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How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film Essay


The use of space and mise-en-scene in the movie “The Sixth Sense”, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is the single most used film technique throughout the movie. Mise-en-scene is derived from the French word which means “put in the scene” (Kolker, paragraph 1). Combined with space a movie can be told in such a way that just the mere angle or placement of objects or characters can tell a story just as succinctly as words.

One of the attributes of mise-en-scene is that it can be used in several ways. It can be used in the form of cinematography or it can be used in the form of placement of one character in contrast with another.

Mr. Shyamalan chose to use a muted tone throughout the movie. It gives a depressive quality that defines the placement of the characters and focuses on what the general theme of the movie is going to be (Yale University, copyright 2002, Section 2 – lighting, paragraph 7).

The movie is based upon the relationship between noted child psychologist, Malcolm Crowe and nine year old patient, Cole Sear. One night, after being shot in the stomach by a delusional patient he has once treated unsuccessfully, Crowe is soon confronted with “Cole” who seems to have the same mental dysfunctions as the patient that shot him, Vincent Grey. After shooting Crowe, Grey then takes his own life.

The use of space and mise-en-scene work together in putting all of the important pieces of the movie together so that it doesn’t take more time to get to the point. The movie opens with Crowe and wife Anna arriving home from an awards ceremony. The formal dress of the characters has put them into the scene as being successful, maybe a little too sure of themselves and not ready for anything out of the ordinary.

The cinematography, as mentioned before, with it’s muted blue-gray tones are a suggestive characteristic that it will be the pervading theme of the movie rather than the seemingly splendent introductory scene of success and affluence.

Not long after Crowe is shot he takes on Cole Sear, a nine year old boy, who seems to have had the same depressive-anxiety ridden disorder as Vincent Grey, the young man who shot him. This shows that not only can mise-en-scene be something concrete but it can also be figurative. Cole is placed in the scene, reminiscent of Grey, to help both characters. Crowe can resolve his failure with Grey and Cole can get the help he needs in order to cope and get on with his life.

Upon gaining Cole’s trust, Crowe gets him to confide that the real trouble he is having is seeing “dead people”. Crowe, having surmised that this is the problem that Grey had actually believes that Cole is telling the truth.

The movie has other characters that play a part in the scenario; Crowe’s wife Anna and Cole’s mother Lynn. Both appear distant when in scene with Crowe, which most would contribute to him being caught up in Cole’s problems. As in mise-en-scene, space can also take on a figurative role.

Concretely, mise-en-scene (put in the scene) was, in fact, ironically used. Instead of putting other people in the scene with Crowe they were actually taken out. Crowe and Cole’s relationship being the main focus and others shown as uncommunicative and isolated is an example of putting in the scene by taking out of the scene. It can also be seen as distance from other characters in lieu of using the two disciplines to make the movie more congruent.

Through Crowe’s mentoring, Cole begins to see that these “dead people” find him compassionate and able to solve what has kept them bound on earth. It is also through Cole’s acceptance of his gift that he loses his depressive anxiety. More and more troubled souls start to come to him. The turn in this mise-en-scene is that as Crowe seems to become more distant and isolated from others Cole becomes more and more subject to visits from his “ghosts”.

Not only is the story just about Cole’s path to a new understanding of himself but Crowe also sees that his wife maybe interested in another man. She never quite gives in but she also never gives up the distance that has formed between her and Crowe.

To the viewer this distance is something that was due to the fact that Crowe put his patient before everything else in his life. When not with Cole there is not many times that there is anyone else in scene with him.

It seems that Cole has reached his plateau when he and Crowe travel to a home where they are holding a funeral. Through his transference of knowledge with “dead” people he soon finds that there is a tape showing that the mother actually killed the daughter by poisoning her food.

This tape is shown while the mourners are there and the child’s soul is put at rest. The crowd at the funeral has put the mise-en-scene in a category that before only consisted of a few. This could very well have been symbolic of Cole’s understanding and acceptance of his gift.

Cole’s mother Lynn, having been worried about her son, is beginning to see that Cole is becoming more open with her. When he gives his mother a message from her dead mother, something only Lynn would know, she realizes the gift her son has. At this point Cole and his mother have entered a state of peace with the situation and the focus is now on Crowe.

Crowe, having put everything else aside but his determination to help Cole now comes back to the fact that his wife has become very distant. The next time they are together in a scene she is lying on the couch watching a tape of their wedding. The twist to the movie comes here. His wedding ring falls to the floor and it is then that both the movie audience and Crowe realize he is one of the “dead people” that Cole sees; a very scary, isolated and defining moment (Filmtracks, paragraph 1).

It is here that Crowe talks to her as Cole has told him he could do; knowing she would somehow understand. He has to let her go so that she can get on with her life, something she hasn’t been able to do since he died.

The theme of the movie is then put into place. Who really helped who, Crowe, a soul who could not rest because he died as a result of a patient who couldn’t forgive him for not understanding his predicament or Cole, someone who guided him into the light?

It can be said that mise-en-scene and space were the main proponents here because of the isolation that the main characters felt and were a part of. The distance and isolation were actually the focus the director chose to have the audience experience along with the main characters and it is through this mutual journey that the movie became a success (Valentin, 2010, paragraph 2).

References

Film Studies Program, (Modified on August 27, 2002), Part 2: Mise-en-Scene, Section 2 – Lighting, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520. Web.

Filmtracks Modern Soundtrack Reviews (n.d.), . Web.

Kolker, Robert, (n.d.), Mise-en-scene. Film Form and Culture. Web.

Valentin, M. (July 4, 2010//1:02 p.m.), M. Night Shyamalan: The End is near (for his career). Cinematical. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 12). How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-movie-techniques-of-space-and-mise-en-scene-work-to-deliver-meaning-in-film/

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"How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film." IvyPanda, 12 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-movie-techniques-of-space-and-mise-en-scene-work-to-deliver-meaning-in-film/.

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IvyPanda. "How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film." May 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-movie-techniques-of-space-and-mise-en-scene-work-to-deliver-meaning-in-film/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film." May 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-movie-techniques-of-space-and-mise-en-scene-work-to-deliver-meaning-in-film/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'How The Movie Techniques of Space and Mise-en-Scene Work To Deliver Meaning in Film'. 12 May.

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