For this assignment I watched Lars Von Trier's 'Nymphomania'. In this movie a lot of attention has been put into the mise en scene, through composition as well as through lighting. The mise en scene have different functions in the movie. In most cases they work towards setting the atmosphere of the story and character involved, but in a few cases, the mis en scene play an active part in the narrative itself. One example is when the main character is asked to tape away all parts of her life that remind her about sex and we see her room in which literally everything is taped off. The main scene in which the space plays an active role in the movie is the bedroom of Seligman, where every detail of the room and its interior are actively connected to the story of Joe.
How does the scene feel?
- The scene feels warm and safe, but on the other hand it is neglected, dirty and a place that is hardly ever visited. In a way the room is confined, there is only one small window and behind that window is a brick stone wall.
How has this been achieved?
- The place feels safe mostly because of the yellow/orange warm lighting and the interior that doesn't contain any threatening or glossy items. On the other hand, the room is dirty and full of artefacts that don't really seem to belong to each other. This gives it a bit of an alienated feel. Most shots are wide angle, or subjective points of view and taken from such an angle that the room seems to be quite spacious. It's not till the scene in which Seligman says that he only gets to see a glimpse of sunshine once a day that one is pointed to the fact that it's dark and confined.
Has the mise-en-scene played a part in this?
- The mise-en-scene is actively used as reference points in the story, so that the viewer familiarises itself with the room and all the details in it. It seems that in this scene Joe's life comes together and is put in perspective, giving her a way out of her addiction and destructive life.
Is there any meaning conveyed by the mise-en-scene?
- Because the movie is built up in chapters that are all derived from objects/images in the room, the room becomes a very interesting place, giving emphasis to the fact that a place like this can actually tell the story of somebody's life, or that you can find meaning in the most trivial things, which underlines the idea that everything and everybody in life is connected to each other or is an explanation of the other. With the room being a symbol for Joe's life, it brings a different meaning to a seemingly boring room, but also emphasises the sad state she's in. Because Seligman can explain all of Joe's stories and is the habitant of the room, the mise-en-scene connects their life together very strongly and builds up a very intimate bond, it actually is the first relationship Joe builds with a man that doesn't have any sexual load to it. When this feeling of safety and intimacy is established, also because of the mise-en-scene, the end scene of the movie even more shocking and disillusive and it shows how a mise-en-scene can play an active room in establishing ideas about the characters, bring the viewer along in the story and also play a part in the disillusionment of a scene.
When I think about the movies I made for Assignment 1, I think the mise-en-scene in the movie of the turtle, where you can see his fish bowl in the room is the most successful. The small world of the turtle in the bigger one exemplifies the feelings of being trapped and the concept of that there is more than just the bowl you live in and that one would like to escape that.