Working in the film business you hear many “inside” terms on a set like Apple box, MOS, montage don’t cross the line (to learn about the 180 degree line in a past article), etc. One such term is “Mise en Scene” or the translation “placing on stage.”
This is a French expression that refers to the design or the arrangement of everything as it appears in the framing of a film i.e. actors, décor, props, lighting, costumes and others. The term essentially means “telling a story” both in poetically artful ways and in visually artful ways through direction and storyboarding state design and cinematography.
It is also used to refer to the many single scenes that are within the film to represent the film. The term is broad, and it is also used among professional and experienced screenwriters to show descriptive or action paragraphs between the dialogs.
This is because of its relationship to shot blocking. The term mise-en-scene is called the film criticism grand undefined term. The term is so broad, and it defines and classifies a lot in the filming industry. The term roughly means to put into the scene or to place on stage.
Mise en scene is used to describe filmmaking and the process involved in the filmmaking process. In filmmaking, the first process is creating ideas for the film. Here, the right books or plays are bought. These are the source of the initial ideas of the film.
Production design is a broad term that covers all the steps involved in putting together a production. It includes everything from sourcing the location, hiring the crew, designing the set and costumes, to lighting and sound effects.
A good production designer should be able to understand the big picture and work closely with the director to bring the vision of the film into reality. They also need to have a solid understanding of film theory and history in order to make sure the visual elements of the story are translated accurately on screen.
There are many different types of production designers, each with their own unique responsibilities. The most common position is that of production designer (also known as production supervisor), who is often responsible for overseeing all aspects of the production.
Another option is that of art director, which involves overseeing the overall look and feel of the production and helping to ensure the film is visually coherent. Other options include production manager, set decorator, costume designer, and others.
Production designers also work closely with the cinematographer, writer, director, actors and other crew members. In fact, if there’s a problem with the set or costumes, it’s often the production designer who is called upon to fix the problem.
The set is the main space in which the action takes place. It can be built before or during the shoot. The set decorator (or set designer) creates a series of set elements and props, or other items on the stage that will be used to create the desired atmosphere.
The set designer plans out the appearance of the set, determining what furniture, decorations, props, and any other elements will be needed for the set to appear as desired. Once the set is designed, the set decorator may build the set, creating any necessary fixtures.
They are responsible for ensuring that the set elements are in the correct locations and orientations on the stage and for making sure that the set elements are functioning correctly. The set decorator may also arrange the set in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.
He or she may also be involved with the construction of the set itself. The set decorator may supervise and direct the crew who are building the set. He or she may also choose which materials to use and how they will be installed.
They may design the lighting scheme and oversee its installation. The set decorator may also be responsible for creating and maintaining the set’s props.
Costumes Designer and Staging
Costumes are the only aspect of mise en scene that is easily noticeable by almost everybody. It includes makeup, hair, and clothes or wardrobe choices that are used to show the personality of the character.
It is important that a costume designer chooses the costumes that will best convey the image, personality, and emotional status of the character. Special effects are another aspect of mise en scene. They are used to make the film more interesting and captivating.
A costume designer is a person who designs and makes costumes for movies, TV shows, and other films. This is a different job than a fashion designer. Fashion designers design clothes for the human body.
Costume designers design costumes for actors, dancers, and other performers. A costume designer is responsible for designing costumes for both men and women. They are also responsible for designing costumes for different types of people. They are responsible for bringing a character from the page to the screen.
You can think of a costume designer as a stylist on a big budget. Their job is to make sure the characters and actors feel like they fit into the world of the film by working with the director, production designer, and sometimes other designers to create the look of the film.
Staging means that you’re setting up your movie or TV show before it’s shot, but only once the cast and crew are ready to shoot. This is why many movie scenes start with a long take in which the actors are introduced to each other and the set.
This allows the director to get a sense of how everyone fits together, and this way, the actors will play off of each other’s body language and expressions as they start to develop a natural chemistry.
The makeup artist is responsible for making actors look perfect. That may sound simple, but it’s actually much harder than it sounds. The main thing a makeup artist does is to make sure that the actor looks natural in front of the camera. There are some subtle things a makeup artist can do to enhance a actors looks.
For example, the actor’s eyes can be made to look bigger and more attractive by darkening the outside corners of the eye. It’s also a good idea to have an assistant or friend help with this job as well, because having someone else see how well the makeup artist did can give a much more objective opinion of the process.
One of the most important aspects of a makeup artists job is getting the right color scheme on the actor’s face. In order to get a good look, the makeup artist must use the right colors and shades. The colors and shades that makeup artist should be using will depend on what type of make up they are wearing.
For example, if the makeup artist is wearing foundation, then they should be using a light or medium shade of foundation. If they are wearing concealer, then they should be using a light or medium shade of concealer.
If they are wearing lipstick, then they should be using a light or medium shade of lipstick. The makeup artist can also use various tools in order to achieve the right look.
If you’ve ever been in a movie theater or watched a movie on TV, chances are you’ve noticed that when actors appear on screen, they often use a different kind of lighting than you would see if you were watching them in real life.
Film lighting is used to create and emphasize specific things about a scene, object, or actor. The goal is to give the audience something to focus on—something to make them remember. This is why light, whether it’s from a spotlight or a lamp, is so important.
For example, actors appearing on screen may have some highlights (bright lights), some mid-tones (medium lights), and some shadows (dark areas) to them. A typical home light fixture produces only one of these three elements at a time, but movie lighting is controlled with a lot more precision. Lighting engineers call this “film lighting.”
Film lighting can be used for both front lighting and backlighting. Front lighting refers to the illumination that comes from the side of the subject. Backlighting refers to illumination coming from behind the subject.
Backlighting is used to create effects such as the golden glow on a subject’s face, or the bright highlight on a subject’s hair. Front lighting can be used to create effects such as the deep shadows in a subject’s eyes, or the blackness that appears around the subject’s nose and mouth.
When you watch a film, you are seeing the front-lit image projected onto the screen by the projector, which is a combination of both front and backlighting. Backlighting Backlighting is a technique used in film production to create special effects in the form of highlights and shadows.
The lighting effect is achieved by using a light source (usually an electric light) that is placed behind the subject to be lit, and is aimed so that it shines on the subject. The amount of light that reaches the subject is controlled by the light’s intensity and its distance from the subject.
In the case of backlighting, the source of light is placed at a distance from the subject, so that it does not cast a shadow on the subject.
The producer selects the story from the books or a novel or the idea can even be an original idea or based on a true story. The producer then takes the idea to the writers, and they work together to create a synopsis.
They then break down the story into simple paragraph scenes or the step outline as it is called. The one-paragraph scenes are the ones that concentrate on the most dramatic parts or structures.
After this, they prepare a good description of the story together with its moods and its characters. This stage has little conversations, but it mostly consists of drawings that help them to visualize all the key points. This is also the stage where the screenwriter comes up with a screenplay, and this takes a period of several months.
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The screenwriter has all the time to rewrite the screenplay if need be to improve clarity, dramatization, character, structure, and dialogue. At this stage, the film distributor can be contacted and informed of the project for him to assess the financial success of the movie and look for possible markets.
The producer and the screenwriter will then prepare the treatment or film pitch, and they present it to the financiers. The financiers will go through the movie and also assess the likelihood of the moviemaking any profit.
They will contact some known movie stars to get them to feature in the film for publicity purposes, and after this stage is successful, the film can now go to the preproduction stage.
This is the stage that determines if the film will continue or not because, without funds, there would be no cast or crew to work in the film production. The parties involved in the financing will draft the appropriate contracts and also sign them to make a deal.
After this, the preparations for the shoot are made. This is called pre-production where locations for the shoot are selected and prepared before time, the cast and the film crew are hired, and the sets are built.
Here, all the process in the production of the movie is carefully outlined to each and every involved party, and they are also carefully planned. Even with a lot of funding, if this process is not done carefully, the film production can halt or even fail.
The most critical crew positions are outlined and the people to take those positions are named before anything else goes on. The most crucial crew positions that must be there to make a good film are:
- Costume designer
- Film producer
- Assistant Director
- Unit production manager
- Production designer
- Location manager
- Director of photography
- Casting director
- Production and sound mixer
- Sound designer
These are crucial positions in the film production, and their roles cannot be ignored if there is to be a successful production of the film.
The production stage is the next one after preproduction. Here, the film is created and shot. There is the recruitment of more crew in this stage due to the complexities of some roles. This is the most complicated process of film production.
Everyone involved in the film production has to take their roles seriously here for the production to be successful. A regular shooting day begins by the arrival of the crew at their call time. The actors usually have different call times, and the crew has to arrive early enough to prepare everything in advance before the actors come.
Set construction, setting, dressing, and lighting is done before because it can take many hours, and sometimes it can even take days. For efficiency purposes, the electric, grip, and production design crews are always a step ahead of the sound and the camera departments.
When one scene is getting filmed, these crews are already preparing for the next one. This means that the filming process will face no problems, and if there are any, they will be easily solved ahead. After the crew prepares the equipment, the actors are already in their costumes, and they attend the makeup and hair departments.
The actors will then rehearse the script with the director, and the other departments make their final tries or tweaks. The assistant director then calls “a picture is up” to let everyone know that the take is about to be recorded, a “quiet everyone” call then follows, and once everyone is ready.
He then calls “roll sound” if that particular take involves sound and then the “roll cameras “call is called by the assistant director who is answered by “speed” from the camera operator once he starts recording. The assistant directors then call “action” once he makes sure everyone is ready. The take is over when the director calls “cut” and the sound stops and the cameras stop recording.
In the film production process, we see mise en scene representing the film production in every step or every setting or arrangement. It, therefore, refers to the staging and acting where it is well known that an actor can make or break a movie, and it doesn’t matter how captivating the story is. It also refers to the lighting and setting of the production stage.
The setting creates a mode and also a sense of place and it can also reflect the emotional state of mind of the character. Lighting is essential in the production of a film, and there are different types of lighting, but each depends on where the lighting is coming from and the kind of illumination it is providing to the stage setting.
This video uses two scenes from the movie American Beauty to show how elements of how cinematic techniques related to mise-en-scène and cinematography can be used to help visually tell a story.
Transcription of Mise en Scene.
In the last video, we talked about how the placement of the camera can tell a story, but those are just the basic terms, the bread-and-butter shots. The true strength of a shot, its unique qualities comes through what’s called the mise en scène. This is a French term meaning placing on stage. It’s a broad term which describes the overall look of a film. So how do you place on a stage – let’s remove the camera from the scene and look at the decor. A director starts by setting a scene, by choosing a setting for the shot, whether it’s outdoors, indoors, a real place, a set or composited on a green screen. This is where the scene takes place. Once that location is chosen, it gets filled first with objects than with actors.
The objects if they are not used by actors, are called set dressing. They can show place, like how this studio backlot was first done up as a modern setting and then redressed as itself is 30 years younger, or the objects can show character like how these photographs serve as exposition for the action that left this man in a cast. Sometimes they can just add texture to a scene like how the water in this dilapidated set indicates decay. If the objects are meant to be used by actors then they are called props. These can range from simple things like papers, or complex things like this ornate sword.
They can also show character, like how these two characters choice of weapon emphasize their spiritual connection and ideological differences. Character can also be shown through costumeConsider how much you are being told about this character just by how they dress or this character, or this one under all that make up. These are all things that start telling a story even before the camera rolls.
Even before camera and action come the lights. It’s impossible to overstate how important lighting is for movies. Each frame is a photograph and each photograph is captured light bounced off its subject. One of the most common lighting setups is three point lighting, perfect for close-ups. There is a key light which serves as the main source of light in a scene, the fill light which fills in the shadows created by the key light, and the backlight which lights the back of the subject, separating them from the background. Most lighting setups use some variation on this basic triad of key, fill and back. Now there are many, many types of artificial lighting techniques with 1000 things to consider*that requires an explanation of F stops and aperture and focal length, but that’s only if you are lighting the scene yourself. If you are a moviegoer, it’s much easier to read the results than the process.
Aside from the standard three point style, there is high key lighting, bright lights, bright colors, strong key, stronger fill. Compare that with low key lighting. The lights are darker, the mood more somber. Weak key, weak fill, but a very strong backlight to emphasize the outline of the person. A contrasting mix of strong highlights with deep shadows creates a Baroque painterly effect, which in the Renaissance was called by the Italian name literally meaning light, dark, high contrast between the bright bits and the dark bits.
This kind of look is the stuff of film noir, of moral ambiguity and melancholy. Films shot with a style generally take advantage of a technique called hard lighting; bright, harsh key lights that create hard shadows making the scene tough, angular and unflattering. Its opposite of course is soft lighting where the lights diffuse through a filter causing it to wrap around the subject, sculpting the subject without harming it. It’s a romantic kind of lighting. Most of the time lighting doesn’t draw attention to itself, simply serving to set the mood and let the camera and the subject speak for themselves.
You can see this in ambient lighting which uses the light that’s there in the scene or in unmotivated lighting which simply shapes the scene without being an element of it, like how the light that hits the night and death*seem to be coming from two different suns, not realistic but still striking. Its opposite is of course motivated lighting where the light is an element of the scene itself as in this shot.
Directors can get creative with motivated lighting is in this scene. A woman above turns on her light revealing a key character. The light goes out and the character disappears. Creative lighting were two of the primary tools early directors used which would change drastically as film technology improved and directors could start experimenting with color. For decades, the default for film color was black and white. The camera takes in light and records everything just by luminosity, whether it’s light or dark. For about half a film history, movies were quite happy to use this, not only because it has a certain simplicity to it but because color processing used to have a hefty price tag. Now it’s just another creative option for filmmakers with classic taste.
There are a few examples of early color films where each frame was hand-painted for a fake color film effect, but the most common early color effect was tinting, where the entire scene is bathed in a certain color. You don’t see this much outside of the old silence or the more experimental corners of the avant-garde. One of the most famous forms of tinting is sepia tone. This was one of the most common colors to tint film in the monochrome area which gave it a dusty look. In this famous use of film tinting, Sepia is used for the drudgery of Kansas, but once Dorothy goes to Oz, the fantasy world is in bright, vivid color. Now it would be easy to list color film as its own term, but color is a complicated process which filmmakers can control the same way they can control their lights and not just through costuming and production design, but through a process called color grading where a film’s color is selectively adjusted for a distinctive look for each scene. Grading can involve adjustments to everything black-and-white filmmakers did, but it can also do interesting things with color like adjusting saturation, the intensity of a color in a scene.
A highly saturated scene can feel bright and exciting while a lowly saturated scene can feel washed out and desolate, but if it’s done in post or composed in frame, this makes up a film’s overall color palette. Like a painter’s palette, these are the dominant colors in a shot. The palette can be broad, taking in the entire spectrum or selective, drawing attention to a single color that dominates the others, deep erotic reds, cold and unfeeling whites, rich emotional blues, digitized unnatural greens, stately browns, reds and golds to make it feel antique. De-saturated reds, blacks, and golds to make it feel in ancient. Saturated blues and oranges to make it feel modern, whites and steely cyan to make it feel futuristic. Blacks and blues for a dark night, yellows, reds, and greens for a bright new day. There are an infinite number of combinations and each one can vary by context. Still, it’s an important thing to look for.
And finally, let’s look at how things are composed in the frame. The final thing that makes a shot a shot, space. We’ve already covered the basic types of shots, but it’s the use of space within the frame that makes a scene unique. There are thousands of ways to talk about space since there are thousands of ways to set up a shot. But to simplify things, let’s define some basic terms for looking at some creative examples. There is balance which gives weight to the frame. This shot emphasizes the symmetry between the man and the woman with the child in the middle as a fulcrum, but that’s a very controlled a shot. Even a wild shot like this has asymmetrical balance; the man with the mask in the foreground is balanced by the man on the chair in the background with the radial pattern below for added texture. This shot has a sense of balance staged in deep space, where the scene places elements both far and near to the camera, drawing attention to the distance between them from the people in the front of the scene who are talking about the child, all the way back to the child in the window whom the scene is about.
Scenes can also be staged in shallow space. This scene is staged flatly, emphasizing the closeness of the subject and the background objects, or even implying no depth at all. There is also one of the most important spaces, the offscreen space where a scene draws attention to something out of the frame. This shot uses a mirror to expand the space that this man is sitting in. This shot uses a look and an actor’s performance to imply something huge out of the frame. An actor’s performance can sometimes to be enough to set a scene and create space within the frame. All the movements an actor makes in the scene are called blocking. Though it may look freeform much like a dance, the actor’s movements are heavily choreographed, whether they are actually dancing or just doing a simple, powerful gesture. All of these things, all of them create a space within the frame. They create mise en scène. That space can be symmetrical, asymmetrical, round, linear, expensive, cramped, busy or deceptively simple – everything that makes a shot unique like creating something within the frame and without the frame. If the type of shot can indicate a word, the mise en scène can be the tone in which the word is said, harshly or softly, jokingly or majestically. But if you’re going to learn to speak a language, you can learn all the words in the dictionary and still be lost if you don’t know how to put them together.
Transcript: Mise en Scene – MIT
Some of you attentive viewers may notice what the students here would not notice that seven years have elapsed, there’s a new podium, some of you may have gotten that and a much older professor. I hope that our completion of these lectures seven years later will not will not result in a in a in a reduced or less energetic performance. I’ll do my best.
I thought it would be helpful to use today’s lecture, in part to create some perspectives on both the silent film The idea of the silent film, not just the particular films we’ve looked at, but more generally, the phenomenon of silent film, the whole the whole phenomenon, and some perspectives that will also help us look forward to what will follow to the to the sound films that will follow this week, I’d like in a certain way. To do this by complicating the idea I’ve already suggested to you about the notion of the film as a cultural form. What does it actually mean to say that a film is a cultural form? What in a concrete sense, does this phrase signify?
Well, one answer I think I can offer by drawing on your own experience. My guess is that all of you have watched older films films from 20, or 30, or 40 years ago, and immediately been struck as soon as you began to watch the film, by certain kinds of differences that the original filmmakers would have been oblivious to. And I’m talking about things like the hairdos of people, the clothing that they wear, the way automobiles look, or even a world in which there are no automobile, the the physical environment that is shown, one of the things that this reminds us of is that films always even the most surreal and imaginative, and science fictiony films, always inevitably, in some deep way, or in some essential ways reflect the society from which they come, they may reflect more than that.
And they may be influenced by other factors as well. But they are expressions of the culture that gave rise to them in certain really essential ways. And one of the things this means among other significance, one of the most interesting aspects of this recognition is the fact that films get richer over time, they become artifacts of immense anthropological interest, even if they’re terrible films, because they show us what the world of 50 or 25 or 30 years ago actually looked like, and how people walked in how people comb their hair, and what kind of makeup they were all of the things that many of the things, which in many respects, the people making the original film would simply have taken for granted as part of the reality they were trying to dramatize.
So one way of thinking about film as a cultural form is to recognize that as films grow older, they accrete meaning, they become more interesting, they become they become richer. And the corollary corollary implication of this idea that films are that films that films become richer is that is that the meaning of of the, of any individual artifact. cultural artifacts, especially cultural artifacts, as complex as films are, is always in process, that the meaning is never fully fixed or finished. But new significance and new possibilities, new meanings emerge from these texts, with the passage of time as if the texts themselves undergo a kind of transformation.
One final point about this just sort of tweak your broader understanding of these kinds of questions. One of the kinds of transitions that occurs with particular artifacts is they sometimes move or make a kind of transition from being recognized as merely ordinary and uninteresting parts of the society from which they go from which they grow, from which they emerge. Simply ordinary routine aspects of the experience of society. Later ages May May value these routine objects as profoundly valuable works of art. And in a certain sense, one could say that the films, the film in the United States underwent a transition of that kind That at a certain point in the history of our understanding of movies, American culture began to recognize that movies were actually works of art, that they both deserve comparison with novels.
This is plays and poems, it’s probably an idea that all of you folks take for granted. Your generation, probably many of members of your generation admire movie directors more than they do novelists and poets. A radical mistake, it seems to me, but that’s my literary bias showing through. I certainly admire great directors, certainly as much as I do good novelists. But the fact is that this is really not the case. This, this recognition of the film as an artistic object, as I’ve suggested earlier in the course, is not some fixed or stable identity that the film has had from the beginning. It’s an identity that the film has garnered of that the film has that has been laid on the film later, as cultural changes have occurred.
As other forms of expression have emerged, that have put the film in it kind of different position hierarchically from, from other kinds of from other kinds of imaginative expressions. And as I’ve already suggested, many times in this course, we’ll come back to this principle, because it’s such a central historical fact about the nature of the content of American movies, especially, it’s the advent of television, that is partly responsible for the transformation, although it takes some time for the transformation in American attitudes toward what movies are, because television became the throwaway item, the routine item, the thing Americans experienced every day.
The consequence of that was to change our understanding of what the film was. Now, of course, the Europeans had an insight like this long before the Americans did. And that’s something I’ll talk about in a bit later today, and also at other times in our course. So that’s one way of thinking about what it means to say that a film is a cultural form, it means that it’s an unstable in the sense that its meanings are not fixed. And the way in which our culture, categorizes and understands that particular artifact is also something that’s unstable, that undergoes change over time. But there are other ways to think about this problem of film as a cultural formation as an expression of society.
I want to tease out some of those meanings for you as well. One of them is kind of one way to come at this problem is to think of a kind of tension or, or even contention between our recognition that film is a global form. That is to say that certain that because the movies are watched across national boundaries, movies that are made in the United States can influence movies that are made in Europe, and vice versa. So this was all in one sense. But film, especially after film got going within the first 10 years of its life, it had become an international phenomenon, and American films were watched in Europe and European films influenced influenced American directors even at very early stages.
So that we began to get certain kinds of films that certainly appealed across national boundaries, and so that there is a kind of global dimension to what film might be. And there’s another way of thinking about what it means to talk about film as a global as a global phenomenon, not as a merely national expression. And that has to do specifically with the way in which particular directors in and films in particular societies can influence world cinema. And from the very earliest days of cinema, as I suggested, this has been a reality.
As as David Cook’s history of narrative film informs you want to hope you’ll read the assigned chapters on Russian film closely because I can only skim these topics in my lecture. What you’ll discover, among other things is that the great American director, dw Griffith, had a profound impact on Russian films. And, and that in fact, at a certain point in the history of Russian films, there was a workshop run by amending Kula Schaaf, who actually took dw Griffith’s movies and disassembled them shot by shot and studied the editing rhythms.
In his in his workshop, this had a profound impact on on not only on Russian cinema, but but the but Griffiths practice has had a profound impact on virtually all filmmakers. And and there’s a kind of reverse influence. Because certain Russian directors, Eisenstein especially, but also dziga vertov had profound impact. Their work had a profound impact on the on the films from Western Europe and from the United States. So it’s a two way process. It’s too simple to say that that particular films are only an expression of French culture only an expression of Russian culture or only an expression of American culture. They are also global phenomena and they were global phenomena from almost the earliest stages.
So it’s important to recognize this tension or this bell, there are dimensions of film that reach across national boundaries. Race. And as we’ve already suggested, one of the explanations for the successful American movies in the United States was in part function of the fact that they did not require language in nearly the same degree. They were visual experiences, and an immigrant population coming into the large cities of the United States at the turn of the century, with one of the primary factors that helps to explain that phenomenal, quick growth of the movies from a novelty into a profound embedded cultural experience, right. So it is a global phenomenon in a certain way it reaches across national boundaries. But there’s also and we need to acknowledge this side of the equation too. There’s also a profound a really deep fundamental sense, in which films, at least until very recently, are an expression of the individual national cultures from which they come.
I say until very recently, because some of you must be aware of the fact that a new kind of film is being made now. By which I mean, a film that seems to appeal across all national boundaries, that doesn’t seem to have a decisive national identity, at least some films like that. I think the Bollywood people are making films like this, Americans are certainly making films like this now. And sometimes, if you think of some of the action adventure films that will have a cast that is drawn from different cultures, right, a sort of multi ethnic and a multilingual cast, all of them, all of them Dubbed into whatever language the film is being is being exhibited in, you’ll see an exam that what’s begun to emerge now in our 21st century world is a kind of movie that already conceives of itself as belonging to a kind of global culture.
So far, I’m not sure these these movies have have as much artistic interest as one would like, but it’s a it’s a new phenomenon and the globalizing tendencies of digital technology are certainly encouraging new ways to think about the origins or the or the, or the central sources of movies. But until very recently, it is still the case that virtually every film, made in any society reflected in deep in fundamental ways, aspects of that society. And one of the reasons that this is such an important thing to recognize is it means that, especially in cultures, like your the European societies, and and those that in the United States, the movies are a profoundly illuminating source of cultural and social history.
Even if they had no artistic interest, they would be worth teaching and studying. And the fact that some of them are luminous works of art makes teaching, teaching them a particular a particular pleasure, a particular joy, a real vocation. So if we talk about films as a national as an as a national expression, what we’re talking about here is the extent to which the assumptions about personal relationships and the assumptions about the way society operates are going to be grounded in culturally, a socially specific phenomena, socially Specific Practices. And we’re also talking not just about the content of movies, but also about the structure of the industries, which end up providing movies to the public.
Part of what I want to at least allude to today in the in the lectures and materials that we’re looking at today is to crystallize or concretize this idea, but the variations that are possible within a within the, the broad universe of the cinema, so that, for example, the individual and atomistic system that developed in the United States, for the production of movies, the capitalist arrangements that developed in the United States for the development of movies are in many ways, radically different from the systems that were developed in some European societies or in the Soviet Union. And there’s a particular contract with the Soviet Union, which developed movies in a quite a quite different way and had a quite different notion about them. The emergence of the movies coincides in some degree with the turmoil in the Soviet Union, right?
The Russian revolution is what 1917 movies become the central, a central source of of information and propaganda for the emerging Soviet culture. Lenin called movies, our greatest art form, because he understood how important they were in promulgating certain ideals and in embedding those ideals in the society. And in fact, they were not in Russia, a series of independent companies that produced films, there was a top down arrangement in which the government controlled filmmaking doesn’t mean that they didn’t make remarkable and interesting films, but it was a different system. It was a top down system. We had central government financing, in which the genres of in Soviet films could be said to have had what we might call rip. coracle sources. For example, the revolution story is one genre of Russian film celebrates the heroes celebrating the heroic struggle of the people that were even sort of genres that we might call building genres or creating genres. And they were about make creating a farm or building a skyscraper, right.
Once the film was put in the service by the Soviet state was put in the service of this emerging society, it was understood as a, as a, as a system that would mobilize mass social forces for the betterment of society. And the differences, the these differences in attitudes toward the end in the way his films are financed, and, and and who makes the decisions about what films will go forward, of course, has a profound impact on the nature of those movies. our our our demonstration, instance, today will be one of the most famous passages from Eisenstein’s Potemkin to demonstrate some of the movie in a much more concrete way, some of the implications of this difference between American and Russian film that I’m suggesting, there are also profound differences.
I’ll develop this argument a little more fully to this evening, when we shift over to the great German silent films that will silent film that we’re going to look at tonight. There are profound differences between the American and German systems of moviemaking and attitudes toward the making of movies. And I’ll I’ll elaborate on some of those notions later, later today in the evening lecture, but for the moment, then suffice it to say that that movies that virtually all movies are going to reveal are going to embody the values and assumptions of the culture from which they come that that makes them anthropological artifacts have profound significance, and distinguishes French film from British film from American film in ways that continue to be illuminating and significant.
There are certain other contrasts or, or potential tensions in this notion of film as a cultural form that I’d also like to develop and will spend a little bit more time on one of them is this is the notion that there’s a profound even a fundamental difference more broadly, not just between French and American cinema, but between all forms of European cinema and the American version.
This is a principle we’ll talk about more this evening. But I want to allude to it now, one of the ways to crystallize This is to remind you of something we’ve already talked about briefly in the course, which is the migration of filmmaking from the east coast to the west coast, in the early days of filmmaking in the United States, the flight of filmmakers to California, and we’ve talked a little bit about why that’s a significant a significant transformation and a significant move. But perhaps the most important aspect of this trend of this of this historical fact, the migration of the movies to the west coast, is that what this meant is that the movies in the United States were able to develop in a culture whose intellectual and artistic and cultural authorities were on the East Coast, as far away as possible from where movies were developing.
In other words, the American movie is much more fundamentally in its emergence, a popular form a non art form that has no consciousness of itself as a work of art. It knows that what it’s trying to do is make money and entertain people. And and the earliest, very early, there were some directors like dw Griffith who recognize the artistic importance of movies, I don’t mean they weren’t directors who recognize that Chaplin truly thought of himself as making works of art, especially later in his career. But the fact is, the American movies begin on the farthest Western version of the society, nothing developed there, right, New York is the cultural center. Boston is a cultural center.
Maybe we could even say some of the great Midwestern cities have some kind of cultural authority, but there’s nothing on the west coast. And what that means is that all the writers, all the dramatists, all the actors, all the theater actors, all the poets, all the musicians, they were in the east, they lived in New York, and what there was a kind of freedom that this imparted to American movies.
And this is a very sharp contrast with the development of almost all forms of European cinema. Because partly because the the countries are literally geographically more limited, unlike the vast expanse of the United States, but also because of the much stronger traditions in these European societies have of high culture The much stronger respect in these in these societies, for for theater and for poetry, and for prose narrative. Means in the in the European societies, and this was especially true in Germany, but it was true in some degree in every European society, including the Soviet Union.
There was a sense that the movies were emerging in the shadow of older art forms, whose greatness and grander, shadowed minist, this emerging form. And in a way, the distinction I’m mentioning the difference I mentioning accounts both for the limitations and for the glories of both kinds of film. Because if the European film was more static, and we’ll talk much more, I’ll give you some examples of this tonight, if the European film was more static, let’s be it was less cinematic in a way in its early years, because it fought of itself as emerging from literature, from theater from poetry. And in fact, some of the important early German filmmakers especially were people who came from theater, and they had theatrical notions of what art was.
We’ll talk more about this this evening. So because that was true, the glory of the early European cinema was its recognition that it could be artistically powerful, it sense that it was talking about important subjects. But of course, the limitations were that it was often very boring visually, that it was serious, but not a movie that it didn’t, it didn’t exploit the properties of the medium nearly as quickly didn’t try to explore the unique properties of the medium nearly as a part because it was so in Thrall to inherited ideas of artistic value in artistic expression. This isn’t entirely a disadvantage, as I’ve said, because it also important to European filmmakers, a sense of dignity and the importance of their enterprise that served them well in certain ways and made them pick ambitious subjects. And you’ll see the outcome the final outcome once the film, once the European film was liberated into a greater cinematic freedom.
I’ll show you an example or two tonight of that. It became something immensely rich, in part because it had this legacy of high art behind it, and high artistic ambitions. The United States stories almost the opposite. In the United States, there was a kind of glorious sense of having no responsibility toward older art forms. There was something exuberant, experimental, joyous and, unembarrassed about early American films, they didn’t think of themselves as artworks, and it gave them a kind of freedom.
They were also vulgar as hell, they were often they were often trivial and silly. They often had had limited artistic ambitions. But they explored the nature of the medium in a way that became the legacy of the movies and a legacy that was communicated to other to other societies as well. Well, this distinction, then between American and European cinema is something I’ll develop a little bit more fully with examples this evening. But it’s a crucial distinction, it’s a crucial difference. And it tells us a lot about both forms of filmmaking.
There’s one final tension that I want to mention here, we’ll return to it, again, when we come to look at singing in the rain later in the course which dramatize is this subject, among others. There’s another kind of tension implicit in what I’ve already said, which is the tension between what we might call popular culture notions of culture that are enjoyed by the masses by everyone has against high culture like opera and poetry and theater, which which only the educated people go to right. And this tension is especially important. It’s important in many films, but it’s an especially important tension in the in American movies. And one of the things that we will come back to in different ways as we think about these American films is the way in which very often American films position themselves as the antagonists of high culture.
There are many films that actually do that in one of the Marx Brothers, some of the Marx Brothers films systematically dismantle the objects of high culture. There’s one Mark Marx Brothers film called A Night at the Opera, which takes place in an opera and the whole set comes crashing down the whole place, the whole place falls apart in the course of the, in the course of the film, acting out a kind of aggression against the older art form. And this is a tension also, that we will see played out in, in some of the films we’re going to be looking at a bit later in the course.
So this notion of height of Hollywood, as as the embodiment of a certain kind of demonic vigor and and, and populist energy, is is is a helpful way of thinking about how especially in the early years, American film was somewhat different from European film, and how it also very aggressively distinct was happy to distinguish itself from established art forms.
I want to take a quick of what will appear to be a digression but actually isn’t I want to talk about now about two crucial terms that that will be useful in our in our discussions of these of the matters I’ve already raised and some other matters that will come up later in the course. And then return after after work. clarifying these terms to an example from Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein’s most famous film, to demonstrate something of what I mean by by the principles of top down organization and and fuel mass propaganda that I was talking about earlier, as well as calling your attention to some of the artistic innovations that we still attribute to to Sergei Eisenstein, the two terms I want to discuss by the terms montage and meson sin.
They’re contrasting elements of what is in all movies. in a certain way, the term montage and the term use onsen describe the most essential features of what movies are meson sin, a term drawn from the theater, which literally it’s a French word literally means what is put or placed in the scene, right? What is what is in the scene with unsane refers to the single shot to what goes on within the single continuous unedited shot of film, the single frame of film however long it lasts, right? And the means on scene of that of that shot is virtually everything inside that frame.
In other words, how the even even how the cat actors move in the frame is part of the DS onset, but it’s especially the music’s and emphasizes, what is the environment like, what’s the furniture like, what’s the relation between the foreground, the middle ground and the background, and in these unsent, the emphasis is on the composition within the frame. And sometimes very great directors will compose their frames with such subtlety that if you freeze them, they look like paintings, they’re, they’re balanced, or unbalanced, if that’s the artists attention in particularly artistic and complex and complex ways.
So, we can we can think of this in in some sense almost as an A as a, as having a kind of painterly equivalent. what goes on in the scene, you know, within the, the other great term montage, which is also a French term comes from the verb, the French verb montair, which means to assemble or to put together a montage means what is put together what is edited, what is what is what is what is linked together. So a montage means the editing of continuous shots in a in a sequence, right? So the montage of a film is the rhythm of attending.
So all films have both elements in the right. And in fact, we need to be aware of both. And when we look at a film, it’s often very helpful to ask yourself questions about the rhythm of the editing, to pay attention to how long the shots are held, to the way the film is edited. Again, the Eisenstein example, we’re going to look at an image that will give you some dramatic instances of why manipulating the editing in the montage can be so so dramatic and so signifying.
So it has, there’s a kind of convention that has now developed that has that has developed, and that will radically simplifies in some ways. It’s a simplification that’s immensely instructive. One way you can talk about directors is to categorize them as montage directors, or mes unsend. Directors, these unsend direct I’m over simplifying, remember, because there’s montage in every film.
So Amazon said director can be a master of editing to, and a director that we identify as a Montage Director certainly has to know how to manipulate his muse unsaid. So it’s not as if one kind of director doesn’t do the other thing. But what it does try to signify when it does try to indicate is that directors we call montage directors, our directors whose effects come in, in a central way, from the way they edit the film, from the from the, from the quickness of their editing, from the from the way they’re editing, manipulate to our controls, meaning in some sense, and we therefore would think of montage directors.
Eisenstein is a classic example. Hitchcock is probably the contemporary example, near contemporary example, that most of you might have in mind, in which the editing of the film the rhythm of the the quickness with which the shots develop, the way the music is superimposed on the on the on the on the editing rhythm, to increase your, your, your, your, your emotional response to the film. What we would say is that that’s, that’s, that’s what a Montage Director embodies the work of a month. So if we say that Hitchcock is a Montage Director, what we mean is that some of his most most of his most profound meanings come from the way in which he edits his film.
What a contrast would be, let’s say with the director, like the director, we’re going to see a few a few in a few weeks later in the term, john Renoir, a narrow a realistic director who might be called much more fully among a muse unsend director because he does edit his editing rhythms are subtle, but he’s interested in long takes. montage directors likes short takes shots that lasts only a short time in the in the most dramatic segments of the segment from bad Battleship Potemkin that I’m going to show you this afternoon in a few minutes. Sometimes the the edits are so brief that they don’t even less the second and a half the average number of shots in the film as a whole in Battleship Potemkin as a whole, the shots last four seconds, that’s not very long.
You know, in a, in a, in a in a Renoir film, they might last 1015 seconds, sometimes much longer than that, right. But that’s a very long time for a shot to be held. And if a shot is held that long, it means the camera will move. cacked action will occur in it, but it’ll still be a single shot. Can you see that? If you hold the shot for that time, and the camera moves like this, what is it encouraging? It’s encouraging you to think about the relation between characters on the environment, it’s encouraging a kind of realistic response to what the film is showing you. Whereas if you’re looking at a film in which the cuts occur every two seconds, you don’t have time to sort of take in what’s the relation between the actor and the furniture, you’re you’re disoriented inside. In fact, Hitchcock often brought his editing to a point just below the threshold of disorientation.
When Eisenstein was theorizing about the power of editing, he was one of the first great film theorists, he talked about the way in which you could control an audience physiologically by manipulating montage. And it’s true, you can, as you will know, and something that fascists societies are fully aware of and, and make and make use of. So this distinction between montage and these unsaid is immensely useful. And is and in some degree, if you apply the terms generously and tactfully, you can learn something about every film you look at by thinking about how these elements work in the film.
I want to turn now to what was arguably one of the most famous certainly one of the most famous films in the history of cinema and to a to a particular fragment from the film or an extended one. Which I think embodies and will help clarify many of the abstract ideas I’ve just been suggesting to you.
Let me say a word about the film that film Battleship Potemkin was produced in 1925, at a point when Eisenstein was now at the height of his power and authority. And it It commemorates a moment in the aborting and abortive revolution of 19 of 1905. so that by the time Eisenstein came to make the film, Battleship Potemkin was kind of like a founding story right in our face.
Or at least it wasn’t about it was about an abortive founding that would then occur years later, right. It was see it was this it, what it what it what it dramatized was, it was a historical fact, there was a rebellion by the by the crew of the Battleship Potemkin against its officers. And in the book, The battleship sailed into the port of Odessa. And its its new, its new nears, were welcomed by the people in the port of Odessa.
Then the Tsar angry that his that his Navy, and his naval officers had been mutinied against sent soldiers to Odessa to decimate not just the the mutineers, but the population of Odessa. And, and the passage, so the film was understood in a way it was a revolutionary document, or, or, or Park ordinate, or an attempt to sort of create a kind of founding myth for Russian society, right? Because everyone watching the film would have known that the real revolution occurred, only whatever it was 12 or 14 years later. And, and, and that this was a kind of rehearsal, and it would have been so so that the film would have had a kind of patriotic aura, for for its for its audience for the passage I’m going to show you is that is the is the famous is the famous passage, some, I think David cook calls this the most famous montage sequence in the history of cinema.
It was certainly profoundly influential. And as we’re watching it, I may interrupt it to say a few things as you’re watching, but I’ll try not to do too much interruption. What I want you to watch for especially is not only five will have to make some commentary, but I want you to as you’re as you’re watching it, among other things, watch for the way in which the length of the length of the shots is the time between shots varies.
And as the film as the moment as the as the film begins to this passage begins to increase in intensity and terror, the cuts that come even briefer, right, and then watch also the way in which certain other strategies of Eisenstein’s reinforce this strategy, these monetize strategies for example where the camera is positioned? Is it looking up at a cat character? Or is it looking down right? And very different thing if you look up you would large and you, you you miss a Fae, if you look down you humiliate and minimize right watch how he does that sort of thing.
You’ll find it I think, very, very illuminating and, and significant. The, the, the sequence is often seen today. And I rightly I suppose, as deeply heavy handed, because you’re not allowed when you’re looking at this film to sort of have an alternative view of things. The film doesn’t leave you room. Eisenstein strategies don’t leave you room for independent judgment.
You’re immersed in a in a spectacle so emotional and so wrenching. That, that you don’t have time to sort of sit back and think and come to conclusion. And one can say that this is one of the great differences between montage directors and me’s unsend. Director, not an accident that most horror movies or horror movies really are a form of montage, right? Because your your feelings are being manipulated, you’re not you’re you’re not supposed to be allowed to sit back and say how ridiculously implausible these events are. If that happened, it would spoil the film, right.
We’ll come back to these things. So here is the different step sequence from Battleship Potemkin. These are they are dessins welcoming the mutineers. One of the things that Eisenstein was fond of was a theory of montage that was based on two principles. One he called t paws typisch TYPG. And what he meant by T pars was the idea that there were ethnic, very racist in a way that there were ethnic and social types that could be recognized visually. So he would, he would take his, so he felt, if I show you this face, you’ll know he’s a working class character. If I show you, if I show you, a woman with a parasol, you’ll know that she belongs to the upper classes. And in fact, he’s probably right about that. Here are the Czar’s forces come to punish the mutineers and the city of Odessa.
So the soldiers are on top, and they’re forcing people down the steps, and they are presumably shooting them.Christina, freeze it for a second. I don’t want to distract you by talking while it’s running. So let me interrupt it for a second and say something else about the way the film works. One of the things Eisenstein understood was, and it’s actually a brilliant discovery.
He realized that he could create through his strategies, especially dramatic editing, he could create a situation in which the actual time of the experience that you’re watching was not real time but was what might be called emotional time. That is to say, what’s happening here, too. It’s probably in the film taking longer than it took in reality, because in moments of horror, the horror is extended. And watch how those kinds of rhythms operate in the film. Okay.
Seems like a naive hope freezing again, Christian. What one other quick observation. I mean, there’s I hope you recognize how awful This is, even if you’re not moved in the way the original audiences would have been. I think contemporary audiences often feel as too heavy handed they they resist, they resist the extent to which the film is manipulating them.
But think back to the earliest days of film, what an unbelievable shocking, incredibly exciting experience. It must have been for early film goers to have an experience that certainly for the Russian audience, but I think for every audience that was so intense, and so emotionally powerful, so full of fear and violence that can be evoked by really by the rhythms of the editing, by the music by how close Did you I hope you notice the way he mixes in close ups in incredibly powerful ways, trying to create certain effects. Again, you’re not given a choice about how to feel about this, you, you can set you can descend from it by withdrawing your interest, but you can’t say.
Oh, I really love those soldiers that we’re doing in the shooting. Let’s make a case for them. You’re not allowed the film won’t allow you to do that will it? And that’s in that sense. It’s manipulating you. But it’s telling. It’s telling us a story about the creation of a revolutionary society. Finally, what Remember I said that this is question about emotional about emotional time as against Real Time, think how long this has been going on, you think that this massacre is over? Right? But in fact, it’s only half over? As you’ll see. There’s going to be a moment when horse horse mounted Cossacks, horsemen, show up at the bottom of the steps and get them in a pinch.
I don’t think this soundtrack is the original soundtrack was very good, though, as this is a brilliant moment. I don’t know whether we can attribute to Stein’s Eisenstein or not
when it’s suddenly the music stops. Should be sound now. There’s something wrong with our print. I wanted to at least until you saw this because some of you may recognize this moment as as something that’s been copied in recent American movies.
I’ve seen that kind of illusion or a reference to this. See The moment I wanted you to think about is this baby carriage.
Okay, thanks, Kristen. blood in the eyeglasses. Can you think of a movie in which you’ve seen that recently? Maybe not that recently, it’s actually an ancient film now by by your standards about the Godfather. There’s a wonderful scene in The Godfather where a guy looks up from a from a massage table, and he shot through the eyeglasses. very memorable moment, it’s surely an allusion to this moment, let’s say How about the carriage going down that there have been several films that actually recreate that moment, but the one I’m thinking of is, Who is it? Yes from The Untouchables. Britt, who’s the director? Do you remember? Yes, Brian DePalma was filmed.
The Untouchables has a moment just like that. And apama, of course, is a kind of historian of movies. Virtually every scene in dipalma film is a reference or an allusion to an earlier film. And part of the importance of Battleship Potemkin is that it is still a fruitful and fructifying source of imagery for contemporary filmmakers. So let me conclude then by simply reminding you that, as cook suggests, in his book, this is the single most influential montage sequence in cinema history. And that it’s a wonderful instance.
For us, I think of the way in which film in a different kind of culture in an authoritarian culture, in a revolutionary culture, full of moral fervor, would be conceived both as an apparatus as a social as a, as a, as a as an engine of social transformation, by a society that control film, in a way very fundamentally different from the way in which film developed, let’s say in the United States. We will continue these arguments and I hope complicate them this evening.
Mise En Scene:
You will remember from our discussion of film form that the form in which a movies content is presented to audiences includes both the movies narrative structure, and its use of stylistic elements. In cinema stylistic elements are the visual and acoustic elements that are used to tell the movie story through images and sound. There are four different categories of stylistic elements that are used in movies. Mazon sends cinematography, editing and sound.
This week we’re going to take an in depth look at the first of these Mazon said as the reading for this week notes miss on San is French for to put in the scene. The term comes from theater, we’re first in the way that plays are staged. When it comes to movies. Mazon Sam refers to all of the creative decisions behind what appears on screen. So in other words, the way that the movies de Jesus the story world and the characters are visualized and brought to life on screen. Because all of the elements that make up a movies miss on Sun are central to the visual design and the staging of the movie story, what is written in the script, you can think of Miss Johnson in terms of the look or the visual style of a film. There are five components that make up a movies miss on sand, production design, costumes, makeup and hairstyles, lighting, staging, and performance or acting.
The first component of MS on sand that is discussed in the reading for this week setting can be a bit confusing. Since setting is also a component of movie narratives. It might be helpful therefore, to clarify that when we talk about setting as an aspect of the movies narrative, we are talking about when and where the story takes place. In contrast, when we are talking about setting as an aspect of MS on seven, we are talking about the visual appearance of the spaces both indoor and outdoor, where the movie story takes place. So when we are analyzing setting is a component of MS onset, we are analyzing how the setting looks, not what it is. Since production design is the film industry term for this it might be equally helpful for our purposes to discuss this and for you to start thinking about this as production design rather than setting. Production design includes the design, the construction and the decoration of all of the movie sets. So in terms of design and construction, we are talking about the architecture and the physical layout of all of the places where the movies action unfolds. In this image from the Darjeeling Express, The set includes the dimensions of the room and the shape of the window, as well as the placement of the furniture and then the decoration of the space.
The furniture and the decorations that make up the sets are referred to as the decor. In this image. The decor includes the bed, the sheets in the quilt, the night tables and lamps. It also includes the choice of color for the paint, the bedding and the lampshades. What is known as the color palette for the production design for this scene, well color is included in movies Mazon sand color is not a separate component of Mazon said. Instead, it is part of both costume design and production design. When it comes to production design, the term color palette refers to the range of colors used in a particular set. In other words for a particular location where part of the action of the movie takes place. In this example, from the rise of Skywalker, the color palette is made up of shades of black, grey, blue and white with a single splash of red for the lightsaber held by the character of Kylo Ren. In this example, which is from a different scene in the same movie, the color palette is made up of shades of brown, beige, gold, blue, and orange.
Well, it is common for movies to have different color palettes for different sets. There are also some cases where the production designer and the director might decide to use a single color palette for the entire film. In the short film Bartholomew’s song for example, every location in the film uses the same color palette of green, yellow and white feature films sometimes divis to arrival for example, has a color palette that is pretty consistent throughout the entire film regardless of the setting. When it comes to our first example from the Darjeeling Express, The color palette includes the yellow of the paint on the walls, the fabric on the headboard, the quilt on the bed, and the bathroom that the woman is wearing.
It also includes the white of the sheets, the lampshades and the towel on the woman’s head and also the lollipop stick, as well as the brown of the wood trim on the headboard which is echoed in a slightly different shade by the brass light fixtures. The pink of the flower petals on the matching fabric on the headboard and the quilt ends the maroon in the center of the flowers, the trim on the woman’s bathrobe and the Bloody Mary on the bedside table.
Well the choice of colors and the decor and the other aspects of the production design provide decoration for sets. Color also has other uses in movies. In some cases, color can be used symbolically. For example, in this scene from The Royal Tenenbaums the character Richie is contemplating suicide. Blue is the dominant color in the production design, and a blue filter is additionally used to give a bluish tinge to the entire shot. Blue is a color that we associate with sorrow in US culture.
So the use of the color in this scene is symbolically linked to Ritchie’s emotional state. Likewise, in this scene from body heat, the woman in Mati is trying to convince the man ned to murder her husband, red is the dominant color in the production design for this scene. Red is a color that we associate with danger in US culture. And so the use of the color in this scene signals the dead dangerous situation that Ned finds himself in, we see the symbolic use of color in a slightly different way in films like Pleasantville and medicine for melancholy.
Both of which used a color grading process in post production to bleed out most of the color, so that only selected areas of color remain in each shot. In medicine for melancholy, the colors are used alternately to symbolize moments of connection and moments of disagreement are contrast between the movie’s two protagonists, as in this shot, where the different colors of their shirts symbolically reflect more fundamental differences between them.
Well, in Pleasantville, the symbolic uses of color I tied to both the plot and the themes of the film. As color literally comes into the lives of characters in the film as they take risks, become open to new experiences or ideas, or otherwise step out of their comfort zones. We see a similar thematic use of color in the Wizard of Oz, where the scenes set in Kansas are filmed in sepia tone film stock, while the scenes set in the oz are filmed using Technicolor film stock.
We also see this in Wings of Desire, where the protagonist can only see the world in black and white and from an emotional distance as an angel, but experiences the world in color after he makes the choice to become human. In the case of both of these films, as in Pleasantville, and medicine for melancholy, we see intersections between production design and cinematography, as the symbolic and thematic uses of color in all four films depends not only on the colors chosen for the costumes and sets, but also the way that choices in the cinematography techniques used to film the movies affects the way that those colors show up on screen.
Finally, when it comes to production design, color can be used to both draw and focus the audience’s attention on a particular place, object or person within the image.
In this example, from 500 days of summer, the furniture decor and props in the conference room, as well as the costumes worn by the characters sitting around the table are predominantly in shades of Maroon gray and white. The woman standing at the head of the table stands out not only because she is positioned in the center of the image, but also because her green shirt and sweater are the only variation in color. When watching the film, our eyes will automatically go to her first because the color she is wearing makes her stand out from the rest of the content in the image. I just mentioned the props in the previous image.
The last part of production design for this set is the selection and placement of the props, the objects that the characters use or otherwise interact with. In this example, the props include the lollipop the woman is eating her drink on the bedside table, and the remote for the TV that is on her lap.
All of these aspects of production design that we’ve been discussing set design decor props and color palette, apply to all movies. They are used in scenes that are shot using sets that are entirely constructed on sound stages, as well as scenes that are shot on location using already existing real world places. This image is from the interior of the Ames mansion in eastern Massachusetts, which was used to film the majority of the interior scenes in the home of the character of Harlan thrombey.
In the movie knives out, the mansion was chosen as one of the locations for the film because the architecture fit the general look of what the filmmakers had in mind for what the house should look like. But that doesn’t mean that they just showed up and started filming. The production designer for the film still planned out specific designs for each room in which they filmed and props and decor like this art piece made of knives were brought in to reflect the personality interests and career of the character. Production Design in the case of location shitting is a good illustration of how this element of Milan San is used to create the world of the film.
This is the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Originally constructed in 1893, it is one of the oldest architectural structures still standing in the city. Because of its distinctive architecture. It is also a popular location for filming. And it has been used as a setting in hundreds of movies. This is what it looks like in real life in which it is an office building.
This is what it looks like in 500 days of summer, in which it is an architectural firm. This is what it looks like in Blade Runner in which it is an apartment building. And this is what it looks like in the artist in which it is a Hollywood movie studio. In all three cases, it’s the exact same space. In fact, in the two images on the left, it’s literally the same place within the building, the camera is just placed further away in the shot on the bottom.
And yet even in spite of its very distinctive architecture. The building looks very different in all three films thanks to the production design, which locates the building in three very different story worlds with three very different visual environments and three very different vibes. In the same way that production design applies to both studio sets and location sheeting.
It also applies in the case of external locations shot using miniatures. This is one of the exterior sets for the film Blade Runner 2049 In which miniatures were used to visualize Los Angeles 30 years into the future. Production Design also applies to movies in which sets are virtually simulated using computer generated imaging or CGI. This is one such example from the movie Black Panther, in which the country of Wakanda was created by digital effects artists working in conjunction with the production design team.
As I were looking at the symbolic uses of color has already suggested productions design does more than just provide locations in which to stage the plot events that make up a movie narratives. Production Design is also frequently used to communicate implicit meaning, meaning that in the case a production design is implied through visual elements. And that can either be used to provide the audience with story information to create symbolism, or to emphasize the movies themes. Our next video is going to look in more depth at this aspect of production design.
As mentioned in our last article production design does more than just provide locations in which to stage the plot events that make up moving narratives. Production Design is also frequently used to communicate implicit meaning, meaning that in the case of production design is implied through visual elements. And that can either be used to provide the audience with story information, to create symbolism, or to emphasize the movies themes. In terms of how movie content the story is presented to viewers the form using production design, both story and plot information are communicated through sets and props. This includes characterization providing information about characters, as well as both story details and plot details.
So for example, in this shot from the movie Children of Men, the newspaper clippings on the wall in the background with the shot provide the audience with backstory, background information that in the case of the newspaper headlines is never directly referenced in the film. But that helps the audience to fill in some of the blanks in terms of figuring out how the world ended up in the state that we see it in when the film begins. Likewise, the plot of the movie arrival revolves around the main characters learning to understand and communicate in an alien language that is based entirely on visual symbols.
It was up to the production designers working on the film to invent that language, and then to come up with a way to represent it on screen, as well as to find a way to represent the aliens and the humans communicating back and forth using these symbols, which is what we see in this shot on the bottom right of the screen.
Implicit meaning related to both plot and themes is also communicated through production design. For example, in Bartholomew’s song, the high degree of conformity that characterizes the world of the film is visually communicated through the uniformity in the color scheme and decor of all of the rooms in the compound where the story takes place. This is production design. It’s also communicated through the similarities in the physical appearances of all of the characters, costumes, hairstyle, makeup, and the way that their movements are all synchronized staging and performance.
So we see here all of the elements of business on sin working together to help emphasize the movies themes. One of the ways that production design can provide story information is through the information that sets can reveal about characters in the film, their personalities, their tastes, their interests, their socioeconomic class, etc. This example from 500 Days of Summer is a shot that appears in the second scene in the film. It only lasts on screen for roughly 15 seconds. But in that time, the things that we see in the kitchen of Tom’s apartment hinted information about his character that we learn in more detail later in the film. Here are the photographs of historic buildings reflect his love of Los Angeles his architectural his history, while the drawings connect to his failed dream of a career as an architect. Production design can also provide us with information about characters emotional states.
In this scene in Spider Man into the spider verse, Peter B. Parker’s depression, his loss of confidence, and the crisis he faces concerning his commitment to his superhero mission, all of which are precipitated by the failure of his marriage, are reflected in the discarded clothing and take out trash littering the floor of his apartment, his unmade bed, and the fact that we see most of his possessions still in boxes, suggesting he has not yet been able to bring himself to unpack that.
In that same film, we also see an example of the symbolic uses of production design in terms of the mural that Miles paints towards the beginning of the film, and that functions in the movie as a motif related to both the coming of age and superhero plots that make up the movies narrative. In the same way that sets can provide us with visual information about characters. They are also frequently used to provide us with visual information about the world of the film. In the movie Elysium. The desperate and decidedly dystopian condition of Earth in the year 2154 is perfectly encapsulated by this shot of Los Angeles from early in the film.
The Rundown state of the building suggests the high level of poverty among those still living on Earth, while both the accumulation of trash and the smog hinted the rampant environmentalist Have a station that is ravaging the planet. The massive billboards hanging from the building suggests materialism and overconsumption while the ramshackle structures crowding all of the available space on the roofs of the buildings hinted overpopulation. Finally the police helicopters circling overhead provided glimpse of both the police state in the widespread civil unrest that characterize life in the city in the film.
The contrast in the film between the conditions in Los Angeles and those on the offworld colony of LeSean illustrate the ways in which production design can be used fanatically. In this film, the inhabitants of earth are made up largely of the poor and the working class who were exploited for their labor. While the wealthy all live in luxury on LeSean. The class inequalities there at the center of the film’s plot, and are also one of its major themes is emphasized by the striking visual disparities between these two locations.
Like sets props can also serve both a narrative function and a thematic function in movies, the whiteboards that the humans used to communicate with the aliens in arrival, Ernesto de la Cruz is guitar, the theft of which is the events that sets the plot in motion in cocoa. Both the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers Infinity War, and the reel to reel tape recorder in Bartholomew song are all examples where props play a major part in the plot of the movie.
One of the most famous examples of a prop that is used to communicate implicit meaning related to movies themes is the sled in Citizen Kane, which connects both to the title characters lost childhood and to the movies ruminations on what gives life meaning, as well as the existential question of what any one individual life amounts to in the greater scheme of things. We also see the thematic use of a prop in the dark night, in which Harvey dents habit of flipping his lucky coin at pivotal moments in his life, takes on thematic significance after a tragic loss drives him to give up the fight for justice and become a villain bent on revenge.
Harvey dents coin in The Dark Knight as well as the things we learn about Tom in 500 days of summer and Peter be Parker in Spider Man into the spider verse from the decor of their apartments are also examples of the ways in which production design can additionally be used for the purposes of characterization. Our next video we’ll take a look at the ways in which in movies Mazon Sanan can also provide characterization through costumes, makeup and hairstyles, as well as through staging and performance.
Part one of this discussion briefly touched on some of the ways that muslin sun can be used to provide characterization in movies through production design. Before we look at the other ways that this is done through costumes, makeup, hairstyle, staging and performance, it might be helpful to pause for a moment to consider that characterization is one of the places where we see two different elements of film form, narrative and Milan Sen intersect when it comes to investing characters with unique individual personalities and traits, as well as to bringing them to life on screen. characterization in movies is done primarily in three ways.
The script, which is what the movies narrative comes from, contributes to characterization by determining what characters say and do staging and performance contribute to characterization by determining how characters say and do those things. So how they speak how they move, and how they do the things that it is written in the script that they do.
Costumes, makeup and hairstyles determine how characters look, and also help to individuated characters by investing them with a personal style of dress and appearance. In movies, costumes, and costume design. Include everything that characters wear, both clothing and accessories, makeup and hairstyles and their respective design processes involve everything pertaining to the physical appearances of characters, things like hair color and styles, their overall grooming, eye color, skin texture and color, etc.
Because movies frequently require actors to go through radical physical alterations in order to become the characters that they portray. hairstyles in movies include the use of wigs and false mustaches or beards, while makeup includes cosmetics, but also the use of prosthetics body padding false eyelashes, false teeth, false fingernails, contact lenses, and digitally rendered alterations or enhancements to their physical appearances that are done using CGI.
So for example, in Citizen Kane, Director Orson Welles, who made the movie when he was 25 years old, also plays the role of Charles Foster Kane at various periods in his life from his 20s through his 70s to age him up to portray the character in middle age and as a senior citizen, bald caps, body padding and various percent acts were used along with cosmetics to alter both his facial features and his bodily appearance. Prosthetics were also used to create Kylo Ren scar in the last Jedi in the rise of Skywalker, as well as to provide Freddy Krueger with his burn scars in the Nightmare on Elm Street horror movie franchise.
In those films, the actor is actually wearing a latex mask that gives the skin of the character both the appearance and the texture of healed burns, and Guardians of the Galaxy cosmetics give Yondu his blue skin tone. Well in Black Panther computer generated imaging was used to transform the body of actor Andy Serkis who has not had an arm amputated above the elbow into that of Ulysses Klaw who has as with production design, costumes, makeup and hairstyles are another component of Milan Sen. They can be used to communicate implicit meaning that provides the audience with story information, character’s personal appearances and their individual personal styles in terms of dressing grooming.
The way that they styled their bodies gives us visual information about their personalities, their tastes and their interests. It also gives us visual information about character’s life circumstances, their ages, their gender identities, their socio economic statuses, and their jobs. Since these are all things they in our culture, we express their manner of dress and or body presentation. So for example, in Spider Man into the spider verse we first learned that Miles his mother’s a nurse when we see her dress for work in her nurse’s uniform.
In the Breakfast Club, the different high school cliques or social groups that each of the students identifies as a member of is signaled through the way that they dress and through their personal grooming. In Crazy Rich Asians the character of peak Lin has a quirky personality that is expressed through her offbeat style of dress and in medicine for melancholy. Joe’s t shirt identifies her as a fan of the filmmaker Barbara load in long before she shares that fact. While the Tom Waits t shirt worn by Pete and knocked up and the talking heads t shirt worn by Elio in call me by your name but Tell us something about their taste in music.
Likewise, just as with production design, costumes, makeup and hairstyles can also be used to communicate implicit meaning that is symbolic or that is thematic. In other words, symbolic but also directly related to one of the movies themes. There are a lot of different ways that this can be done, but one of the most common is the ways in which changes in characters physical appearances can be used to symbolize changes in those characters, whether it is changes to their life circumstances, changes to their emotional states, or some other kind of change.
This can be a relatively routine change, such as showing the process of the character aging through the years as in Citizen Kane, or it can be something more profound, such as using Ritchie’s change of appearance in The Royal Tenenbaums to symbolize the emotional catharsis that he experiences and the new approach to living his life that he embraces after surviving a suicide attempt. We also see this in Spider Man into the spider verse through the subtle changes in Peter B. Parker’s appearance as he regains his confidence and his sense of purpose, and he re commits to his superhero mission as a result of becoming Miles’s mentor.
In this case, his more put together appearance at the end of the film reflects the fact that he is in the process of putting himself and his life back together after his divorce, and also possibly putting his marriage back together. One of the oldest and still one of the more common symbolic uses of costumes, makeup and hairstyles is the way that villains are often visually identified by being dressed in dark colors. Not all villains dressed in dark colors, and sometimes heroes in movies like Batman do. So this is not absolute, and it is not true of every movie. But it is a long standing representational convention that is used in a lot of movies.
This is a representational convention that originated in movie westerns, where the villain was often shown wearing a black hat while the hero wore white hats. That color coding is a way of visually identifying the heroes and the villains in movies is still widely used today. The Star Wars example also provides an illustration of another representational trope that uses makeup to visually identify villains in movies. In the case of Kylo Ren the scar on his face follows a long and decidedly ableist tradition of using scars as well as physical disabilities, body traits that are both culturally perceived as physical flaws, as the signifier of inner character flaws or moral failings that are externally manifested on the body in ways that symbolically mark the villains as villains.
In Bartholomew’s song we see a thematic use of costumes and hairstyles with the identical clothing and haircuts with all the characters not to mention the exclusive casting of white actors which gives all the characters the identical skin tones, visually symbolizing the high level of conformity that defines the worlds of the film. Of course, we see this in the synchronized movements of the characters as well, which provides an illustration of how costumes makeup and hairstyles intersect with both staging and performance when it comes to characterization through Miss onset. In movies, staging refers to the arrangement of people and objects within the space that we see on screen in any given shots. It also encompasses the movement of people within that space, the technical term for which is the blocking of the shot.
So in other words, when a character moves and where they move to, none of these things happen spontaneously in movies, staging is meticulously and deliberately planned to help for every shot by the director, the DP or director of photography, which is another term for the cinematographer. And the actors. Staging has a practical use in that it takes the plot events and the character actions that are described in the movie script and enacts them on screen.
Staging can also sometimes have a symbolic use, in that it can also be used to communicate implicit meaning. This is what we see in terms of both the uniform positioning and the synchronized movements of the characters in Bartholomew’s song, which uses staging along with production design, costumes, makeup, hairstyles and performance in ways that are all connected to the movies themes. One of the more common uses of staging is to either visually suggest or visually emphasize relationship dynamics between characters in the film. Probably the most famous example of this comes from the breakfast table montage in Citizen Kane, which shows the dissolution of Charles Foster Keynes first Marriage over the course of several years, there are a series of brief scenes of he and his wife having breakfast.
At the beginning of their marriage, we see them sitting close together, smiling and talking. Towards the end of their marriage, we see them sitting on opposite ends of the table reading different newspapers and ignoring one another. In both cases, the staging of the scene reflects the shift from closeness to alienation, as the growing physical distance between them is used to symbolize their growing emotional distance. Similarly, the adversarial and deeply antagonistic relationship between two Chawla and Eric in Black Panther are suggested by their poses and facial expressions in this shot, while miles his admiration for Peter be Parker is likewise suggested by the way he mimics Peters pose, in this shot from Spider Man into the spider verse, finally in the Royal 10 involves the character of Marco who is adopted and feels like an outsider and the tenant bond family is frequently shown standing apart and at a visible distance from the other members of the family when they are all together.
In all of these examples of staging we also see intersections with performance, as implicit meaning is communicated both through the positioning of characters and through their movements, body language and facial expressions. Performance is another term for acting. It includes all of the choices that actors make about posture, body language, movement, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, speech patterns and vocal intonations as they perform their roles and bring the characters that they portray to life on screen.
Because performance is another place where we see aspects of narrative and aspects of Miss on Sun intersecting, I think it might be helpful to emphasize that when we are analyzing performance in a movie, we are not analyzing what characters say or do. Those things are determined by the script and are part of the mood of these narrative. So if a character cries, gets angry and yells or jumps up and down, because they’re excited about something that is not acting, the script tells them to do that.
Instead, performance is how the characters say and do the things that are written in the script. So how the actor chooses to cry how the ACT chooses to yell or jump up and down with excitement, since there are different ways that a character can do those same things. Before we move on to discussing lighting, which is the final component of Mazon seven that will be discussed in part three of this video, we need to consider one final aspect of both production design and staging, which is that they both can sometimes serve a purely aesthetic function rather than a narrative thematic or symbolic one.
When we talk about a movie as a static or about the aesthetics of a particular image in a movie, we are talking about the things that make that image either visually beautiful or visually striking. So for example, in the case of this image from Spider Man into the spider verse, or this image from last year at Marian dad, there is not necessarily any kind of deeper meaning behind the staging of these shots. Here are the motivation behind both the staging and the production design is to make the shots and visually pleasing as well as interesting to look at. We are going to see the same balance between narrative symbolic and aesthetic uses of MS on San when it comes to move the lighting, which is the subject of the third part of this video.
Movie lighting like staging has practical uses, as well as narrative symbolic and esthetic uses. There are very few scenes in movies that are shot using only the available ambient or natural lighting. The movie The Revenant was actually almost entirely shot using natural lights, but that is very, very rare. Most scenes in most movies whether shot on soundstages or on location outdoors, use electric lights and lighting reflectors and have specific lighting designs for where those lights and reflectors will be placed, and what kind of lighting effects they will produce.
On the practical side lighting is used during filming to make it possible for the images to be captured in a way that allows audiences to clearly see what is happening on screen. In the case of movies shot using analog cameras and celluloid film stock light is also needed to record the movie images onto the film. While it works in a slightly different way.
For movies that are shot using digital cameras, light is still needed to capture the images. So there is another practical use for movie lighting for digital cinematography as well. As the reading for this week explains movie lighting starts with the basic three point lighting system and then provides variations on this setup depending on the specific lighting effect that the movies director and DP the Director of Photography want to achieve.
All of the different lighting techniques that are discussed in the reading are dependent on the placement and relative levels of brightness or intensity of the lighting used to film. backlighting top lighting and under lighting for example, all depends on the placement of the primary lighting source for the scene.
While both high key and low key lighting depends on the relative intensity of the key light. We are going to be discussing these techniques and looking at examples in class this week. But before we do that, I do want to provide one clarification about high key and low key lighting to hopefully clear up some of the confusion that usually crops up around these concepts. high key lighting is not scenes in which it is daytime or scenes that have bright light.
And low key lighting is not scenes where it is nighttime or scenes that have dim lighting. high key lighting and low key lighting are lighting effects that have to do with the relative contrast between light and shadow, not lighting levels. In other words, it has to do with how much or how little shadow there is in the shot, not how bright or how dark the lighting is. Both of the images on the top of the screen are examples of high key lighting.
And both of the images on the bottom of the screen are examples of low key lighting. And understanding what high key lighting and low key lighting are and what the difference is between them, it might be helpful to think about it in this way. high key lighting either significantly reduces or entirely eliminates shadows, while low key lighting produces shadows, creating contrasting areas of light and shadow within a given shot.
Regardless of which lighting technique is used in any given scene in a movie. The choice of that technique is often based on more than just practical considerations. In other words, choices in movie lighting are often as much about film aesthetics and communicating implicit meaning as they are about the mechanics of providing adequate light for capturing images. When it comes to implicit meaning there are a number of ways in which movie lighting can be used symbolically as well as the magically. In this shot from Moulin Rouge, one of Sutton’s clients arrives at her door.
Backlighting is used to render him in silhouette, suggesting at once the illicit nature of sateen status as a sex worker, the anonymity of her encounters with her clients and the fact that they are all more or less undistinguishable and interchangeable. In this shot from arrival. Both low key lighting and backlighting are used to represent the grief that Louise experiences when her teenage daughter dies as the result of an incurable medical condition.
In this shot from Double Indemnity, low key lighting is used to cast shadow over felicitous face, suggesting her nefarious intentions and seducing Walter and later on in the film after she is convinced him to murder her husband. Low key lighting is used in this shot to cast shadows in the pattern of the vertical blinds across Walter visually mimicking bars on a cage or perhaps a jail cell. While in this shot from Spider Man into the spider verse.
Low key lighting is similarly used to suggest moral ambiguity and a metaphorical descent into darkness. After miles is Uncle Aaron is revealed to be the Prowler. In this shot from 500 Days of Summer, backlighting is used in conjunction with a diffusion lens on the camera to give the impression that the light is glowing, creating a halo effect around summer. A common technique in romance movies that is used to generate a literal aura of romance around the character.
A technique that we also see used in this shot minus the use of the diffusion lens from call me by your name. Lighting can also be used to set the tone of his scene, or to set the tone of an entire film. For example, both under lighting and low key lighting are staple lighting techniques used in horror films to generate feelings of unease and anxiety. Low key lighting is similarly used in both thrillers and mysteries to create a sense of suspense.
And in this very famous example from the movie suspicion, low key lighting is used to create a sense of madness, as we watch Johnny approach the bedroom of his bedridden wife with another dose of the poison he has been using to slowly kill her. A light placed inside the glass of milk containing the poison adds to the madness by making it appear to glow like a beacon signaling danger. Similarly, high key lighting is common in both comedies and musicals, where it works to complement the light hearted tones, the humorous or triumphant storylines, and the happy endings that are widespread features of both genres, though not exclusively in the case of musicals, because there are also musicals that are tragedies.
And in the case of those films, they tend not to use high key lighting as much. Just as with staging and production design. There are also cases where the lighting design for a specific shot or for an entire scene in a film is chosen to create an image that is visually beautiful or that is striking to look at. In this shot from Blade Runner 2049. The production design, the placement of the camera, and the use of the filter that gives the light a red tinge, all work together to create a very striking image, as well as a sense of desolation and awe as the protagonist walks through this desolate wasteland and pass the towering statues. In this shot from Tangled, the light cast from the floating lanterns creates a visually beautiful image, as well as working symbolically to create a feeling of romance.
This shot from atonement was filmed at the golden hour, the hour just after sunrise or the hour just before sunset, which gets its name for the quality of the light, which has a golden glow to it. The Golden lights along with the backlighting that creates the silhouette effect results in another visually beautiful image. And in this shot from the tree of life, the upside down placement of the camera, the use of a wide angle lens to create visual distortion, and the shadows cast on the sidewalk that are the visual focus of this shot, work together to produce an image that is both interesting and striking. Finally, both color and lighting can also be used to focus the audience’s attention on a particular spot within the image. In this shot from Moulin Rouge front lighting spotlights the two figures in the foreground of the image while casting the crowd in the background into shadow.
This focuses our attention on the two figures in the foreground, since the action involving them is what is important in terms of the plot development of the film, while what any one individual person in the crowd is doing is not important. Similarly, in this shot from Spider Man into the spider verse, top lighting is used along with low key lighting to focus our attention on Spider Man in the Green Goblin, who appeared in the soul pool of light in the image, as the conversation between them is what is important at this moment in the film. In the nice shot from Blade Runner, 2049 backlighting and low key lighting are used together to spotlight the woman walking towards the camera, while also concealing her identities since the backlighting results in her appearing in silhouette. This not only focuses audience attention on her but also works to create both mystery and suspense. In several of these images.
We also see examples of intersections between lighting and cinematography. As it is both the lighting techniques and the filming techniques, the placement of the camera the use of filters the use of specific types of lenses that work together to communicate implicit meaning as well as to contribute to the movies overall visual aesthetic cinematography is the next element of film form that we will be examining in our next video.