Midterm Paper: #8 Mise-en-scene

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1 P a g e 1 Cade Critchlow 10/14/2012 Geoff Hansen Intro to Film Midterm Paper: #8 Mise-en-scene What is mise-en-scene? According to our textbook, Looking at Movies it is a French phrase, described in English as Staging or putting on an action or scene (Barsam, 156) Hugo and Dr. Strangelove use stories on top of stories with good mise-en-scene to tell the deeper meaning later on in the story. The Way that Kubrick uses all male dominated themes (the cigars, the names, etc) to promote the ultimate male dominated ending (world will be destroyed, but will live underground with lots of women), and the way that Scorsese uses the younger characters (Hugo, Isabelle) to reveal, develop and eventually help the older characters with their issues. Hugo Let s start with Hugo. The setting is in France, post WWI, the main setting being a train station, where we meet our characters. We see that all of the characters have something from the past that is causing them grief in moving forward with their lives. We see it before we even realize it when we catch the first glimpse of the guard, who has a brace on his leg that he says, will never heal, which, we find out, was from his action in the war. And also with Papa George, who was the great filmmaker from the past, Gorge Melies, who was forced to destroy his work and dreams and settle as the plain old toymaker in the station. We get a taste of his

2 P a g e 2 pain as he is set off by the images in the blue book Hugo pulls out of his pocket, which brings up sore feelings from his past. Scorsese brings us into the world with detail. The props and sets is one of the biggest Mise-en-scene elements we see in this film. It s not just the fact that there are so many little set pieces and props, but the way that the director illuminates them all. From the color of the wood to the color of Hugo s blue eyes, every color sticks out and at the same time coincides with every other thing in the shot. Another thing that gives this good mise-en-scene is the spacing. From the opening shot of the overview of the train station, showing that it is indeed a large building, the camera goes right into the building from an opening and we see the whole size of the station, not to mention the trains, pillars, people, and props inside, we are literally taken into this magical world of dancing, shopping and movement. Then we are taken into the clock where we see Hugo. As he runs through the inner workings of the clock we see detail after detail: Steam, gears, ladders, pipes and passageways, we are thrown into Hugo s complex world of the clock where he lives. Though there are many different Mise-en-scene elements in Hugo (in fact, this film, is the epitome of Mise-en-scene) but another big one is the lighting. There is so many different shades of lighting with all have various meanings for them. One big one is the difference between the outside city and the station. The station, is lively, well lit, warm and cozy, which, in comparison to the outside world, which is cold, dark, and lonely, we get a sense that this is a friendly place to be. Dr. Strangelove

3 P a g e 3 Now we go to Dr. Strangelove. The cold war seems to be what the story starts with, but evolves into the ultimate male dominated fantasy. This is why in the title, it says,..and How Came to Love the Atom Bomb, because in the end it works out well for the men, they get 10 women for every man, and don t have to be monogamous or do any work. One of the big elements of mise-en-scene is spacing. There are a lot of shots of the plane, showing the different levels they are at, showing when the plane is going down, how it compares to the landscape. When showing the war room, from the part where the Russian ambassador is walking by the food, to where they show the oval table next to the board, you can see how big it is. Another is dialogue. There is a lot of jargon and male dominated language and themes in this film. This is probably the main factor of mise-en-scene. One example is the names. According to an review of the film, on Tony Macklin talks about all the sexual references made especially in the names. General Buck Turgidson, for example, Buck meaning man according to the website, and Turgidson meaning Swollen. It is also kind of strange to me that he is the head general, pretty much the most top specimen of masculinity I can think of. His mannerisms and tactics also help reinstate this meaning, he is loud, trying to go for the attack, and you also see him with a woman in the first scene we see him. Next is general Jack Ripper, in reverence to the old killer of prostitutes, Jack the Ripper. He speaks all the time about bodily fluids as well, and Jack the Ripper used to mutilate womens body parts. According again to the website above, he has two masculine props that are sex symbols of his dominance, his cigar and his pistol. This also goes to show all of the props, and what a pivotal role they play in the mise-en-scene of the film. Hugo and Dr. Strangelove

4 P a g e 4 Hugo seems to have much more elements of mise-en-scene than Dr. Strangelove does, but a few that they have in common would have to be spacing, setting, characters, and props. There are only a few props in Dr. Strangelove compared to Hugo, but they are as equally important in telling the story. Hugo s main props are his father s notebook and his father s automaton, these help carry the story and give us the big mystery for little Hugo to solve. Dr. Strangelove has the bombs and the doomsday clock. Though we never see the doomsday clock, it is a bigger fear than actual nuclear war. The setting is huge for both stories as well. This is crucial in Hugo, when we refer to George Melies role in the film, and the war, seeing as how they are both true things that happened; the same with Dr. Strangelove and the time of the cold war. Though, before the opening credits, there is a disclaimer saying this movie isn t portraying any real people, places or events. But we did have those real scares, and still do, though not necessarily with the Russians. Now of course, these are ways that they share similar Mise-en-scene, but there are also ways in which they use opposite approaches to portray what they want. For example, Hugo has all sorts of bright colors, either in the city, the sky, or inside the train station with all of people. Dr. Strangelove does not use this. The whole film is done in black and white. Everything is done with shade, to show the grim nature of story. Hugo s bright colors make me think of imagination, creativity, life, Whereas, Dr. Strangelove is set around world destruction and dark humor. Their settings are different. One is set in 1960 s America, and the other in 1930 s post World war. According to Errol Vieth, on a webpage from Queensland University in Australia, he stated, Melies was perhaps the first exponent of control over mise-en-scene. He controlled, and constructed, every element that was to appear in the frame. (Vieth). Apparently, the

5 P a g e 5 whole idea surrounding one of the main characters in Hugo, happens to be a master of miseen-scene. Conclusion Though there are many different aspects of mise-en-scene, even one big one that they both share (movies for the era). But, Mise-en-scene is an amazing way to tell the story, but it seems difficult to do well, that is why I have to give these particular films extra credit. Loved learning about Mise-en-scene, it has taught me to see movies in a completely different light, literally.

6 P a g e 6 Work Cited Barsam, Richard and Monahan, Dave. Looking at Movies. New York City, New York. W.W. Norton & Company. Published in 2010, 3 rd Edition Macklin, Tony. Sex and Dr. Strangelove. Tonymacklin.net. Originally published in June 1, /17/2012 Vieth, Errol 2001 Screening Science Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, p , Bordwell and Thompson 1997 Film Art 5th edn Sydney: McGraw-Hill, ch 6,

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