“choose two shots from different movies and analyse”

Mise-en scene

1 – setting and props used

2 – costume and makeup used

3 – actors, their expression and movement

4 – lighting and use of colour

5 – the way objects and people are positioned

  • 500 words
  • Analyse two different scenes from movies

 

The above screenshot was taken from the classic Will Smith movie, I Am Legend. It shows the character he is playing, Robert Neville, walking down a dystopia-set street with his dog, Samantha. The world is currently smothered in destruction and devastation, and they are the only non-infected people that they know.

This particular scene is set on a street in New York, which is completely devoid of humans, with the only evidence that they’d been there before being the abandoned cars. By seeing this scene, you would automatically assume that it’s featuring a time around Winter, which is either close to or just past Christmas, due to the giant snowflake decorations in the background, hanging from a couple of buildings. However, you can see that Will is only wearing a light jacket over a thin shirt – denoting the idea that this is months later, when the city is slightly warmer, and due to the lack of civilisation no one has been able to take the decorations down. This is quite sad, because Christmas is supposed to be a time of family and love and happiness, and yet you can see that the town is quite void of that – especially Will, as he walks alone with the dog. This could signify that the world is frozen in that moment of time, a positive time when people still looked forward to Christmas, whereas the characters are moving on onto something more ominous.

Will is wearing dark colours in his outfit, with plain designs, which suggests that his attitude and situation are also slightly dark. It illustrates that his emotions are sullen and little. He isn’t wearing any makeup, but instead shows off the dirt around his face, which suggests that there is a lack, like other things, of basic necessities such as warm, clean water. This reinforces the fact that he is in an isolated, human-less town.

Will’s face is emotionless and hard, as if trying to act strong and undeterred by a situation which is quite obviously drastic and disastrous. He is striding along in quite purposeful movements, with a straight, solid stance. These all signify the idea that he has been hardened by the situation that he has found himself in, and is focused and determined towards his objectives, that is, to get revenge on the things that did this to him personally, and the whole of humanity.

The lighting is quite light in high-tones in the background, but gradually grows darker in the foreground, but only slightly, possibly foreshadowing that Will has been turned into a dark character and is walking away from the innocence and purity that he may otherwise have known. The colours are, for the most part, made up of whites and blacks, which are every so often punctured by a bright yellow. Yellow is a colour typically associated with the sun and warmth, and a signifier of this would be that even amongst the sadness and desolation, there are small bouts of potential contentment. This could suggest that although things are looking dreary now, it may look up towards the end. This, as we know, could give the audience a false sense of hope.

Sam, the dog, is faced towards the man who plays her owner, Will, perhaps suggesting that she looks up to him for both leadership and nurture. This also shows us who is in charge in the relationship, and who is most likely to falter when faced with imminent danger. The dog is also walking behind Will, again reinforcing the fact that he is the leader and knows what he is doing.

One of the cars in the foreground of this scene has a smashed window shield, possibly from having a stone or the like thrown at it. Another car has its door left slightly ajar, which considering this is in New York City, is not a thing you would see under usual circumstances. When you think about these circumstances, these factors wouldn’t seem very unusual, and yet the fact that they are neatly parked suggests an underlining of mayhem. The cars are also the only things on grass, whereas the characters themselves are walking on cement. Grass would typically suggest naturalness and even happiness, as we would associate green grass to flourish in summer – which is a cheerful month. As a direct contrast to this, the characters are standing on cold, hard, grey stone, which portrays an idea of seclusion and isolation – which is exactly what they are experiencing. This again takes away the motion from the characters who are fighting to survive.

 

The above scene is taken from a movie called Pirates of the Caribbean, and is a classic example of good use of mise-en-scene. It is set on a boat adrift the Caribbean Sea, around late-Summer time. Despite the fact that we are told that this is set around August, we can also come to this conclusion ourselves, if we take in their clothing. Considering the fact that they are on a boat over an ocean where you would typically get quite cold from the breeze, you would expect them to be wearing more than what they are. The majority of the characters are in shirts that only cover their shoulder, with the exception being the man standing next to the main character as he is wearing thicker fabrics and more of it. You can see that the sun is out, but it isn’t as prominent as it would have been a couple of months earlier.

The props used are there to depict the average weaponry that a pirate could carry. To the right of the main character is a stick with lots of sharp needles sticking out of it. A connotation of this is that it is just a sharp weapon resting behind Depp, but to denote it, the weapon is facing his back, perhaps suggesting that one of his crew members will attack him when he isn’t looking.

The majority of the characters shown here are wearing hats of some sort, but a couple of them aren’t wearing a helmet, but rather a cloth. In situations like these, helmets would be worn by the superior fighters before they go out to attack, whereas the pirates wearing mere cloth sheets would stay back and clean, due to their lack of strength and willingness to fight. This is a clear way of showing the ranks within the crew. The main character, who is meant to be one of the more superior, is not wearing a helmet, suggesting that he is not willing to risk his life for his comrades. A denotation of this could be that he is actually pretty weak, in the way that he wouldn’t go into a fight if he had the choice. Considering what the character actually does, this could just be a suggestion of the style of life he would prefer.

All of the characters are wearing the type of typical clothing that pirates would have worn, but again, with the ones wearing helmets being the ones who are wearing the armour – suggesting that the ones sticking to cloth rags than metallic armour are the weaker ones who would stay on the ship whilst the others fight. They are all wearing dark browns and blacks, signifying that death and destruction is imminent. That is, all except the main character, who is wearing white under the black. This could suggest that under the exterior he is showing, where he is quite criminal and dark, there is something pure and innocent that he’s trying to hide. This draws back to the cloth he is wearing over his head, and could show the true side of him where he really isn’t a bad person.

Instead of make-up, the majority of characters are wearing dust and dirt, suggesting that maybe they’ve just come back from combat – linked again back to the clothes they are wearing and the weapons they are carrying. Again, the one exception to this make-up-less rule is the main character. He is wearing black eyeliner smudged under his eyes, which illuminates the fact that he’s had countless sleepless nights and that this could be catching up with him. It is also in the colour of black, which denotes death, destruction and sadness – a suggestion of what’s to come.

Half of the actors are looking wary, whereas the other half are looking angry. They are all mostly looking at something just off-camera, with the exclusion of a few who are looking at the main character, possibly to see his reaction and what he will do. Depp, however, just looks confused, portraying the fact that he feels unequipped to deal with the situation – again tying in with his clothing. Together, it suggests that he should not be in power, especially when you consider his stance and the fact that he is talking to the man in the centre of the screen, who would be considered as the more superior character.

The man next to Depp is standing in a very confident position, with his hands on his hip and direct eye contact with the person off-screen. This illustrates the idea that he is the one in charge, when really we know that the one in charge is supposed to be the man to his right, who looks disordered and uncomfortable. He is giving his full attention to the man beside him, and is playing awkwardly with something in his hands, which gives off the idea that he is looking to the other man for instructions, rather than trying to lead by himself. Everybody else is faced towards the two and the action that is happening off-screen, suggesting that they are looking towards the two for help and management, whilst being unsure of how to act on their own. This denotes their helplessness in this situation, as they are looking for help and a suggestion of how to react.

The colour scheme is mostly monotonal, suggesting both death and destruction, and peace and innocence. When you look for the colour white, your attention is immediately drawn to Depp, which illustrates the fact that he is meant to be a saviour, but that may be smothered by the darkness.

The lighting is naturalistic, and is relatively high-key, which lights up the situation. It makes the scene friendlier than it would be if it were filmed during the night, which would signify death and destruction once again. Nobody is wearing red other than Depp, which denotes blood and death, and could suggest that he is the obvious target for danger to happen to. This could be considered as a direct contrast to the white, pure colour that he is wearing.

Word count – 1,831

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