How do aspects of mise-en-scene shape our understanding of and response to the characters in the death sequence of Cacoyannis’ Zorba the Greek?
In this essay, the above question will be addressed by drawing on the visual code mise-en-scene, with reference to costume and setting and touching upon others such as performance and cinematography. The choice of Zorba the Greek as the film under scrutiny was picked because the scene in question centres around the murder of a young widow. It is arguably one of the most powerful and emotional scenes in the film and should provoke a strong reaction from the audience, especially women, because it amplifies issues of gender inequality in society. The time frame for this sequence of film is taken from 01:44 to 01:47, consisting of approximately 3 minutes of film time.
Zorba the Greek is set on the island of Crete and tells the story of a friendship between a fun and womanising rogue named Zorba and a young, shy and inexperienced Englishman named Basil. Basil has inherited his father’s mine on the island and arrives to restart the business. Zorba takes it upon himself to educate Basil in his own philosophies about love and life. One of these lessons involves a young widow who Basil is attracted to and eventually is coaxed into having an affair with. Another local man is in love with the widow and kills himself out of despair. This coupled with her indiscretion are catalysts for her murder by the local people.
The setting of the death scene is in an environment that is far removed from a place that would be associated with murder. Firstly, the film is shot in black and white. Low key lighting would have been ideal in the creation of strong shadows, which could be used to create a dark, menacing or dangerous ambience. However the sequence takes place on a bright and exposed cliff top, on the Cretan island. This helps to create a sense of realism as it doesn’t feel staged or artificial to the audience and therefore adds...
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