Before entering this class I was unable to watch a film and genuinely enjoy it for what it was worth. However from the knowledge that I have gained thus far in this course has helped me to interpret the film. Through the understanding of cinematic techniques, a viewer is able to enjoy the movie better. The mise-en-scene and editing greatly illustrates the story or the message portrayed in the film.
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The mise-en-scene is composed of various elements of the film that are placed in a film to contribute to the film’s plot. These elements that are a part of the mise-en-scene included but are not limited to props, lighting, wardrobe, etc. Editing puts the “pieces” of the story or plot together in a natural or an intentional unnatural manner for viewers to interpret the film. These specific cinematic techniques of filmmaking enable the viewer to enjoy the experience of watching a film and probably appreciate the film after reflecting on the process of making it come to life.
Elements of mise-en-scene come from the theatrical backgrounds using props and wardrobe for specific characters or what is relevant to the time period in the film. For example, films such as Elizabeth perfectly used wardrobe, props, and scenery to illustrate the era in which Queen Elizabeth I ruled England and the social status of people during that time. The mise-en-scene is essential to decorate the story and emphasize the film in ways that the viewer can not imagine. A film cannot illustrate a story nor have a meaning without establishing the scene. Lighting is also used in the mise-en-scene and relatively important in highlighting certain actions or behaviors within the characters or hone in on a situation taking place in the film. In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, the character’s clothing reflected the urban environment where the film was being shot at. Lighting was overly saturated and sometimes highlighting bright colors such as reds and oranges to greatly explain the tense situations in the smoldering heat of the projects.
During class we were shown a clip of the film Monster starring Charlize Theron. Costuming, prosthetics, and theatrical make-up were used perfectly to transform the actress into the female-serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. Theron strikingly resembled Wuornos which was an important key element apart of the mise-en-scene. This usage of costume design significantly transformed the actress into the monstrous serial-killer convicted of killing her “johns” in self-defense. Books-to-movies such as the Harry Potter series and the more recent Twilight Saga movies use grandeur special effects, costuming, and props to illustrate the fantasy from the novels onto film. This aspect of mise-en-scene creates a dramatic reality of the characters to the audience. Unbenounced to the viewer, mise-en-scene is present from the initial shot of film or first scene in a movie. Upon further analysis a viewer analyzing the film could understand the parts that work collectively together to illustrate the scenery or tone that a film may offer to its audience.
Cinematography consists of framing, machinery, and film stock. The collaboration of these elements essentially creates fluidity to the story being told in the film. Focal length and focus can also offer the audience a theme that would be relevant to the main character. These two elements can work directly together to offer the audience to understand a specific theme the director wants to portray on the psyche of a character in the film. The many usages of cameras such as a Stedicam or studio camera can provide viewers an experience through the perspective of either a main character or an objective point of view. Cinematography also incorporates elements of editing, which is the process of creating continuity or realness to a film, such as a conversation amongst actors, is an example. Editing uses transition styles and special effects after the film is complete. In Requiem for a Dream, the director uses a series of film cuts to create a montage that represented every time a character used heroin. The sharp cuts of film from the view of characters could also explain a character’s state of mind such as fear or paranoia seen in Requiem for a Dream. Alfred Hitchcock’s signature cosmic zoom that used focal length and focus cooperatively to create a sense of acrophobia for the audience, which is what Scotty was coping with in the film Vertigo.
Cinematic techniques such as mise-en-scene, elements of cinematography, and editing are used in ways that may not noticed by a viewer whom is not analyzing a film. However, by understanding these cinematic techniques can provide a viewer to be more aware of the elements and processes of filmmaking. So far in this course, I have been able to enjoy films more from the knowledge I have gained about the various aspects that go into making a film. It can be pleasurable to watch a film even knowing why elements are there or why a scene is framed in a certain manner. Analyzing a film with the knowledge of cinematic techniques as those listed above can be enjoyable and provide reflection on the art of filmmaking as well as on the film’s message.
Editing greatly contributes to a film’s realistic story. Editing includes cutting frames, shots, special effects, etc. All of these elements help to illustrate a reality on film to the audience. Editing also includes several transitioning styles to create realistic continuity that is normally present in reality. These elements of editing are greatly used in all types of films such as documentaries, dramas, or animated films like those from Pixar Studios.
During post-production, the film undergoes the process of editing. At this stage in production the film can be transformed to achieve a realistic quality on screen than it would pre-production. Cuts are made between to frames of film. Sometimes cuts can make up a montage of shots that deliver a general message to the audience. However, quick cuts of film can also explain the dynamics of a conversation amongst characters that may have not been seen before editing the film. We can also see the conversation from each participant’s point of view as seen in the conversation between Mookie and Pino in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The camera cuts from Mookie to Pino during each character’s line or a significant line in the conversation. This technique of cutting is called cross-cutting when the camera jumps from one location to another to suggest that the actions are taking place simultaneously. The montage of shots from the objective view of the characters during their individual racial rants simulated a realistic confrontation to the audience with the characters. Cuts are also used for transition from one element of the shot to another in some cases. For example, in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the camera cuts from the view of Melanie to an overhead shot framing Melanie in the camera. Without such shifts the film would be disorganized and rather choppy leaving the audience to fill in the gaps to form continuity.
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Transition styles are fundamental in the editing process of filmmaking. Some examples of transition styles are cross-cutting, jump cuts, wipe, match-cut, etc. The Volkswagen commercial advertising the Volkswagen Beetle that we have seen in class is an example of the transition style of match-cut. Match-cutting can provide consistency when observing the actions taking place on screen. Although the given example is of a commercial it still provides support that editing is necessary to fill in the blanks for the viewer or display creative that may not seem natural in reality.
Editing film also includes sound. In such films as Michael Scorsese’s Goodfellas, the story is narrated by the main character which cannot be possible when the character is in action throughout the film. This is what is known as non-diegetic sound editing in which the sound is coming from off-screen and not from on-screen which can be heard by the actors as well as the audience. Film scores are also a form of non-diegetic sound and often dramatize whatever is taking place on screen.
Fast cutting was used in Requiem for a Dream to illustrate repetitive drug use amongst the characters. Fast-cutting is a form of editing that involves cutting several consecutive shots to illustrate chaos. Such editing technique can also be seen in the film Fight Club which is displays the confusion and state of paranoia by the main character. Fast cutting creates a sense of chaos which is something seen in reality. This obviously offers a realistic-ness to the audience and experience whatever the character is experiencing on screen.
Editing is necessary to create reality to a film’s audience. A film is rather boring without the usage of cinematic editing techniques because if offers no credibility or believability in the film’s plot. Editing constructs the image that the director’s want the audience to perceive. In ways editing molds the perspective of the audience with various techniques by means of sound, framing, and cutting.
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