The Breakfast Club Film Journal
4 December 2013
Mis-en-scene and Cinematography in The Breakfast Club
This film written and directed by John Hughes follows five students at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois as they report for Saturday detention in 1984. While not complete strangers, the five are all from different cliques, there’s John Bender "The Criminal," Claire "The Princess," Brian "The Brain," Andy "The Athlete," and Allison "The Basket Case." The school's disciplinary teacher Mr. Vernon gives them all an assignment to write an essay about "who you think you are" and the violations they committed to end up in Saturday detention. They pass the hours in a variety of ways: dancing, harassing each other, telling stories, smoking marijuana, and talking. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their secrets, for example, Allison is a compulsive liar, and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity and Andy got in trouble because of his overbearing father. They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these evolving friendships, they realize that once the detention is over they will likely return to their respective cliques and never speak to each other again.
Clever uses of mis-en-scene can be seen in the framing, setting, and character. Hughes makes use of both tight and loose framing, for example at the beginning of the movie when the five students are filtering into the library for detention, the camera frame is left large and loose so that we see more than half of the library plus all six characters. Often when it is only one character talking the camera frame will tighten so that the viewer does not see much besides the main subject in the screen. This film is unique in that it does not have an abundance of sets/ locations. The most significant setting is the library where the five students are put for