Mise-en-scène

According to http://www.filmreference.com mise-en-scène is what we see in a film; editing is what we do not. These are simplified definitions, but they emphasise two essential things: the basic building blocks of a film—the shot and the cut—and the complexities of each that allow a film to achieve its texture and resonance. Mise-en-scène concerns the shot, though we need to keep in the back of our minds that editing—putting two shots together—affects not only how a film’s narrative is structured but how the shots are subsequently understood by viewers.

Mise-en-scène is a French expression often used in film analysis meaning literally the ‘scene setting’.  It is taken to refer to the design elements of the sets and locations used (including all elements within them), which, like everything else in a professional film, are coded with meanings.

Mise en scène is the starting point for analysis of ‘film as film’ as distinct from film in its social context. Mise en scène focuses on what can be seen in the picture. Therefore, what can be seen (unless it is computer generated imagery) must exist before it can be filmed; this is the pro-filmic event. Usually this event will consist of actors performing in a setting; the point of view from which audiences see this is completely determined by the position of the camera. The film’s director usually decides where the camera is positioned.

Mise-en-scène is generated by the construction of shots and the ways that they lead to visual coherence, across the edits from shot to shot. It includes all the elements in front of the camera that compose a shot: lighting; use of black and white or colour; placement of characters in the scene; design of elements within the shot (part of the process of production design); placement of camera vis-à-vis characters in the set; movement of camera and/or actors; composition of the shot as a whole—how it is framed and what is in the frame. Some people consider music as part of mise-en-scène. While not seen, at its best music enhances the visual and narrative construction of the shot.

Cinematic mise-en-scène refers to how directors, working with their cinematographers and production designers create their well-defined, coherent, fictional worlds. Composition and the expression of space within a film carry as much narrative power and meaning as its characters’ dialogue. Mise-en-scène is thus part of a film’s narrative, but it can tell a larger story, indicating things about the events and characters that go beyond any words they utter.

So in short mise-en-scène can be considered to be:

• Production Design: sets, props and costumes
• Colour (present in both production design and lighting)
• Lighting
• Actors’ performance (including casting and make up) and movement (blocking)
• Framing including position; depth of field; aspect ratio; height and angle (but not movement)
• Diegetic sound (that is, sound that emanates from the scene)

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