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Mise-En-Scene and Montage in Cinematography

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Mise-en-scene and Montage in Cinematography


This essay is about the differences between mise-en-scene and montage, two common approaches which can be distinguished in cinematography. It begins by the definition of the two approaches. In the process of analysis, each one's effects on the audience will emerge without strain.


Mise-en-scene, an obvious French term, stems from the theater. Its literal meaning is "put in the scene". However, when it comes to film, it has a broader meaning. Set design, lighting, costume, acting and space, which are the indispensable constituents of cinema, will definitely flow over into one's mind. [1] In another word, mise-en-scene refers to the arrangement of everything that appears in the framing. [2]

Set design comprises mainly of the sets and props used in a movie. The decoration and decorative styles are more than decorating the sets. Much significance involved with society, psychology, economy and culture may be buried in a deeper level in an inconspicuous object.

In Kabinett des Doktor Caligari, the appearance of the antagonist makes people believe that he is really evil instantaneously due to the streaks on the wall. Everything showed in the shot gives the audience a sense of repression:

Lighting, regarded as one of the film elements that overwhelms the others in terms of evoking emotions, can be manipulated to communicate the director's notions perfectly and produce a significant impact on the audience at the same time. In cinema, lighting is more than just illumination that permits us to see the action. An ingenious combination of light and shadow will absolutely create a specific feeling such as a sense of mystery, fear or anger. [3]

The lighting in the following picture is very contrasting, with both dark and bright areas in the frame. Observe the differences between the bright moon and the night's natural darkness. One's heart will be occupied by fear spontaneously:

Another example can be seen in Citizen Kane. The side lighting in the Inquirers office casts long gloomy shadows which emphasizes the depressing mood in the office after Kane's election defeat: [4]

Costuming is accommodated to different characters. For example, one that wears worn out shoes, ragged shirt and baggy pants is probable a homeless man. Furthermore, a character's hierarchic level can be identified according to his costuming. Sometimes, color also plays an essential role in expressing one's sentiment, revealing the relationship between one and another, and reflecting the social background.

Acting styles are innumerable due to the countless form of acting. For instance, a stage actor may prefer the exaggerating performance while a film actor is supposed to maintain a relatively naturalistic style.

Space is a decisive factor of a film that determines visual effect. No fabulous scene can be viewed without the basis of the perfect space. In addition, providential space is sure to contribute to settings, lighting, costume, acting, and everything else that comprises the film.

When seen close enough, the somnambulist's eyes divulge his inner struggles. It paves the way for the dramatic turn---he captures the heroine instead of killing her:


Editing was not part of



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