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Character Exposition Through Mise En Scène In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

1606 words - 6 pages

Mise-e-scène is one of the most recognizable conventions in filmmaking. It translates literally from the French to “staging” or “to put in the scene” in English. When applied to film studies, mise-en-scène refers to all the visual elements within a particular shot or sequence. Mise-en-scène consists of 5 distinct categories which assist in the development of a film’s visual narrative: Setting and Design, Costume and Make-up, Lighting, Acting and Movement, and Framing. These elements together and separately help to inform the viewer by giving them visual cues as to the nuances of meaning within a film’s structural form. Mise-en-scène may gives the viewer insight into the nature of a film’s characters and their subsequent state of mind, the time and place in which events are occurring, the mood and meaning intended by a particular scene, and also help the viewer to form expectations based upon the filmmaker’s interpretive point of view. In the film, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Director Michael Gondry utilizes mise-en-scène to denote the complex temporal relationships between his characters, their circumstances, and a fragmented plot structure which progresses through elliptical patterns between memory and reality. In fact, the use of mise-en-scène in Spotless Mind is central to understanding the inner construct of Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine’s (Kate Winslet) personalities and personal motives, as well as the antagonistic mechanism at play in their relationship.
We are introduced to Joel in the very first shot of the film’s opening scene. Through dimly lit, muted tones we see Joel sluggishly awakening from sleep. He is lit from the side by an unshaded window which is used as the scene’s primary light source. Half of Joel’s face is illuminated in sunlight, while the other half remains obscured by shadow. This low key, split lighting style implies that Joel is somehow conflicted. We are not yet certain as to the nature of this conflict, but Joel’s movements and behavior suggest an internal struggle. He begins the scene by apathetically opening his eyes and glancing toward the light with a defeatist sigh. His lackluster demeanor is then aacentuated by the seemingly achromatic color scheme of his bedroom. The colorless room surrounds him and he himself seems colorless, even lifeless. He is wearing a pair of conservative dark blue pajamas as he listlessly rises from the bed. His face is pallid and unshaven.
The scenes that follow will use mise-en-scène to reinforce our initial impressions of Joel. When we see Joel standing on the train platform in the next scene, he is unassumingly camouflaged amongst the crowd and dressed completely in desaturated neutral tones; he seems lost in an anonymity that stems from self-doubt and cynicism. This observation is then supported by Joel’s interior monologue which is spoken in a dull somber tone and states, “Today is a holiday created by greeting card companies…to make people feel like...

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