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What is Mise en Scène?

It’s the 1 reason why we all fall in love with the movies, characters, and stories that we do.


I’m going to explain the concept of Mise en Scène and why it’s crucial for filmmakers to understand.


Understanding Mise en Scène will help filmmakers create visually stunning and emotionally impactful films that connect with their audience. It’s the same reason why you connect with the movies you do.


What is Mise en Scène? Let’s dive in.


The arrangement of visual elements within a shot.

👆🏼At it’s most basic form (or definition) — this is it.


Why it matters: A filmmaker’s ability to control and manipulate the visual elements within a shot, such as setting, lighting, and costume, can greatly enhance the storytelling of a film.


Example: Imagine a scene where the main character is going through a rough time in their life. When a setting is aligned with the mood: the room might be cluttered, with shadows and dim lighting. This conveys the character’s inner turmoil and makes the scene much more powerful.


Establishes the tone and mood.

Why it matters: The tone and mood of a film are important components of storytelling and can greatly impact how an audience perceives a scene or film as a whole.


Example: Think about a scene in a horror film. The right lighting could be enough to establish a creepy mood. Make it low and eerie. Cast shadows with objects from the background. Now, you’ve created an environment where we all don’t want to be.


Reveals information about characters.

Why it matters: A character’s physical appearance and surroundings can reveal much about their personality, motivations, and backstory.


Example: This character’s home might be cluttered and full of personal items, such as family photos and books, revealing the character’s interests and family life. Now, we have more context for what comes next.


Creates symbolic and metaphorical meaning.

Why it matters: The visual elements within a shot can be used to create a deeper meaning, such as symbolic or metaphorical representation.


Example: Think about a scene where a character is feeling lost and directionless. A basic form of Mise en Scène could look like: the character simply walking around aimlessly. However, with a strong Mise en Scène, this character might be walking through a maze (visually representing their sense of confusion and disorientation).


Defines a unique style and aesthetic.

Why it matters: A filmmaker’s use of Mise en Scène can contribute to their distinct style and aesthetic, making their films visually recognizable and memorable.


Example: Think of a filmmaker who is known for their use of vibrant, bold colors and eclectic settings. The filmmaker’s unique style is created, in part, by their Mise en Scène, which sets them apart from other filmmakers and makes their films visually distinctive.


Each of these elements make up what we call Mise en Scènce.


Now, you might understand the WHY behind the films, characters, and stories you love most.


I hope that this essay has given you a better understanding of the importance of Mise en Scène in filmmaking.


By incorporating Mise en Scène into your filmmaking process, you can create visually stunning and emotionally impactful films that connect with your audience.

Matt Cici


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