Mise en scène is a ‘grand, undefined term’ which in film refers to the arrangement of space and the objects within it. The following things all contribute:

  • sets
  • props
  • acting styles
  • lighting
  • camera angles
  • and other elements

The concept may also be useful when describing picturebooks and story apps.

From The Film Experience: An Introduction:

On the one hand, mise en scène describes the limits of human experience by indicating the external boundaries and contexts in which people live. On the other, it reflects the powers of the characters and groups that inhabit it by showing how people can have an impact on the space in which they live. While the first set of values can be established without characters, the second requires the interaction of characters and mise en scène.

Mise en scène as an External Condition

Mise en scène as an external condition indicates surfaces, objects, and exteriors that define the material possibilities in a place or space. One mise en scène may be a magical space full of active objects; another may be a barren landscape with no borders.

  • The interiors of trains and subways, with their long, narrow passageways and multiple windows and strange anonymous faces mean that a character’s movemenbts are restricted as the world flies by outside (The Lady Vanishes, The American Friend).
  • Deserts and jungles can be threatening to visitors (King Solomon’s Mines, The African Queen)

Mise en scène as a Measure Of Character

Mise en scène as a measure of character dramatizes how an individual or group establishes an identity through interaction with (or control of) the surrounding setting and sets. The mise-en-scène and the character mutually define each other, although the mise-en-scène may be unresponsive to the needs and desires of the characters.

  • A forest can be a sympathetic and intimate place (Robin Hood) or it can be an environment fraught with psychological significance (A Company Of Wolves).
  • A wide open space can expand the characters’ horizons (Brokeback Mountain).

Mise en scène in The Artifacts and Midnight Feast

In both stories, the characters of Asaf and Roya are restricted by an environment imposed upon them by their parents; Asaf is forced to move house and leave his possessions behind, which in turn spurs inner change. In Midnight Feast, Roya is restricted to her own bedroom and the scene from there, until she accidentally catches sight of a different scene from the kitchen window. The light shining in the window only highlights her own drab surroundings.