American Beauty: Mise-en-Scene

Essay by casopolis82University, Bachelor'sA+, July 2004

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Mise-en-scene literally means "setting up a scene." There are six elements that make up mise-en-scene: acting, costume and make-up, setting, lighting, composition or space and lastly, but not least, time. The film that I chose for this particular topic was American Beauty. American Beauty is like mise-en-scene candy. Each theme from repression to denial and fantasy to reality is clearly portrayed through the art of mise-en-scene. We often say that a good performance is "realistic." To me a good performance by an actor is making it seem as if they are not really "acting" per se; making the viewer believe that they are the actual character in the film. In American Beauty, the acting is quite individualized. The quality of the actors performances allow the audience to promptly identify what it is the characters are portraying. In the scene when Ricky Fitts is videotaping Jane while her friend Angela is over, you would be able to identify who each of the characters were, just through watching that scene.

You see Jane sitting at her make-up desk looking downwards. You can tell through her facial expressions and body language that she is an innocent, teenage girl who is unhappy with herself. She is more on the quiet side and is quite self-conscious. Where as, Angela, Jane's polar opposite friend, is standing in front of the window while Jane's neighbor Ricky, is videotaping. You can tell that Angela is narcissistic and craves attention by the way she is posing for Ricky. Ricky is anything but interested in Angela, he zooms in on Jane, sitting at her make-up table behind Angela and focuses on her reflection in the mirror. Angela's body is taking up the majority of the composition within this frame, but it is out of focus because...