978-1457663543 Chapter 3

Document Type
Homework Help
Book Title
The Film Experience: An Introduction 4th Edition
Patricia White, Timothy Corrigan
Define “mise-en-scène” and identify how theatrical and other traditions affect the history of cinematic mise-en-
Describe how sets and props relate to a film’s story.
Explain how actors and performance styles contribute to mise-en-scène.
Summarize the ways costumes and make-up shape our perception of a character.
Explain how lighting is used to evoke particular meanings and moods.
Compare and contrast the various ways in which mise-en-scène directs our interpretation.
Chapter 3 is the first of four chapters that identify the formal and technical powers associated with the different
elements of film form: mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and sound. It begins with a short historical,
industrial, and cultural overview of mise-en-scène from its roots in pre-cinema theater to the present day. It then examines
setting, props, actors, costumes and make-up, and lighting in detail. Finally, it suggests some of the
cultural values and traditions that have influenced and evolved around these formal mechanisms and that help
determine our interpretations of scenes, shots, cuts, and sounds at the movies.
Ridley Scott’s film The Martian (2015) offers a rich teaching opportunity. Many students likely have seen the
film, but for those who haven’t a few clips shown in class will be illustrative of the ways in which the film itself
makes brilliant use of the many aspects of mise-en-scène, but is itself a film about mise-en-scène. One possibility is
to ask students to consider the visual juxtaposition of two very different settings of the film: the empty and
unfamiliar red-rocky Martian terrain that makes up the film’s exterior shots, and the cluttered and familiar
workstations of the Hab, the astronauts’ self-contained habitat that makes up the film’s interior shots.
In addition to discussing these differences, students can also discuss the ways in which the botanist Mark
Watney, who is left behind when the mission is aborted during a fierce storm, must learn to survive and adapt. In the
cinematic sense, Mark must become a metteur-en-scènesomeone who imaginatively transforms a material space.
Here students can consider how Mark must reflect on his decisions and actions as a metteur-en-scène andagain to
suggest the film’s attention (self-conscious or not) to the nature of cinemarecord them for an audience (the NASA
team back home). You may wish to show some examples from the film in which Mark is staging his work for a
cameradirecting behind the scenes, if you will, and in some cases performing within them.
Cinematography and editing are not always intuitive topics for students to grasp. Mise-en-scène, however,
generally makes sense to students because it deals with what they can see and identify in the frame.
Mise-en-scène is
what we actually see at the movies, and thus it is central. Yet as it is used in the service of the film as a whole it can
also be overlooked. It can be helpful to remind students of how they control their own real -life mise-en-scène. They
act as their own costume designers and make-up artists. They take on lead and supporting roles, depending on the
situation. They decorate their living spaces to express who they are and what is important to them. They move
through different settings constantly and even adjust the lights depending on the activity they’re undertaking.
One way to explain why mise-en-scène is important is to ask students to think about a movie as a small engine. By
taking it apart and examining mise-en-scène (or cinematography, or editing) separately, we can begin to see how all the
parts work together. Even if you are not taking a historical or chronological approach to film, it can be useful to look at
examples from early and silent cinema when discussing the evolution of mise-en-scène. Shorts like The Great Train
Robbery (1903) can be used to illustrate many of the concepts in this chapter quickly and efficiently. Contrasting stills of
actors and actresses from the studio era with ones from the 1970s also allows the class to
observe how conventions of lighting, costume, and make-up have moved from more theatrical to more realistic over
time. For present-day examples of mise-en-scène, a CGI-laden film like Doctor Strange (2016) or The Jungle Book
(2016) or even the “making of” extra on the DVD of a Pixar animated feature like Frozen (2013) can introduce new
ideas about scenic realism and performance style, where the filmmakers’ primary challenge is creating a persuasive
simulacrum of somethingwhether it is ancient warriors, water, or even rat fur“real.”
From a Formal Perspective
Movie stars are the easiest entry point into a discussion about what viewers notice in a scene and what
literally blends into the scenery. One way of introducing to the class some basic concepts of star theory is to ask
students whether stars “are just like us” or not. Bring a few supermarket tabloids to class to spur discussion and help
students distinguish between stars and celebrities. Ask the students to list what they know about Tom Cruise versus
Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie versus Cate Blanchett. Why do they know personal information about these actors?
it color how they experience these stars’ performances? Is there a difference between “Tom Cruise,” the public persona we
think we know, and Tom Cruise the actual person?
To illustrate the difference between stars, character actors, and character types, look at the sequence from the
2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven in the hanger as the team of thieves convene. George Clooney and Brad Pitt are big
stars. Bernie Mac was a comedian turned character actor. Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner might appeal more to an
older viewer who remembers the 1960 original, which starred Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis
Jr. Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, and Matt Damon are more interesting examples to consider. In 2001, Affleck and
Cheadle were not yet Oscar nominees. Damon had won an Academy Award for best original screenplay, but The
Bourne Identity, which transformed him into an internationally known action star, was not released until 2002.
For a more recent example of performative development than Antoine Doinel, discuss the principal actors
evolution over the course of the Harry Potter movies. They got older, but did they get better? Are the actors able to
play other roles outside the series? Encourage the class to debate these questions, then screen a scene with Daniel
Radcliffe from 2007’s December Boys, or Emma Watson from 2013’s The Bling Ring, and see whether the students
accept these actors as their characters, or if they immediately feel like shouting, “It’s Harry!” or “It’s Hermione!”
Bring flashlights to class. Dim the lights and have different groups of students demonstrate different
lighting schemes.
From a Contextualized Perspective
Defining Our Place in a Film’s Material World:
Sets, props, actors, and lighting work together like the
ingredients of a meal. They may offer a viewer comfort food or an exotic new set of flavors. Some mise -en-scènes may
not be to a viewer’s taste or could benefit from more or less of an ingredient. Ask students to think of mise-en-
scènes that resonated (or didn’t resonate) with them. Why or why not? Encourage students to think critically about what
elements of the mise-en-scène do or do not work.
Interpretative Contexts for Mise-en-scène:
Discuss what prompts students to see a movie on a big screen vs. at home
on a laptop, or on an iPad. Some examples you might introduce are The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Harry Potter and
the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010), and The Avengers (2012).
Teaching Technical Vocabulary and Key Concepts
An approach to evaluating comprehension could be to conduct cinematic “dictees” during class: students watch a film
clip, then describe it, either alone or in groups, using as many terms from the chapter as they can. Ask them to present their
“translations” to the rest of the class.
Many students find most of the concepts introduced in Chapter 2 easy to master. Instructors may want to spend extra
time on the different types of lighting and perhaps show clips from each of the films mentioned in that section. Do note that
the overlap between character actors and the particular character types with which they are associated can make the
distinction difficult to grasp. Discuss the actors who played minor roles in the film just screened and talk about what
attributes lead to them being cast in those parts. One helpful case study is J. Hoberman’s article “Peter Lorre The Voice
in Film Comment 41, no. 6 (2005).
Scenic Realism and Atmosphere, p. 103
Watch the clip from Life of Pi (2012) on LaunchPad for The Film Experience without sound. What is communicated
through the elements of the mise-en-scène alone?
This is an excellent opportunity for students to work collaboratively in small groups during class. It can also
provide the basis for a more extensive shot analysis assignment that incorporates the other topics covered in Part 2
of the text.
One way in may be to ask the class if anyone has ever seen a movie shot in a place he or she knows firsthand. What
was the same/different about the geography, facades, interiors featured in the film compared to those in real life? How
would their experience of a film like Life of Pi change if they had been to that location in real life? Why do the students
think the filmmakers chose the location and then modified it the way they did?
Props, p. 107
Identify the single most important prop in the last film you watched for class. In what ways is it significant? Does the
prop function as an instrumental prop, a metaphorical prop, or both? Explain.
Ask students to write a quick journal entry answering the question in the Viewing Cue using a film they have
recently seen.
Costumes and Make-up, p. 108
Describe the ways that costuming and make-up add scenic realism, highlight character, or mark the narrative
development in the film viewed for class.
Showing a clip from Edward Scissorhands (1990) could prompt discussion about theatrical sets, make-up and
costume, and stylized acting, as well as Johnny Depp’s status as a star. Or show the class Chris Tucker’s entrance in The
Fifth Element (1997) and ask them to describe his character. What is he wearing? How is he different from Bruce Willis’s
character? What do we expect from each of these actors from one film to the next?
Lighting, p. 111
Consider the role of lighting in this sequence from Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014). Does it use low-key lighting or
high-key lighting? Does the lighting dramatically add to the sequence’s emotional impact? Or if you consider the lighting
is unremarkable, how would you argue that it is still significant?
Scenes from Casablanca (1942) that show Humphrey Bogart’s Rick talking with Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa are
excellent examples of how three-point lighting conventions of the time were determined by gender. Pause on a
close-up of Rick and then one of Ilsa, and discuss how much softer she looks or what makes her eyes seem to
glisten. When they are both in the frame, talk about who is in the light and what its implied source is.
Interpretive Contexts for Mise-en-Scène, p. 123
Describe why the mise-en-scène of the film you most recently watched fits best within a naturalistic or a theatrical
tradition. Explain how this perspective helps you experience the film. Illustrate your position using two or three scenes
as examples.
The Bourne movies rely on naturalistic mise-en-scène, but Jason Bourne’s relationship to the objects in his
world is often anything but. In The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), for example, he fends off an assassin by using an
unlikely weapon, a book. The mise-en-scène of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
becomes increasingly theatrical and subjective as Joel’s memories of Clementine are erased. In one scene set in his
recollections of early childhood, Joel hides under an enormous kitchen table scaled to reflect his kid’s-eye
Mise-en-Scène in
(2011), p. 119
Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo offers students a unique opportunity to consider mise-en-scène in a film that is, in
large part, about one of the greatest metteur-en-scènes in cinema history, Georges Mélièsa filmmaker who
certainly exhibited a “mysterious vision of youthful imagination.” Students should be encouraged to consider how
Scorsese, working in collaboration with his Set Designer Dante Ferretti and Set Decorator Francesa Lo Schiavo
(who won the 2012 Oscar for Best Art Direction) recreates the luminous world of 1930s Paris. While this section
emphasizes the film’s use of props and lighting, you may want to show the flashback from the film in whic h we
watch liès (Ben Kingsley) building his own studio and at work filming scenes from Le cake walk infernal (The
Infernal Cake Walk, 1903) and Le royaume des fees (Fairyland, 1903) so that students can appreciate how
filmmakers work to bring together all the aspects of mies-en-scene in order to create the art of cinema.
Making Sense of Mise-en-scène in
Do the Right Thing
(1989), pp. 112-113
Ask the students to create a map of the important locations in the neighborhood depicted within the film and the
key props associated with each one (such as the folding chairs for the Greek chorus of old men on the corner).
Discussion Question 1:
How do the props and characters move through these settings, and what are the
consequences? Focus, perhaps, on the wall of fame photographs at Sal’s or Radio Raheem’s boom box.
Discussion Question 2:
How does lighting and costume help guide the viewer to the denouement? Contrast the
elements of the mise-en-scène in the opening sequence with those present during the showdown at Sal’s at the end.
Naturalistic Mise-en-Scène in
Bicycle Thieves
(1948), pp. 124-125
Talk about the contrast between the glamorous mise-en-scène implied by the poster for Gilda (1946) of Rita
Hayworth and the world Ricci inhabits. It may be helpful to provide a little historical background on Italian
Discussion Question 1:
What effect does De Sica’s decision to shoot on location in postwar Rome (rather than at the
famous Cinecittà studios) have on the story and the viewer?
Discussion Question 2:
What type of “performances” do we usually expect in settings like the church into which
Ricci chases the thief, the workers’ meeting place, and the theater at which the play is being rehearsed, and why?
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
The African Queen (1951)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
American Hustle (2014)
An American in Paris (1951)
The Automobile Thieves (1906)
Avatar (2009)
The Avengers (2012)
Babette’s Feast (1987)
Back to the Future (1985)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Barton Fink (1991)
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
The Battle of Manila Bay (1898)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Birdman (2015)
The Birds (1963)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Blind Side (2009)
The Blue Angel (1930)
Brazil (1985)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Brooklyn (2015)
Cabaret (1972)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Cabiria (1914)
Le cake walk infernal (The Infernal Cake Walk, 1903)
Casablanca (1942)
Central Station (1998)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Crooklyn (1994)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Day for Night (1973)
The Descendants (2011)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Donovan’s Brain (1953)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Doctor Strange (2016)
The Downward Path (1901)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The Elephant Man (1980)
E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Fantasmagorie (1908)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Fifth Element (1997)
Frozen (2013)
Fury (1936)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Gaslight (1944)
George Washington (2000)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Glory (1989)
The Godfather (1972)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Grand Hotel (1932)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Harry Potter series (2001-2011)
High Sierra (1941)
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (2014)
Hugo (2011)
The Hurt Locker (2009)
The Imitation Game (2014)
Interstellar (2014)
Intolerance (1916)
The Iron Lady (2011)
J. Edgar (2011)
Jaws (1975)
Jezebel (1939)
The Jungle Book (2016)
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
The Killers (1946)
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
King Solomons Mines (1937)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
La dame aux camélias (1912)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
The Last Emperor (1987)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)
Legally Blonde (2001)
The Life Aquatic (2004)
Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
Louisiana Story (1948)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Marie Antoinette (2006)
The Martian (2015)
Metropolis (1927)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Money Monster (2016)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Naked City (1948)
Napoléon (1927)
Napoleon (1955)
Notorious (1946)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
On the Stage; or, Melodrama from the Bowery (1907) 127
Hours (2010)
Out of Africa (1985)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Pariah (2011)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Pi (1998)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Psycho (1960)
Pygmalion (1938)
Queen Elizabeth (1912)
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Red Violin (1998)
The Return of the King (2003)
The Revenant (2015)
Ronin (1998)
Le royaume des fees (Fairyland, 1903)
Shanghai Express (1932)
The Sheik (1921)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Silk Stockings (1957)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Summer of Sam (1999)
Suspicion (1941)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Syriana (2005)
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Taste of Cherry (1997)
The Terminator (1984)
Top Hat (1935)
Total Recall (1990)
25th Hour (2002)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903)
Up in the Air (2009)
Vertigo (1958)
Waxworks (1924)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Xala (1975)
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

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