Mise-en-scène

MOVING CAMERAS AND LONG TAKES

The moving camera is a major factor in the creation of mise-en-scène, because it opens up space, traversing and

Characters are only part of the mise-en-scène in Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte (The Night , 1961 ).
redefining it. The camera can pursue characters or precede them, show them as powerful, or reduce their power. The moving camera does what cutting cannot do: make space whole. Orson Welles (1915–1985) and Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999) were masters of the moving camera. Welles's Touch of Evil (1958) and his adaptation of Kafka's The Trial (in the film Le procès [ The Trial , 1962]) created dark, nightmarish worlds through which his camera snaked and insinuated itself, allowing nothing to escape the viewer's gaze, while at the same time creating confusing spaces that seemed to be unconnected. Both Welles and Kubrick created labyrinthine spaces—literally: in Kubrick's The Shining (1980), the camera snakes its way through the hedge maze, where Jack becomes trapped and freezes; figuratively, in The Trial , Joseph K. wanders through the dark maze of the Law. Movement in both of these directors' films creates a mise-en-scène of ultimate entrapment; their characters are swallowed up in the world the camera creates for them.

Along with the moving camera, another important element of mise-en-scène is the long take. Nowhere is the opposition between shot and cut more apparent than when a filmmaker allows a scene to continue unedited, actors acting, viewers observing. The long take can be used for sheer technical brilliance, as in the over-four-minute take in the Copacabana sequence of Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas (1990), where the camera moves with the characters down the stairs, through the kitchen, and into the club, all kinds of action and dialogue occurring along the way. It can be deadly serious, as in the tracks through the trenches in Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) or the extraordinary movement with the jogging astronaut in the centrifugal hall of the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Neither of these sequences is especially long, though the track through the trenches is persistent, intercutting shots of Col. Dax's intent face moving through the line of soldiers with his view of them. But these and all moving-camera long takes are marked by intensity and energy—visual signs of their character's purpose and ultimate failure, not to mention their director's creativity.

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