How is mise-en-scene utilised to convey meaning within Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)?
Mise-en-scene refers to the director’s control of what appears in the frame. It includes those aspects of film that overlap with the art of the theatre: setting, lighting, costume, and the behaviour of the figures (Bordwell and Thompson, 2008, p. 112). Each of these aspects can be used to convey meaning, whether explicit, implicit or symptomatic. The director controls these aspects, in concert with other film techniques, in an attempt to guide the viewer to make sense of the film in the way the director would like them to. Batman Begins is a Heroes Quest,” a journey that leads to necessary self-discovery and to a climax in which the protagonists make a choice between two worlds in which they may live” (Wade Jennings, 1988, p. 250).
“Setting is a crucial part of film’s expressive capabilities, and because it is subject to the techniques of other aspects of mise-en-scene it constitutes much more than simply a backdrop for the action of the story” (Speidal, 2007, p. 68) From the skyline and streets of Gotham City, to the Chinese prison and Tibetan monastery, each setting in Batman Begins is recognisable as belonging to our world, or a close facsimile of our world. This conveys the meaning that although Batman Begins is a superhero film, Batman’s world is governed by the same natural laws as ours and we won’t be seeing the kinds of superpowers possessed by the superheroes of other stories. It also infers that the tools we use interpret the world around us can be used to understand Batman Begins. That Batman Begins takes place in a world similar to our own is reinforced by the lack of stylised lighting often employed in other films in the genre. But the viewer is still reminded that Batman’s story is a heroic story by the use of High-key Lighting (including night scenes). Lighting has formed its own patterns of development through its use in film so that now...
Bibliography: Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kristin (2008). Film Art: An Introduction (8th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Jennings, Wade (1988). “Fantasy” in Handbook of American Genres, Ed. Wes D. Gehring. New York: Greenwood Press.
Speidal, Suzanne (2007). “Film form and narrative” in Introduction to Film Studies (4th ed.), Ed. Jill Nelmes. Oxon: Routledge.
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