The Rhetoric of Film Essay

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Chapter 2: MISE-EN-SCENE A French term meaning "putting into the scene," mise-en-scène originally described a theater director's staging (arranging the visual elements on the stage). In film criticism, the term suggests the aura emanating from details of setting, scenery, and staging as they are influenced by light and dark, patterns of color, the placement and angle of the camera, and movement within the frame. Consider the types of information you learn about a person by going to his or her home. Messy? Dirty? Nothing out of place? Sterile? Bare walls? Books? Colorful? Paintings? Everything in a person's home tells you something about what that person values. Filmmakers (actually the art directors) mimic the way individuals unconsciously express their inner selves by the way they structure and adorn their environment. In a film, both major and minor details are usually more than mere decoration; they help reveal aspects of character. In Citizen Kane, for example, Orson Welles uses the aging Kane's castle, Xanadu, to show the man's love of external splendor but internal coldness and emptiness. The main living room of Xanadu is the size of a ballroom, with a huge walk-in fireplace dominating the setting. Across the distance of the cavernous room, Kane and his wife shout at each other, but their words ring hollowly from the darkened corners. The set helps a viewer sense the hollowness Kane and his wife feel in their souls. The most exaggerated use of mise-en-scène is found in the German expressionists of the 1920s (in the films of such directors as Fritz Lang, Robert Weine, G. W. Pabst, and F. W. Murnau). Expressionism uses details of setting primarily to depict the internal state of mind of a character. Twisted rooms with strangely formed windows, for example, reveal insane or deformed minds. Contemporary horror movies

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