In terms of mise en scène I would like to analyse a movie called The Excursionist (2013; directed by Audrius Južėnas). It’s a story of a ten year old girl who escapes from a deportee train and goes on a 6000 km long journey back to her homeland Lithuania. Here I present a frame from film’s trailer.
Setting and Props
Action takes place in a traditional wooden hut where majority of Russian citizens from countryside used to live in 50 years ago. Blurred out picture and cross on white cloth suggests that in a house lives a religious person. Blue curtain on the right side of the frame may be placed there to separate space in the room. It may also be there to hide main character – little girl.
Rays of sunlight indicates that it’s morning as only from this angle sunlight could illuminate whole room.
The mood of scene is a bit gloomy, but full of hope at the same time.
A fact that characters are close states that they have a close relationship. Or at least the woman tries to get closer to a little girl.
To sum up, the genre of the film is a historical drama.
Costume and make-up
Modest clothing suggests that a woman is poor. Simple scarf hiding hair is a clue that a woman is an orthodox.
The girl’s naked shoulders shows vulnerability.
Clothing colour difference is crucial as well. While old woman wears light blue, plain coloured scarf and dark blue top, the girl is dressed in white. White colour represents innocence of a young child, purity. Blue shades connects to calming nature, yet coldness and perseverance of character.
Make-up was used to highlight character’s modesty, create a sense of realism.
Colours used in this frame are rather warm than cold. Even the blue has a sense of warmth.
There are two visible and one invisible light source.
Visible ones would be direct sun rays from window in the background and small candle light providing a little bit of light in the corner of a room. The main bright white light plays a metaphorical role of hope, indirect link to Bible images.
Low-key lighting also creates a strong shadows of main characters.
Figure, expression and movement
A woman looks tenderly into girl as she offers bread and honey to a girl. However the girl looks rather confused and lost as she does not understand the language an elder is speaking.
Body language is fundamental as it creates a feeling of someone who is lost being offered help and safety.
This image breaks a stereotype that all Russians were cruel to Baltic nations. It’s false. In fact, a lot of deported Lithuanians wouldn’t have survived if not for generosity and hospitality of locals in GULAG camps.
- GIBBS. J. (1946-78)The life of mise-en-scène visual style and british film criticism. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.