Saturday, October 2, 2010

Educate Me: Mise en scene

So, I've decided that there's one thing I can't really get my head around, as a critical concept (I admit there's lots of things I can't get my head around - poles for instant - not flexible enough) - a term I see used all the time, but I have to be honest I've never seen it used the same way twice.

It's a term people throw out in reviews ALL the time as well (well, proper smart film critics do at least). That term is:

MISE EN SCENE (yes I got rid of the stupid ` over the e, get over it)

I get that it's a sort of collection of all that goes into a shot, but I see it used so sporadically, and ill explained I wanted to ask any of my readers out there:

Can you explain it to me in some sort of defined way (Wikipedia is unreliable but if that's close enough let me know)?

I'd appreciate it :)

11 better thoughts:

MovieNut14 said...

According to Dictionary.com, it's "the process of setting a stage, with regard to placement of actors, scenery, properties, etc."

Dumbed-down translation: the setting of a play/movie

SugaryCynic said...

I always took it as a fancy French way of saying "the whole shebang" when talking about a movie or a particular shot.

Will said...

It's essentially all the elements of a scene (blocking, sets, camera placement, etc) that convey information without dialogue. Because film is a visual media, filmmakers should strive to do this and tell their story visually, or in the words of every writing how-to book, "Show, don't tell!" It's the combination of choices during production that influence how the film is viewed. Like, if there is a close-up of a knife, there should be a specific reason why it is shot in close-up and not a medium shot, or extreme close-up of the tip, etc. When done well, it sets apart the good and bad filmmakers.

I'm not a big fan of using the term because of its all encompassing generality, and I think critics use it to sound more knowledgeable.

The wikipedia article explains it fairly well, but this page should illustrate it better I think:
http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/htmfiles/mise-en-scene.htm

Simon said...

According to my old film teacher: The way sound, images, and color are put together to composite a shot. Or something like that, I'd have to dig up my notebook.

Castor said...

To me, mise en scene is how the scene is set up visually but what do I know? ;)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

http://blog.nicksflickpicks.com/2010/07/come-on-in-mise-en-scene-is-fine.html

That link pretty much explains it all, I think. (Just ignore my comments.)

Mike Lippert said...

The simpliest answer is how things are placed in a shot. If you trace the term way back it has nothing to do with shots as Will suggests and has nothing to do with editing or anything other than what you specifically in any given frame at any given moment. I think the literal traslation is "To Put in the Scene" and that's exactly what it is. Really though Univarn, if people are using it a way that doesn't explain itself, they probably shouldn't be using it in the first place.

Ronan said...

Everything within the frame, that's the mis en scene, or the "placing of a scene". E.g Buried: Dude in a box with a phone, a lighter and half a hope.

Fletch said...

So...Wes Anderson = mise en scene master, no?

Gypsylassie said...

See Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson is the king of Mise en Scene. The concept is prop and set design that is specifically put into the shot.

Gypsylassie said...

Every single object (prop and set piece) is specifically placed in the frame of the scene for a visual aesthetic. A teapot, a picture on the wall, a cup on a table. The idea is 'less is more' so you can look about the scene and see purpose to the placement. Adding visual interest with color and object content. Wes Anderson is the best at this, in my opinion. Tim Burton is also exceptional.

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