American Beauty: Mise En Scene Essay

1420 words - 6 pages

Mise-en-scene literally means "setting up a scene." There are six elements that make up mise-en-scene: acting, costume and make-up, setting, lighting, composition or space and lastly, but not least, time. The film that I chose for this particular topic was American Beauty. American Beauty is like mise-en-scene candy. Each theme from repression to denial and fantasy to reality is clearly portrayed through the art of mise-en-scene. We often say that a good performance is "realistic." To me a good performance by an actor is making it seem as if they are not really "acting" per se; making the viewer believe that they are the actual character in the film. In American Beauty, the acting is quite individualized. The quality of the actors performances allow the audience to promptly identify what it is the characters are portraying. In the scene when Ricky Fitts is videotaping Jane while her friend Angela is over, you would be able to identify who each of the characters were, just through watching that scene. You see Jane sitting at her make-up desk looking downwards. You can tell through her facial expressions and body language that she is an innocent, teenage girl who is unhappy with herself. She is more on the quiet side and is quite self-conscious. Where as, Angela, Jane's polar opposite friend, is standing in front of the window while Jane's neighbor Ricky, is videotaping. You can tell that Angela is narcissistic and craves attention by the way she is posing for Ricky. Ricky is anything but interested in Angela, he zooms in on Jane, sitting at her make-up table behind Angela and focuses on her reflection in the mirror. Angela's body is taking up the majority of the composition within this frame, but it is out of focus because Ricky is focusing on what he can see of Jane. You can tell that Ricky is a disturbed, yet calm and confident teenager who has an immense curiosity and finds beauty in the simple things in life. Costume and make-up aid in this portrayal as well. Costuming and make-up can tell a lot about a character. It can be as complex as telling the viewer whether or not the character is corrupt or innocent, and can be as simple as telling the viewer whether or not the character has good skin or a good fashion sense. In American Beauty the costumes and make-up thoroughly fit each character's personality. For example, Jane, as stated above, is a teenager who is not very happy with who she is. She dislikes her family, her looks and her body. She wears dark make-up that makes her look sullen and depressed. The clothes that she wears are large and non-form fitting. They are always dark colors, mostly black, which is symbolic to the way that she feels about herself. On the other hand, if Jane were to dress like her friend Angela who wears tight, formfitting, revealing, colorful clothes, Jane would be a totally different character. Because Angela is conceited and comes off to be extremely confident, she wears clothes that reveal her body and draw...

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