March 27, 2017
video essay

Watch: Wes Anderson Teaches Mise-en-Scene with 'Moonrise Kingdom'

A new video essay outlines the term 'mise-en-scene' once and for all, using Wes Anderson as an example.

Ah, mise-en-scene. It's one of those terms, like hermeneutics, deconstruction, or hegemony, that just rolls off the tongue.

Contrary to popular opinion, mise-en-scene has a relatively simple meaning, and it's explored nicely in this video essay by David Gallo. Of course, there's no better place to start learning about mise-en-scene than Wes Anderson. This new video essay walks us through the not-so-idyllic island intrigue, Moonrise Kingdom, and the elements that make up Anderson's use of said mise-en-scene. We get to revisit some particularly poignant moments from the films, as well. (Below, we outline the most important elements of the cinematic term.)

Setting

To say the scenario of Moonrise Kingdom is staged is an understatement; Anderson sets the film on an island, isolating its characters from any outside influence, and then lets them frolic in anguish, in happiness, and in love. Though it's a far cry from the island of Shakespeare's The Tempest, one could see it as a staging ground for battles over identity that lead to the ultimate question: When does one become the Prospero of one's own life?

Lighting

Gallo accurately points out the "low-key" lighting of most of the film. Anderson does this to bring the level of the human interactions here down to size—to humanize them. Whether or not he succeeds, of course, is debatable (and if he doesn't, perhaps that could be seen as a sign of the rebellious spirit at the heart of the film).

Human Figure

Anderson's human figures are, here as elsewhere, highly awkward. They don't know what to do with their hands. They stumble. They stagger. This is all part of the experience of the film, which is to draw you into the heart of human imperfection at its most benign. The human figure, be it outfitted in a Boy Scout uniform or Dad shorts, is a metaphor for the films themselves, which are studies in fascination with imperfection, cloaked in seemingly perfect (read: symmetrical) form.

Composition

As Gallo states, the camera work here is dead straight ahead 90 percent of the time, presenting a moving gallery of photos of its characters. This creates a peculiar tone—something like a visual deadpan. In this sort of frame, everything is funny, and nothing is funny at all.     

Your Comment

8 Comments

I'm very much looking forward to all of your video essay articles, but this one was very much sub par. Very trivial, barely scratching the surface of the film, and with amateurish execution. Would love it if the bar was set higher for your future choices. Don't mean to be a dick about it, meant only as honest critique.

March 27, 2017 at 5:33PM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
495

I really appreciate the feed back and I don't see you as being a dick at all. This essay was just made for a film studies class in my high school, but I will use your advice for the future if I decide to make more essays. Thanks again for the feedback,
-David Gallo

March 27, 2017 at 11:54PM

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Hey Gleb, I know you've apparently been to 35 different countries and speak 3 different languages, but could you keep your dick in your pants for one goddamn second? I know it's your job and all to blatantly shit on other people's work, but cut the kid some slack, Gleb. You can obviously tell this was just for a highschool level project, so like, what's with you throatfucking everyone's creations acting like you're so much holier? Get off your high horse, Gleb. Sit your ass down and stop shitting on teenagers like the rest of us, thanks.

March 28, 2017 at 1:28AM

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Francis
81

Holy shit, Francis! You googled me and everything! Nice!

March 28, 2017 at 3:57AM

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You voted '-1'.
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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
495

Thanks, Gleb. Eat a dick.

March 28, 2017 at 11:14PM

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Francis
81

To the person who also commented (Gleb Volkov):
I really appreciate the feed back and I don't see you as being a dick at all. This essay was just made for a film studies class in my high school, but I will use your advice for the future if I decide to make more essays. Thanks again for the feedback,
-David Gallo

March 27, 2017 at 8:14PM, Edited March 27, 8:17PM

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Hi David, I understand, and this was my perception as well - that this is a high school project. The critique was offered to No Film School regarding the choice. It doesn't really count as critique of the piece itself since I didn't really actual offer suggestions for improvement.
Since you're here - it's only fair to address that as well: in terms of content - I would suggest offering a more in depth analysis in regard to meaning and context, that would help understand the film on a deeper level, as opposed to just stating the facts of what is seen. Acknowledging the technique is the first step, but you shouldn't stop there - challenge yourself to derive a deeper meaning, in order to produce a "defensible" theory - one that you can support with said facts and gives a wider context for the film. That is the main critique regarding the content and that is the very base of film analysis, which is what I assume was the goal.
In terms of execution - my advice is to refrain from the (very) distracting and unnecessary gimmicks such as shouting the titles of sections. Also screen-capping a film with your Google notifications popping up in the background is just not good form if you're meant this to be a serious piece. Nothing prevents you from doing it over, if that happens, except lack of effort/will. Execution and form matter. Not the only thing that matters, but the first of many, if you're aiming for excellence. Which is also what I came to expect from No Film School in regard to choice of articles. I wish you all the best in your future essays :)

March 27, 2017 at 8:51PM, Edited March 27, 8:51PM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
495

Excellent. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors.
His films are so crazy. Love them.

March 28, 2017 at 5:09AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
808