Choose one still from the film, Psycho, and upload the still for us to see and analyze the basic elements of the mise-en-scène. Use the questions below to analyze how the basic elements of mise-en-scène contribute to the visual style and story content of a film.
For a close analysis, it is best to pick a single image.
Begin by thinking about the overall effect of the mise-en-scène in the image.
- What do you learn about the story and characters—without the use of dialogue?
- What emotional effect does the mise-en-scène have on you?
- Now, focus on ONE area below and discuss (the set, costume/makeup/hair, blocking and performance, or lights).
3-1 The Set
Take note of the interior and exterior architecture, furnishings, and props in the scenes.What larger location for the story is suggested by these elements?What time period is evoked?What does the set tell you about the characters’ personal lives and interests, working conditions, or social and economic status?Does the set design represent an imaginary place and, if so, how might this be connected to a larger creative argument?Is the set deliberately theatrical or artificial, and why?Are there any key props in the scene, and how are they used? Do they provide clues to the action or have symbolic meaning?
3-2 Costumes, Makeup, and Hair
If you are familiar with the off-screen look of the actors in this scene, how have they been transformed by wardrobe, makeup, and hair?What can you tell about a character’s social standing, occupation, and attitude toward life from his or her appearance?Does the character change over the course of the film, and what role does costume, makeup, and hair play in commenting on this transformation?
3-3 Blocking and Performance
Where are the characters sitting or standing in relationship to one another? What does this positioning tell you?If the characters move around the scene, what meanings do those movements convey?Does one character visually dominate the scene?Do any of the human figures function purely as design elements in the scene? If so, what role do they play in the larger meaning of the scene?
3-4 The Lights
Does the lighting direct your eyes to a certain figure or object?Has the filmmaker used under lighting or top lighting to dramatic effect?Are there sharp contrasts between light and dark areas in the frame?Is a character shown in hard or in soft light?Does the scene appear to have been shot in natural light, and is that choice an aspect of the film’s meaning?