Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time In America)

How does Sergio Leone establish the genre of 'Once Upon a Time In America'

He uses sound signifiers in the opening to 'Once Upon a Time In America'. For example he uses the 'aural' sound through 'God Bless America'. This symbolises that the use of this music has been used ironically due to the fact that Eve dies which contrasts to the music which is supposed to show America to be great.

Sound: Diegetic - Natural sound from the actor. EG. 'Mise en Scene'
          : Non Diegetic - Sound added through the edit process.

'Once Upon a Time In America' could be seen as a non diegetic as it has most probobly been put onto the film through editing.

Referencing another film
To make the audience feel clever
Emphasise meaning
Pay tribute to another film

The Deer Hunter - 1978 = Intertextual link to 'Once Upon a Time In America'

'Mise en Scene'
Mise en scene  is an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production, which essentially means "visual theme" or "telling a story"—both in visually artful ways through storyboarding, cinematography and stage design, and in poetically artful ways through direction. This 'black on white' effect is mostly used when applied to the cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement—composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. Mise-en-scène also includes the positioning and movement of actors on the set, which is called blocking. Here is an example of the 'Mise on scene' effect used in Merlin with analysis around it.

In analysing Mise en Scene,  is not just identifying the components of the shot, but explaining the meaning or significance behind those components and connecting the shot to the themes of the film. Here are 14 key points of Mise en Scene.

In black and white movies, the dominant contrast is generally achieved through a juxtaposition of lights and darks. In color films, the dominant is often achieved by having one color stand out from the others. Placing one object in sharper focus than the rest of the shot can also create a dominant.
The lighting key in this shot is moderate. The scene is not brightly lit, but there isn't a lot of shadows either. Also, there isn't a great contrast between lights and darks in the shot. Moderate lighting fits the genre, a character-based comedy/drama. It's not as bright as a light comedy, as dark as a thriller, or as dramatic as a tragedy or melodrama.

Next is shot and camera proxemics with six basic catagories:
  1. Extreme long shot--taken from a great distance, showing much of the locale. If people are included in these shots, they usually appear as mere specks.
  2. Long shot--corresponds to the space between the audience and the stage in a live theater. The long shots show the characters and some of the locale.
  3. Full shot--range with just enough space to contain the human body in full. The full shot shows the character and a minimal amount of the locale.
  4. Medium shot--shows the human figure from the knees or waist up.
  5. Close-up--concentrates on a relatively small object and show very little if any locale.
  6. Extreme close-up--focuses on an unnaturally small portion of an object, giving that part great detail and symbolic significance.
There are five basic angles in film.
    1. Bird's-eye view--the shot is photographed directly from above. This type of shot can be disorienting, and the people photographed seem insignificant.
    2. High angle--this angle reduces the size of the objects photographed. A person photographed from this angle seems harmless and insignificant, but to a lesser extent than with the bird's-eye view.
    3. Eye-level shot--the clearest view of an object, but seldom intrinsically dramatic, because it tends to be the norm.
    4. Low angle--this angle increases high and a sense of verticality, heightening the importance of the object photographed. A person shot from this angle is given a sense of power and respect.
    5. Oblique angle--for this angle, the camera is tilted laterally, giving the image a slanted appearance. Oblique angles suggest tension, transition, a impending movement. They are also called canted or dutch angles.
Common lenses and stocks:
  • Telephoto lens--A lens that draws objects closer but also diminishes the illusion of depth.
  • Wide-angle lens--A lens that takes in a broad area and increases the illusion of depth but sometimes distorts the edges of the image.
  • Fast film stock--highly sensitive to light, it can register an image with little illumination. However, the final product tends to be grainy.
  • Slow film stock--relatively insensitive to light, it requires a great deal of illumination. The final product tends to look polished.
The main subsidiary contrast in ome shots is one character. For example, he doesn't stand out as much as the other because his clothes may blend in with the background and he also may not have as much light on him as th second character does. However, size can besignificant, and his size is the focus. The other subsidiary contrast can be something in front of them as it's the only other object in focus.
Although there may be a lot of objects in some backgrounds, an image may not very dense because the focus limits the viewer to taking in only three main objects: character one, character two and perhaps a last object in front of them.

The objects in the frame can be placed to suggest underlying designs or shapes.
  • Horizontal--compositions based on horizontal lines seem visually at rest and suggest placidity or peacefulness.
  • Vertical--compositions based on vertical lines seem visually at rest and suggest strength.
  • Diagonal--compositions based on diagonal, or oblique, lines seem dynamic and suggest tension or anxiety.
  • Binary--binary structures emphasize parallelism.
  • Triangle--triadic compositions stress the dynamic interplay among three main elements.
  • Circle--circular compositions suggest security and enclosure.
The most nebulous of all the categories of mise en scene, the type of form is determined by how consciously structured the mise en scene is. Open forms stress apparently simple techniques, because with these unself-conscious methods the filmmaker is able to emphasize the immediate, the familiar, the intimate aspects of reality. In open-form images, the frame tends to be deemphasized. In closed form images, all the necessary information is carefully structured within the confines of the frame. Space seems enclosed and self-contained rather than continuous.

  • Shots where the characters are placed at the edges of the frame and have little room to move around within the frame are considered tight.
  • Longer shots, in which characters have room to move around within the frame, are considered loose and tend to suggest freedom.
Depth of the shots
Deep-focus shots allow all planes to be in focus at the same time. More commonly, only one or two frames are in focus.

Character placement of a shot
  • The area near the top of the frame can suggest ideas dealing with power, authority, and aspiration.
  • The areas near the bottom of the frame tend to suggest meanings opposite from the top: subservience, vulnerability, and powerlessness.
  • The left and right edges of the frame tend to suggest insignificance because these are the areas farthest removed from the center of the screen.

  • Staging positions
    An actor can be photographed in any of five basic positions, each conveying different psychological overtones.
      1. Full-front (facing the camera): the position with the most intimacy. The character is looking in our direction, inviting our complicity.
      2. Quarter Turn: the favored position of most filmmakers. This position offers a high degree of intimacy but with less emotional involvement than the full-front position.
      3. Profile (looking of the frame left or right): More remote than the quarter turn, the character in profile seems unaware of being observed, lost in his or her own thoughts.
      4. Three-quarter Turn: More anonymous than the profile, this position is useful for conveying a character's unfriendly or antisocial feelings, for in effect, the character is partially turning his or her back on us, rejecting our interest.
      5. Back to Camera: The most anonymous of all positions, this position is often used to suggest a character's alienation from the world. When a character has his or her back to the camera, we can only guess what's taking place internally, conveying a sense of concealment, or mystery.
    Character proxemics
    The way people use space can be divided into four proxemic patterns.
      1. Intimate distances: the intimate distance ranges from skin contact to about eighteen inches away. This is the distance of physical involvement--of love, comfort, and tenderness between individuals.
      2. Personal distances: the personal distance ranges roughly from eighteen inches away to about four feet away. These distances tend to be reserved for friends and acquaintances. Personal distances preserve the privacy between individuals, yet these rages don't necessarily suggest exclusion, as intimate distances often do.
      3. Social distances: the social distance rages from four feet to about twelve feet. These distances are usually reserved for impersonal business and casual social gatherings. It's a friendly range in most cases, yet somewhat more formal than the personal distance.
      4. Public distances: The public distance extends from twelve feet to twenty-five feet or more. This range tends to be formal and rather detached.


    1. Useful notes but you need to develop your ideas and construct a 500 word analysis of aspects of mise-en-scene from the notes you took in class. Click on blog archives for examples of how previous students have constructed analysis of mise-en-scene, and particularly how the director establishes genre in the opening sequence of "Once Upon a Time in America". You can take a photograph of the story board you constructed from images of the opening sequence and upload onto your blog.

    2. I've added much more on 'Mise en Scene' and researched a lot on it with many key points about it. It's much more than 500 words but hopefully it is good enough.

    3. Robin what film is the screen shot from? This is important, also what genre is the film and how the shot you've uploaded on your blog interests you.

      Always label film clips with name of film, director and when released. IMDB website has all this information.

      The post re film language is important for your reference and to begin to learn film terms when writing your posts.