commented that on ‘Body Language is an important convention since it allows to audience to identify and understand if the character is a victim, protagonist or an antagonist’ In this scene the main character portrays signs of both a victim and a villain, leaving the audience perplexed and eager to find out more.
Furthermore, props are always a huge help to the audience when trying to piece a story line together, and in this scene various ones suggest different things. Some connect with other forms of iconography within the scene, while others are left unexplained, leaving the audience questioning what they could possibly mean. Either way, they were all encoded in this way for a purpose. Where the character Ezra is situated, the props make up his location, letting the audience know a number of things that are important in order to understand the scene. The headphones, chairs, computers and dividers placed between the people sitting down let the audience decode the setting as a professional, working environment. Also, within this location, the brief showing of the unusual keyboard that Ezra uses when inserting Ben’s name into the computer signals to the audience that this character may be blind, or have some sort of seeing disability. This, together with his lack of eye contact with the keyboard goes hand in hand in encoding this message to the audience. A prop unlike the ones already mentioned, which don’t have a connection with anything else in the scene is the octopus swimming in a tank in Ben’s location. It does not add up with anything else in the scene and is rather out of place in Ben’s otherwise rather ordinary looking house. Despite this, it is deliberately shown in the frame of the scene to keep the audience guessing and hence engaged in what is going on.
Moreover, sound is a huge contribution to the overall presentation of this scene. The music used sets the mood, and gives an ‘additional punch to the visual images.’ It adds a hugely dramatic effect to the already intense dialog and body language occurring between the two characters. The classical music begins quite subtly just as Ezra and Ben’s conversation starts to heat up. The more insulting and abusive Ben’s language gets, the more loud and powerful the music becomes. It enhances the powerful effect that the dialog has, and prompts emotion within the audience. Feelings of resentment towards Ben and sympathy towards Ezra keep the audience engaged and connected to what is on the screen. Also, the sound of the characters voices in the dialog are extremely helpful for decoding as they can express various emotions within the character. The tone of Ezra’s voice tells the audience a lot about his character. Despite the abuse he is receiving on the other end of his phone call, he remains calm and polite. Meanwhile, the sound in Ben’s voice suggests ridicule, vilify and aggressiveness. This reveals contrast between the two characters and creates a story-line for the film to follow. In addition, although there are not many, sound effects are also relevant within this scene. The telephones ringing in the background of Ezra’s work place sets the location, helping the audience to decode exactly where he is.
Lastly, the way by which this scene is edited puts focus on the two characters involved, hence showing their emotion clearly. It starts off with a wide shot, to establish the location of both characters, but as the scene progresses, the camera slowly begins to zoom in on the faces, eliminating the background and putting the audience’s attention on the conversation occurring between Ben and Ezra.
For the second scene that I was required to analyse, I chose the the first scene of Skins Series 3 (2009). I analysed from 0:00 to 4:39.
To begin, the very first thing that the audience is introduced to as the scene opens, is the calming music of a flute, which then transitions to rock. While the flute has a calming effect and eases the audience into this first episode, the sudden transition into the completely different genre of music – together with the sudden appearance of a pair of feet on a skateboard whizzing through town- gets the audience attentive to what is going on on the screen. In the first part of this scene, the skateboard prop and the dramatic music go hand in hand. They both give off the same mood of recklessness and lack of caution, and support each other while doing so. As the skateboard stunts get more daring, the music too becomes more and more piercing, which both serve the same purpose of engaging the audience.
In continuation, many sound effects and Foley are added to dramatise this scene. As Freddy, the character at the beginning of the scene, recklessly skates through the traffic, sounds such as the beeping of horns and screeching of cars were all added for the audience to decode. It not only makes the scene more intense, but signals danger emphasising that the boy is putting himself at risk. Furthermore, the sound of the skateboard scraping against the concrete draws attention to the character and the prop that he is using. All eyes are meant to be on him and the way he maneuvers the skateboard, and little emphasis is put on anything else. The screeching and crashing sounds of the care towards the end of the clip were also added separately for dramatic effect, and the way by which it is added when one of the characters are in mid sentence takes the audience by surprise, thus engaging them in the on screen action. A film blogger rightly commented that ‘when the audience is attached to the sound, they lean forward and listen more intently’. This is the exact reaction that a filmmaker intends for its audience when adding sound effects, and the ones added in this scene were definitely effective in portraying this.
Moreover, props as well as clothing in this clip support the actors in showcasing their personalities, and therefore let the audience analyse more of their characteristics aside from what is revealed through the dialog. All three of the boys are dressed like typical middle-class teenagers. They are not wearing anything particularly tending or out of the ordinary, which can suggest a carefree attitude. It can also be assumed that they are not of a particularly high class in society, but are also not underprivileged. We get the closest look a Freddy’s clothes, and their rugged, stained look matched his carefree characteristics that were previously revealed. Furthermore, the fact that the character cook is drinking lager for breakfast together with a spliff indicates irresponsibility and more recklessness, revealing to the audience his carefree and slightly mindless personality. As Cook gulps down his beer, across the table, the character Jay Jay nibbles on a Snickers bar, and the difference in choice of breakfast for these two characters shows significant contrast between their personalities. Jay Jay appears to be more innocent and less daring than the totally opposite, over venturesome Cook.
Gibbs, J. (2012) Mise-en-scne: Film Style and Interpretation. Columbia University Press.
Izzygelato (2012) Seven Pounds Ezra Opening Scene Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M22cNewlNLM (Accessed 08/10/16)
Fandom, (no date) Skins Wiki Series 3. Available at: http://skins.wikia.com/wiki/Series_3 (Accessed 07/10/16)
Worpress.com (no date) Mise-en-scene Available at: https://collegefilmandmediastudies.com/mise-en-scene-2/ (Accessed 07/ 10/16)
FilmSound.org, (no date) What Effect Has Sound On a Film? Available at: http://filmsound.org/QA/non-tecnical-discussion.htm (Accessed 07/10/16)
Mindbites, Inc (2016) Importance of Sound Effects. Available at: http://blog.mindbites.com/importance-of-sound-effects/ (Accessed 07/10/16)
Baris Yildirim (2015) Research: Mise en Scene- Facial Expression and Body Language – Mrs Quinlan Available at: http://barisasmediastudies.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/research-mise-en-scene-facial.html (Accessed 08/10/2016)