Use of Mise en Scene in Secrets and Lies by Mike Leigh Essay

This is Sparta!!!!

May 22, 2013

300 mise-en-scene analysis

Filed under: —— Christopher Hayes @ 3:18 pm



The Dominant 

The dominant in this photo is the character Xerxes

  1. Size. Xerxes stands far taller than Leonidas and is overshadowing him.
  2. Focus. Xerxes is one of the only two objects in focus in the photo.
  3. Lighting. Xerxes is more brightly lit than Leonidas.
  4. Color. Xerxes gold jewelry gives him a god like luster, which is eye catching.

Lighting Key

This is an example of a high key lighting. The sky behind Xerxes and Leonidas exhibit large amounts of light to coincide with Xerxes luster from all the gold he is wearing.

Shot and Camera Proxemics 

This is a close up shot. The characters are shown from shoulder level up.

Camera Angle

This is an eye level shot. This is a normal shot of Leonidas and Xerxes.

Color Values

This scene, and much of this movie in fact, isn’t big on color. There seems to be a golden aura surrounding Xerxes due to his “divine power.”


Most likely there is a telephoto lens being used here. Because this shot doesn’t carry much depth and Leonidas and Xerxes are in focus.

Subsidiary Contrasts 

King Leonidas is the subsidiary contrast in this shot. Due to the fact that he is standing so close to Xerxes,the dormant, he’s easily the second thing to be noticed. Also Leonidas is relatively the only other object in the shot.


This shot isn’t very dense because the shot is too close up to Leonidas and Xerxes to see much of anything else.


This shot has a binary composition. Leonidas and Xerxes seem parallel to one another.


This shot is open form. This is a simple shot in open space and all the information isn’t given in the shot because of Xerxes throne being partially cut off up top.


The framing in this shot is tight. Xerxes contact of Leonidas by placing his hands on Leonidas’s shoulder doesn’t give the feel that these characters are able to move about freely.

Depth of Field 

This shot is shallow. Only one plane is in focus which is Leonidas and Xerxes, the rest of the scene isn’t noticeable.

Character Placement

Leonidas is centered and Xerxes is more towards the edge. This could perhaps demonstrate the brave demeanor of Leonidas and the fear of Xerxes.

Staging Positions

Both characters are shown in full-front. Leonidas and Xerxes are both facing the camera.

Character Proxemics 

The distance in this shot is intimate. There is contact in the shot as Xerxes places his hands on Leonidas’s shoulders as an act of intimidation.
The key factors in this shot is the lighting and the close up shot. The lighting is key because Xerxes claims himself to be a God king rival to no other. Xerxes is heavily illuminated with gold n shine to give him an God like luster. Spartan culture is almost purely militaristic, therefore, Leonidas and his men do not fear the God king thus why his back is turned confidently. The lack of color indicates the continued theme of war. As everyone should know there’s nothing bright about war, war is very dark and mischievous and the best way to illuminate the concept of war is to have a lot of substance besides the war itself. The concentration needs to be on the actual soldiers compact instead of background scenery. In the case of Xerxes he’s not a soldier King like Leonidas, Xerxes is a “God” King, therefore he is displayed in a gold aurora as if Xerxes is above human war.

The close up at this moment represents the two powers presented in the war. At this moment the war is at its midway point and Leonidas is confident that his Spartans can actually win. Thus when you look at Leonidas and Xerxes facial expressions, there’s two men who posses overwhelming egos in different ways alluding to both loving what they do. The two men are about a foot away from each other in distance this is important because a “God” King like Xerxes would never come that close to an opponent in war, he would watch from a distance. Therefore, 300 does an excellent job of showing how much concern the Spartans gave Xerxes due to the fact that he was willing to meet with Leonidas and show “mercy” by asking for his surrender. In this close up shot Xerxes is touching Leonidas which opposes the thought he is an untouchable “God” king. Thus giving Leonidas the dominance between the two men.

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    Example of Film Analysis using Mise-en-scene

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    Example of Film Analysis using Mise-en-scene The opening scenes of The Godfather Part Three, (Coppola, 1991), we see the family compound in ruins on a grey wintry day. The lighting is dark and depressing and depicts the nature of what has passed and what might be to come. Something sad has occurred. You need not have seen the previous two films to have some idea of the weight and brevity of the narrative. If the film makers had chosen to shoot that opening scene of the flooded and derelict family home on a bright sunny day how would the audience have known that some form of change has occurred? A family home bathed in sunlight implies happiness and family togetherness. The darkness and brooding cold of the shot tells us that the extension of the narrative that will make up this new film comes from a time of depression and of obscurity for the Corleone family. The opening scenes of The Godfather Part Three also highlight the importance of setting as a way to drive and develop the narrative. The family home is in ruins. It is a grand and once luxurious compound that has fallen into decay and abandonment. …read more.


    Had these characters been quick to move, happy and joyful, would the audience have had any sense of the respect they hold for the institutions of the church and family? Would there have been any sign that the story might be one of guilt and repentance? How could have Michael felt the pain of his own evil in front of God if he was happy and flippant? Would the audience have believed the premise of the film’s set up? Add all these elements together: lighting, setting, character expression and movement; the set up of a deeply passionate and complex family saga is laid out before us. The film continues to use soft and shadowy lighting as a motif for the battle between light and darkness that Michael fights up to his death; the setting of home and church continue to contrast with the violence and brutality of their lifestyles and the characters move and express themselves throughout the film in a way that tells the audience that they are serious, deep, brooding people with a weight and burden of guilt upon their shoulders. There are other elements of mise-en-scene that contribute to the development of the film. …read more.


    emphasises his hardship and suffering, and tells the audience more of the morality and nature of that society. The film is shot is an expansive and breathtaking manner. The action contained within the frame captures the epic nature and significance of the story. There is a sense of a huge wide world that exists out there to be discovered. Its colours and people, its magic and brutality are all out there, but often are not in the shot. What is in the shot is the implication of such potential. When Columbus sits on the shore with his son and explains to him his theory of a spherical planet, we do not see the adventure to come, we see only a disappearing ship and the flat ocean. Everything else in our mind’s eye is left out. The fall of Castile was the result of a bloody battle, and while the rest of the city was being looted and overrun the film only shows us symbolic gestures of the riots and capture of the city, for example the destruction of the Mosque. We see the congested nature of the streets, but what has been contained within the frame is merely enough to show us what is happening, without showing us everything that is happening. …read more.

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    While this essay contains many insightful observations, and on the whole is quite well written, it is poorly structured and it has no conclusion of any kind. These are formal requirements so important that their omission severely limits the grade that can be ascribed to the essay, even though I think it’s evident that this author has a quite sophisticated grasp of what mise en scene is and how it functions in the context of cinematic storytelling.

    3 stars

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    Mise en scene

    Mise en scene Essay



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    This current semester, I am taking Introduction to Film. I decided to take the class only because it was in a convenient time slot, and not because I had any interest in taking the class. I am, however, enjoying it; for instance, we watched Quentin Tarantino’s, Reservoir Dogs — it was the first time I had ever seen the film, it was weird, but cool. Anyway…

    The first major paper in the class is a scene analysis. We could pick any movie, any scene. I choose the movie, Saving Private Ryan; hopefully you are able to figure which scene via my essay…

    The world as we experience it through our own senses is limited in its scope to the singular perspective. In film, however, using the same setting with the use of many different camera angles and positions, producing shots that are choreographed with crisp sound into a sequence, can take even an otherwise boring event and present it as epic. Filmmaking has the ability to broaden perspective — exponentially. In an essential scene in Saving Private Ryan, the film maker manages the elements of cinematography, sound, setting and editing to grab the audience’s attention and put them on edge for what will be coming next.

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    Released to theaters on July 24, 1998, and the winner of five Academy Awards including a Best Director Oscar for Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan quickly became the benchmark for what a movie depicting war should aspire. Written by Robert Rodat, the story begins with an elderly James Francis Ryan (Harrison Young) recalling a time during World War II when a squad of United States Army Rangers, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore), is ordered to locate him to ultimately send him home because he was now the only remaining son of four — his three brothers were all killed in battle. His memory starts with the Rangers landing on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of World War II, and follows them as they seek to locate him, the soldier, Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon).

    From the first scene of the film that presents the story, the audience is thrust into the horrors of war. This scene is the delicious appetizer that prepares your palate for the main course; without it, the meal would be ordinary. The scene presents the United States’ invasion force making its way via landing craft to the guarded shore of the Normandy coast during World War II. The scene begins with an introduction to the time and place that the event occurs, and then depicts the journey the soldiers must endure to step foot on solid ground while plans to repel them are in full swing by the Germans.

    Mise En Scene
    The setting begins with a view of a beach’s shoreline looking out to the ocean with an overcast sky. The beach is strewn with a multitude of ominous manmade obstacles designed to make any attempt to reach land via the sea an unpromising endeavor. During this shot, the words, “June 6, 1944” and “Dog Green Sector, Omaha Beach” provide the audience with the time and place the film’s story begins: D-Day, World War II.

    A majority of the scene is shot in the hold of a period-correct, infantry landing craft as it moves toward the beach. As the craft makes it to the shoreline, the audience views the destination, Omaha Beach. The beach consists of a wide plain of sand that extends from the shoreline to the cliff that has embedded a large menacing concrete bunker that towers over everything in view. The setting’s design and layout gives the audience the impression that any successful landing by the troops is impossible.

    During the scene, the chaotic movements and skillful positioning of the camera give the audience a feeling of actually being on the landing craft and a part of the strike force. Whereas the scene focuses mainly on the members of a single landing craft, you are made aware that the attack force is much larger because of a brilliant high angle shot. The camera is positioned in such a way that a multitude of similar craft is in clear view, and all are moving in a parallel formation making their way at high speed for the shore; moreover, each craft is full of soldiers facing toward the bow ramp with salt spray breaking over the bows as their vessel charges through the moderate seas.

    While focusing on the main craft, holding members of Captain Miller’s squad, the camera is positioned at eye-level as it records individual, medium close-up shots of the various soldiers onboard. The camera moves with the boat as it makes its way through the water and provides a visual sensation for the audience of personally being there and gazing into the soldier’s eyes – an emotional connection with the subject is formed.

    As the craft prepares to lower the bow ramp to allow the soldiers to storm the beach, the camera is positioned for a level, over-the-shoulder view from coxswain’s perspective at the wheelhouse at the craft’s aft end. The shot includes a rear view of the soldiers anxiously awaiting the bow ramp to fall, and in the background high on the cliff, the concrete bunker waits.

    Just as the bow ramp falls, the bunker unleashes hell upon the soldiers in the craft. Bullets rip the flesh apart of those unfortunate souls that were positioned most forward. The next camera shot is an over-the-shoulder, high-angle shot from the operator of the one of the MG-42 machine guns in the bunker looking at the landing craft centered on the shoreline below. The camera tracks behind the silhouetted gun placements as they fire with ease upon the helpless landing craft below. The camera’s positioning in this series of shots gives the perspective of complete dominance by those in the bunker over those on the landing craft.

    The scene is a combination of fifty separate straight cuts expertly spliced into just over four minutes of film. It is in that just over four minutes that the foundation of the entire film takes hold.

    One instance of the editor’s impact is the timing of the straight cuts to and from the gun placements firing upon the occupants of the landing craft, and the series of cuts made to shots of the carnage within the craft. This micro section of the scene speaks volumes as to the condition on the battlefield and leaves the audience with a bleak prognosis for the attack force’s success.

    The scene begins with a transition from the film’s opening scene with the peaceful sounds of the surf lapping the shore line. As the scene moves forward, the ambient sounds increase with their intensity and frequency. The sound of the diesel engines that propel the craft becomes less noticeable as the sounds of battle start to increase in both volume and occurrence as the craft nears the shore.

    After the bow ramp is lowered, accompanied by a loud ratcheting sound of gears mashing together, the soldiers are soon forced into the water because of the heavy machine gun fire emanating from the bunker. The sound of bullets hissing with the simultaneous sounds of human flesh being literally torn apart is unnerving, and makes the audience wince with despair – how can these men be saved? It is then that the soldiers are forced to escape over the side of the craft, and the ambient sound abruptly turns from the din of battle to the muffled, strangely peaceful sound one would hear while completely immersed in water. The sound presents a short respite for the audience, just long enough for a short breath before the battle continues under the water.

    As the soldiers attempt to make their way to shore, bullets break the underwater peace with unpredictable zipping sounds; the bullets occasionally find their mark.

    The scene ends as Captain Miller finally reaches the shore, and as he looks and tries to comprehend all of the bloodshed occurring around him. His mind seemingly blocks out the sound, diminishing it to a dull resemblance of its previous clamor.

    Throughout the history of film making, be it stories of the conquests of ancient times or more recent conflicts, filmmakers have attempted to capture the essence of war. Not until the movie Saving Private Ryan has the dreadfulness of combat been delivered with such intensity and believability. The editor’s timing and placement of the magnificent camera shots and recorded sounds masterfully allows the audience to feel we are a part of the action; we become immersed in the story. It is because of this single four minute scene, the audience becomes vested in the narrative. It is no wonder that Saving Private Ryan won Oscars that included one each for cinematography, sound, sound effects editing, and film editing — no wonder at all.

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