The Elements & Examples of "Mise-en-scene"

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About this sample


Words: 957 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

Words: 957|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 3, 2020

If the film is effectively and expressed visually with the contents of what is in the frame and the way it is organised, then everything in the frame can carry meaning through mise-en-scene. Therefore, the question arises, “How significant is mise-en-scene in film?”

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The frame consists of contents such as lighting, costume, decor, props, and actors’ performance and staging. Together with the contents in the frame, the organisation of elements will also effectively shape the audience’s perspective towards the things in the ‘world’ of the characters. This is with regards to expressing the relationship of the actors to one another, to their space and to the things around them, and also the actors’ relationship to the camera.

In the book ‘Mise-en-scene: Film style and Interpretation’, I agree with John Gibbs to a large extent that each element of mise-en-scene is significant in living up to the context with regards to the narrative situation and the ‘world’ of the film. Mise en scène helps to create the atmosphere, giving a sense of the character and mood, as a form of communicating context to the audience.The elements of mise-en-scene comprises of lighting, costume, colour, props, decor, action and performance, space, position of the camera and framing.

The different elements of mise-en-scene can be used expressively, and this varies for its effect on a combination of elements which is most productively thought of in terms of the interplay of elements rather than individually.Lighting can help to reveal or disclose information of the character and story, and create the mood. Costume also conveys the look, personality and emotional state of mind of the character, and gives us a sense of time in the story world. What the character dresses and how it is arranged can reveal a lot about them, or not much at all, both of which is equally important.On the other hand, colour is often applied in costume to directly associate the character with a colour, but it can equally be used in a lighting feature, set decoration, or particular props.

Colour can also symbolise the characters’ values and lifestyle. Visual expression of the film can also be contributed by the props that the character’s particularly interacts with, and it can provide meaning through repeated usage that show the character’s emotional progression over time in the narrative situations. Similar to props, the decor gives information of the character within a setting, and is often inferred as a symbolism to the story or character.Action and performance is an expressive film that is not shown through speech but through actions. This corresponds to the personal space between performers and blocking to express the relationship between characters and the patterns formed in the positioning of the actors.John Gibbs also stated that “Even the decisions such as whether we follow a character who ‘leads’ the camera, or the camera has anticipated the character’s arrival can subtly shape the relationship the audience has with character and story”.

The position of the camera have an influence on the audience and character relationship. With it presenting what is in the frame, it also have control over the audience’s access to the character’s action, and determines their understanding of the scene. According to John Gibbs, the camera position can hinder the audience’s experience towards a performance. If the character’s perspective is limited, so might be the audience’s. Similar to the character’s experience, the audience may or may not be aware of the entire surroundings and what is to come depending on the lens choice, camera movement, and framing, because even the movement of the camera can draw our attention to certain details.What makes mise-en-scene significant in films is also about what is in the ‘selective view of a wider fictional world’ frame, pertaining to only what is revealed and withheld from the audience. The restricted view of the characters and its relationship to the audience’s own limitations, can also be observed in the use of framing. Our view of its advance creates a sense of anticipation and even generating additional suspense equivalent to that of the characters.

Example of mise-en-scene include 1953’s Tokyo Story about an aging couple visits their grown-up, independent children in a modern city. There is a particular interaction with household objects as props that represent the modern and traditional tension between the elderly couple and children. Chairs carry a straightforward meaning, which represents the ‘modernity’ Western furniture style.When Noriko is working, she sits on her chair in the office. The chairs are the furniture to which she flees for comfort and security but are also where she ends up appearing confined with responsibility.

Towards the later part of the film, the elderly couple sit on the modern chairs, waiting for the next train to arrive for them to head back to their hometown. Now the sadness which the elderly couple feel are expressed through the use of chairs that their children are accustomed to. The elderly couple sitting on the chairs depicts the cold and lonely reality that they are in, that the younger generation that they have raised and watched over are neglecting them due to their busy lives, and this conveys an unfamiliar position for him than sitting on the familiar tatami mat.

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Likewise, the elderly couple and their children’s non-uniformity in costume convey the look, personality and emotional status of the respective characters, which also reflects the tension between them.All these sources, found in film theorists book as well as on commercial websites, highlight the significance and influence of mise-en-scene in films that can help to visually express the context and its characters’ state. This can be effectively done with each element that co-exists to provide meaning to the film within only what can be seen in the frame and how it is organised.

Works Cited

  1. Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. (2017). Film art: An introduction. McGraw-Hill Education.
  2. Gibbs, J. (2002). Mise-en-scene: Film style and interpretation. Wallflower Press.
  3. Hayward, S. (2006). Cinema studies: The key concepts. Routledge.
  4. Hurbis-Cherrier, M. (2014). Cinematic storytelling: The 100 most powerful film conventions every filmmaker must know. Michael Wiese Productions.
  5. Kearney, R. (2012). Film and philosophy: An introduction. Routledge.
  6. Langford, B. (2005). Film genre: Hollywood and beyond. Edinburgh University Press.
  7. Lewis, J., & Lewis, R. (2008). Film art: An introduction. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
  8. Monaco, J. (2009). How to read a film: Movies, media, and beyond. Oxford University Press.
  9. Nelmes, J. (Ed.). (2012). Introduction to film studies. Routledge.
  10. Sobchack, V. (2017). Film theory: An introduction through the senses. Routledge.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Elements & Examples Of “Mise-En-Scene”. (2020, February 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Elements & Examples Of “Mise-En-Scene”.” GradesFixer, 27 Feb. 2020,
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