When applied to the cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement—composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, sounds, and lighting. The “mise-en-scène”, along with the cinematography and editing of a film, influence the verisimilitude of a film in the eyes of its viewers. The various elements of design help express a film’s vision by generating a sense of time and space, as well as setting a mood, and sometimes suggesting a character’s state of mind. “Mise-en-scène” also includes the composition, which consists of the positioning and movement of actors, as well as objects, in the shot. These are all the areas overseen by the director. One of the most important people that collaborates with the director is the Production designer. These two work closely to perfect all of the aspects of the “mise-en-scène” a considerable amount of time before the actual photography even begins. The Production designer is generally responsible for the general look of the movie, leading various departments that are in charge of individual sets, locations, props, and costumes, among other things.Andre Bazin, a well-known Frenchfilm critic and film theorist, describes the mise-en-scene aesthetic as emphasizing choreographed movement within the scene rather than through editing.
This narrow definition of mise-en-scène is not shared by all critics. For some, it refers to all elements of visual style—that is, both elements on the set and aspects of the camera. For others, such as U.S. film critic Andrew Sarris, it takes on mystical meanings related to the emotional tone of a film: "Dare I come out and say what I think it to be is an 'elan of the soul'?... as it is all I can do is point at the specific beauties of interior meaning on the screen and later catalogue the moments of recognition."
The term is sometimes used to represent a style of conveying the information of a scene primarily through a single shot—often accompanied by camera movement.:p.25 Two academic papers, Brian Henderson's Essay on the "Long Take" (1976) and Lutz Bacher's MA thesis entitled "The Mobile Mise-en-Scène" (1976), discuss the use of mise-en-scène in long shots and shots that encompass a whole scene. Neither conflates its meaning with how the term was originally applied to film in the Cahiers de Cinéma, which was expressed in 1960 by critic Fereydoun Hoveyda as follows: "What matters in a film is the desire for order, composition, harmony, the placing of actors and objects, the movements within the frame, the capturing of a moment or look... Mise en scene is nothing other than the technique invented by each director to express the idea and establish the specific quality of his work." This recent and limiting redefinition of the term makes it synonymous with a "oner" or a single shot that encompasses an entire scene. This use of the term displays some ignorance of both the traditional use of the term in French theatre and film and its actual translated meaning, which is, broadly, "to put in the scene".:p.5
In German filmmaking in the 1910s and 1920s, one can observe tone, meaning, and narrative information conveyed through mise-en-scène.:p.88 These films were a part of the German Expressionism movement in the 1920s, and were characterized by their extreme sets, décor, acting, lighting, and camera angles. The aim of these films is to have an extremely dramatic effect on the audience, often emphasizing the fantastic and grotesque. Perhaps the most famous example of this is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) where a character's internal state of mind is represented through set design and blocking. The sets involved stress the madness and horror of the film, as expressionist films are meant to do.
The similar-sounding, but unrelated term, "metteurs en scène" (figuratively, "stagers") was used by the auteur theory as a disparaging label for directors who did not put their personal vision into their films.
Because of its relationship to shot blocking, mise-en-scène is also a term sometimes used among professional screenwriters to indicate descriptive (action) paragraphs between the dialog.
Only rarely is mise-en-scène critique used in other art forms, but it has been used effectively to analyse photography.
An important element of "putting in the scene" is set design—the setting of a scene and the objects (props) visible in a scene. Set design can be used to amplify character emotion or the dominant mood, which has physical, social, psychological, emotional, economic and cultural significance in film. One of the most important decisions made by the production designer and director is deciding whether to shoot on location or on set. The main distinction between the two is that décor and props must be taken into consideration when shooting on set. However, shooting on set is more commonly done than shooting on location as a result of it proving to be much more cost effective.
The intensity, direction, and quality of lighting can influence an audience’s understanding of characters, actions, themes and mood. Light (and shade) can emphasize texture, shape, distance, mood, time of day or night, season, glamour; it affects the way colors are rendered, both in terms of hue and depth, and can focus attention on particular elements of the composition. Highlights, for example, call attention to shapes and textures, while shadows often conceal things, creating a sense of mystery or fear. For this reason, lighting must be thoroughly planned in advance to ensure its desired effect on an audience. Cinematographers are a large part of this process, as they coordinate the camera and the lighting.
The representation of space affects the reading of a film. Depth, proximity, size and proportions of the places and objects in a film can be manipulated through camera placement and lenses, lighting, set design, effectively determining mood or relationships between elements in the story world.
The organization of objects, actors and space within the frame. One of the most important concepts with the regard to the composition of a film is maintaining a balance of symmetry. This refers to having an equal distribution of light, colour, and objects and/or figures in a shot. Unbalanced composition can be used to emphasize certain elements of a film that the director wishes to be given particular attention to. This tool works because audiences are more inclined to pay attention to something off balance, as it may seem abnormal.
Costume simply refers to the clothes that characters wear. Using certain colors or designs, costumes in narrative cinema are used to signify characters or to make clear distinctions between characters.
There is enormous historical and cultural variation in performance styles in the cinema. In the early years of cinema, stage acting and film acting were difficult to differentiate, as most film actors had previously been stage actors and therefore knew no other method of acting. Eventually, early melodramatic styles, clearly indebted to the 19th century theater, gave way in Western cinema to a relatively naturalistic style. This more naturalistic style of acting is largely influenced by Constantin Stanislavski’s theory of method acting, which involves the actor fully immersing themselves in their character.
Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin (2010). "Chapter 6 - The Shot: Mise-en-Scène". Film Art: An Introduction (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 175–228. ISBN978-0-07-122057-6. OCLC456179577. Also OCLC690437186. Has a concise definition of mise-en-scène.