What are mise-en-scène and editing in relation to cinema and film? What are some examples of their use in current films?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Mise-en-scène, which translates from the French to mean "putting on stage," refers to anything that is "put in the scene." These things include "the setting, the decor, the lighting, the costumes, the performance," etc. (Yale University, Yale Film Studies, "Part 1: Basic Terms"). In narrative films, the mise-en-scène can be manipulated to create an intended effect.

Setting refers to the location and the time period in which a film, novel, or play take place. Setting can include a town, city, state, or country, the geography of a location, a specific building, a room, and even the weather.

Décor is distinguished from setting in that décor refers to any objects within the setting. Objects can include furniture or even geometrical patterns in a set. Décor can be used to enhance emotions and create a mood.

Lighting refers to the "intensity, direction, and quality of lighting" in a setting, which is used to change the way viewers see and understand the scene (Yale Film Studies, "Part 2: Mise-en-scène"). Lighting changes the way colors and depth are seen. Lighting can also be used to focus a viewer's attention on one specific element. Both the three-point-lighting and natural light schemes are frequently used in films. In the three-point lighting scheme, light is used from three different directions to accurately portray 3-demensional depth. Natural lighting of course makes use of the sun's natural light to create a very authentic look.

Space is another element of mise-en-scène used to create mood. Space can be manipulated through camera placement, different types of lenses, lighting, and decor. Space helps establish mood because it determines relationships between objects.

The term costume of course refers to the clothing worn by characters. Clothing helps establish the personalities and psychologies of characters.

Finally, the performance element of mise-en-scène refers to the ways in which the scene is acted. There have been many differences across history and across cultures in acting styles, such as melodramatic vs. naturalistic styles. Acting styles help establish the time period, mood, and genre of a film.

Editing refers to the way in which clips of film are joined together to make one single film strip. Editing creates transitions between shots that also help establish the mood of a film. There is a very complex list of different cuts that can be used in editing, and those include the cheat cut, the dissolve cut, the cut-in, the cut-away, the iris-in cut, the iris-out cut, the jump cut, parallel editing, superimposition, and many more (Yale Film Studies, "Part 4: Editing").

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