MIse En Scene - Babe analysis

In many movies we often presume that what is put into a scene is simply just there, this is not the case. Mise en scene is a concept that was taken from theatre that takes into account everything that we see in front of us on stage or the screen for movies. It is everything that is in the frame before the editing phase. The six main elements of mise en scene are setting, costume and make up, lighting, the actors expression and movement, screen space and time.

I have chosen to analyse two aspects of mise en scene, setting and lighting in the film
Babe. The scene is from 29:16 to 31:00 where the farmers’ wife is making a cake on Christmas Eve and she is talking to her husband who is sharpening his knife to kill Christmas dinner. Then the farmer goes outside and the animals are startled as they know its Christmas and what happens to one of them the night before. I will first talk about the setting and how it is not just a background for what happens between the characters. Then how lighting is one of the most important factors of mise en scene as it commands our attention to specific points in the screen, characters and objects in front of us.

In mise en scene the setting refers to the location or the construction of a location where the film scene is filmed. The setting is more than just a background it can also suggest historical realism, describe the central theme to a movie or provide images of the characters mind. In the film Babe the setting is in the eighty’s or nineties somewhere in rural England on a farm. The era is suggested by the clothes worn by the farmers visiting family when they arrive from the city in the previous scene. The farmer’s clothes say a lot about the time they are from and still stuck in. The surroundings are rather dull and drab such as the furniture and things on the walls, the curtains and the farmers clothes themselves. This gives the viewer the impression that they may not get into town much which shows their isolation from the changing world and how they are stuck in their own world on the farm in the valley. Also the fact that they are not accustomed to new things and they like things how they are and don’t want to change anything. The farmer still using a horse and cart specifically emphasizes this point. The second part to the scene shows the central theme to this particular part of the film, being that someone is about to die. You can feel it in the air and the scene is set at night which is dark and dark has an association with death. So the setting sets the scene for what is about to come.

“Lighting describes the various ways a character or an object or a scene can be illuminated, either by natural sunlight or from artificial sources (such as lamps)” (Corrigan 1998:p.51). Lighting creates a certain atmosphere, like a painter the director has to use the right shades of light to put the right amount of emphasis on a subject. The lighting in Babe in the first part of the scene is very hard light, it’s very bright to show the afternoon and the fact the sun is going down. The two characters the farmer and his wife are talking about what they are going to do at night. The light source seems to be coming through the windows it is very bright it would not be from a natural source. It gives the colours of the background a dimmer look and highlights the faces of the characters. The second part of the scene is a night scene but it is artificially lit so you can see the characters. It is dark in the barn but light is shining in from what the director wants you to think is the house. It uses the shadow effect so it hides the pig and the dogs’ faces so you can’t see their full emotion till each lifts its head into the light. The dimly lit area with the suspense shown by the characters emotion shows that something is about to happen. Also there is the use of shadow in this scene to make something that would be gruesome to see seem less violent. When you see the shadow of the farmer swinging and you know he has killed someone. There is no visible blood and guts but we know from the sharp shadow image from the lighting what has happened with out actually seeing it.

The two aspects of mise en scene that I have analysed in the film Babe were setting and lighting. First I talked about the setting and how it is not just a background for what happens between the characters but can show historical realism, describe the central theme to a movie or provide images of the characters mind. Then I discussed how lighting is one of the most important factors of mise en scene as it commands our attention to specific points in the screen, characters and objects in front of us.