Archive for the “Mise-en-scène Analysis” Category

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Context
Snow White and Eric the Huntsman travel to the edge of the Dark Forest, where they encounter a giant troll at a stone bridge. The troll engages in a fight with Eric, and overpowers him. Right as the troll is about to deal a finishing blow to Eric, Snow White charges with a roar towards the troll. The troll lowers itself and answers with a roar of its own. Screenshot taken from the R1-DVD release of the film, at 52:38 of the theatrical version using MPC-HC. (Click picture to enlarge to original size in a new window [853×479 pixels, DVD-quality]).


1. Dominant
The dominant in this shot is the troll. It is the largest object in the picture. There are two objects in focus in this picture, the troll and Snow White. But while Snow White is also another figure in the shot, the troll is in the middle of a very intense roar. This makes the troll the major focus of the scene. The lighting of the scene (key light and rim light) is also focused on the troll. Although the lighting on the troll is digitally done, he stands out considerably compared to the Dark Forest background, while Snow White’s dress blends her somewhat into the dirt floor of the forest.


2. Lighting Key
The lighting key in this screenshot is low key lighting. There are many shadows on the shot, especially on the troll’s neck and lower torso. Although it depicts a moment during the day, it is in a “dark forest.” The lighting fits the environment very well, as the low lighting makes it very difficult for the viewer to pick out bright spots. There are almost no shadows in the background, but the shot still gives a feeling of darkness, as it is not especially well lit, giving it a dark and murky substance. The lighting also fits the genre of the film as an action-thriller, as the dark and shadowy lighting compliments the dark themes of the film.


3. Shot and Camera Proxemics
The shot is a mix between Full and Medium shots, but more of a Medium shot when taking into consideration that the troll is the dominant of the scene. The troll is cut off at the forearms and lower torso, with the hump of his back being cut off as well. From Snow White’s perspective however, it is a Full shot because it shows almost her whole body, with only the ankles/boots of her character being off-screen.


4. Camera Angle
The picture is an eye-level shot. The camera is not titled in any sort of angle and offers a very clear view of both the troll and Snow White. And although the eye-level shot rarely features a dramatic scene, this particular shot is very intense, as it is a moment of confrontation between the two characters. The shot taken out of context may be odd in the fact that it gives both characters an even playing field with each other when one is clearly overpowering the other. But in the shots and after this picture, high angle camera views are used from the troll’s perspective, looking down on Snow White, and a low angle camera angle is also used from the perspective of Snow White, looking up at the troll. This picture however, displays the full weight of the troll’s power over Snow White as it contrasts the sheer massive size of the troll to that of Snow White’s.


5. Color Values
The color values in this shot are dominated by grey. The troll itself is grey, from its skin to the plaques on the troll. Although one may argue that the troll seems a tad green, it only works to make the troll seem grainy and realistic, as it is a computer-generated character. The background also features grey stones in a small mound as well as grey stones in a small creek along the bottom part of the picture. The forest in the background is also filled with a grey mist/fog. Snow White’s undershirt is also grey, highlighting yet another grey part of the picture. The other major color in the shot is brown. From the brownish horns of the troll, to the brown dress of Snow White, the forest floor, and the trees, brown covers almost everything that grey doesn’t. Even Snow White’s black hair seems to blend in with the brown dress she is wearing, perhaps an illusion created by the mass of brown surrounding the hair. The only vividly colored aspects of the shot are the troll’s blue eyes and the very small amount of green moss at the bottom right corner of the screen. It is of note that the green is on the side where Snow White stands; perhaps noting that Snow White is the symbol of fertility in the film, while evil stands for barrenness.


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6. Lens/Filter/Stock
The shot is taken with a wide-angle lens. There is considerable depth at all parts of the shot. There are many details far into the background, as trees can be clearly made out even through the thick fog of the forest. This may be an odd choice considering that the shot focuses on two characters fairly close to the camera, but it gives a sense of chaos in the shot. The twisting trees of the forest add to the intense moment that is going on. The stock is slow, as the previously mentioned high detail of the shot shows.


7. Subsidiary Contrasts
The main subsidiary contrast in the shot is Snow White. Her brown and grey dress, in addition to her dark black hair allows her to almost blend in completely with the Dark Forest background. This accentuates the fact that her presence is very little compared to the troll’s; in fact the very shot features her falling to the ground and out of the shot almost completely. This is coupled with the fact that she is very small in size compared to the troll, so the subsidiary contrast of the shot is Snow White in terms of the physical, visual and conceptual.


8. Density
Although there is a lot of detail in the shot, there are only three main objects in the shot. These objects would be the troll, Snow White, and the Dark Forest background. There is a lot of detail on the troll’s skin, as well as the Dark Forest background. Also, all three main objects are in fairly good focus. Despite these aspects of high detail in the shot, the shot is very simple; it is a confrontation of two characters in a specific location. Therefore, the scene is not very dense in terms of visual information and context processing. Viewers who are given little explanation can almost instantly understand what is going on within seconds. This fits the context of the shot, in that is a dramatic action scene that is intense, and quick processing is essential in keeping the interest of the audience while avoiding confusion as to what is happening.


9. Composition
The shot features both binary and vertical composition. It is binary because the two characters are facing each other and emphasizes a sense of parallelism, albeit they are very different characters. But the shot is a confrontation, so the binary composition works well not to outline the similarities, but draw attention to the glaring differences between the two characters. The shot is also features a vertical composition because the shot separates the characters as two very different entities. One is large, powerful and ugly, while the other is small, unarmed and beautiful. As previously mentioned in the color values portion of the analysis, the green moss on Snow White’s side also suggest that symbolic meaning of both characters stand for very different things. The grey troll’s left side is barren and empty, while the vividly colored green moss and the creek on the right side of Snow White suggests themes of fertility and life. This polar opposite theme of death/barrenness versus fertility and life is held throughout the entirety of the film as well.


10. Form
The shot is in open form. The two characters are in outdoors in a forest, where the environment is open. The troll’s upper back as well as his legs are off-screen, indicating that there is indeed more potential space above and beyond. The small creek at the bottom of the picture is also cut off, but viewers will assume that it continues somewhere beyond the scene. The same goes for the forest background which is covered in fog. There is a great sense of openness and depth in the Dark Forest. It would not be out of the question to have another character enter the picture from the right, left, or top edges of the shot, and thus the scene is open form. This form is very contradictory to the feel of the shot, as Snow White in this moment is trapped and cornered by the troll. Although they are in a very open space, she has nowhere to run.


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11. Framing
This perhaps is the most difficult element of the shot. As previously mentioned in the form portion of the analysis, Snow White has nowhere to run. Therefore, it is very appropriate to call this shot tight. There is little room for Snow White to move, and the troll seems to be practically on top of Snow White. One swipe of his massive arms would spell the end for the heroine. That being said however, the openness of the forest suggests that both characters have the option of putting some distance between them. And while it does create the case for a longer shot framing, the context of the shot dictates otherwise. The troll has no intention of backing away, and Snow White would have no chance of survival if she decided to turn away and run, as the troll is in very close proximity to her. So while the shot is moderately loose in theory, in practical terms it would seem that the framing is very tight.


12. Depth of Field
The scene is shot in a deep-focus depth of field. As previously mentioned in other parts of the analysis, the shot features both foreground and background in very good focus. Nothing is intentionally blurred out, as even the trees hidden in fog are easily made out in the background. Broken twigs and small stones can be made out on the forest floor. In the foreground, the amount of detail on the troll is very high, as each patch of plaque on the troll’s skin can be made out very clearly. The face of the troll is in good focus as well, even though the shot is taken in the midst of a very violent and fast action (roaring). On Snow White, her clothes are in very good focus, as well as her hair, as she is in the midst of an action herself (falling down). But the case for a deep-focus depth of field is made primarily on the fact that the forest background is very detailed and focused. The individual branches of the trees are very clear, as the contrast of the grey fog allows the trees to stand out clearly.


13. Character Placement
The characters occupy the left and right sides of the frame, and although they are the most important objects in the shot, the relationship between the two is anything but equal. The troll overwhelms the left side of the shot, while Snow White barely establishes her existence on the right. This is done to emphasize the sheer difference in power and size that the troll has to the heroine. The troll is so large that his entire body cannot be displayed in the shot, and this contrasts to the presence of Snow White, who is being pushed to the right side of the frame. The next shot features Snow White falling to the ground at the bottom right edge of the frame, further highlighting her small significance compared to the massive troll. Snow White’s placement towards the edge of the frame also draws attention to her powerlessness and completely vulnerable state before the troll. The placement of the troll’s face at almost the center of the shot also accentuates the dominance of the troll in the shot. As previously mentioned, the dominant in the shot is the troll, and placement has a big role in establishing this fact. And although in a scene moments after this shot is taken, Snow White stares the troll down on even terms, in this moment the troll has absolute power and control over the princess. Character placement is paramount in establishing this feeling of dominance of one over the subservient other.


14. Staging Positions
The troll is shown in a profile shot. This is done to display the full magnitude of its size. Snow White on the other hand, is shown in what is a mix between profile and three-quarter turn, as the back of her head is shown towards the audience. This is not a show of rejection of interest towards the audience, but shows that the character has bigger problems to worry about than showing her profile. All of her attention is fixed onto the troll in front of her. The “profile” portion of Snow White’s character is there to draw a parallel to her relationship between the troll in the moment, but the “three quarter turn” portion of her character shows that the troll is dominating her very existence. Snow White is forced to put her attention to the troll, even at the cost of rejecting interest in the audience. This just adds to the concept that the troll is overpowering Snow White and every detail of her existence at the moment is dictated by what the troll is doing. Snow White cannot take her eyes off of the troll, even for a second, for fear what he might do if he is ignored.


15. Character Proxemics
The character proxemics in this shot can be best described as being personally distanced. The two characters are roughly 4 feet away from each other. This is no doubt too personal for Snow White at the moment. The fact that these two characters are in a confrontation and yet relatively close to each other is what makes this shot a very intense and dramatic scene. The two are not friends or acquaintances. Snow White is very much the unwelcome guest in the troll’s territory, and the troll is letting that be known to her. The troll is able to close in on Snow White to within 4 feet because it is very much aware of the overwhelming power it has to Snow White, and conversely the powerlessness that the unarmed princess has against the troll. The troll is the character that closes in on Snow White, not the other way around. As previously mentioned in the analysis, the next shot features Snow White falling to the ground, away from the troll, as to give herself some distance from the intrusive troll. The relative closeness of the two characters is what creates the high tensions in this shot, as Snow White’s life could be extinguished at any given moment; she is way too close to the troll for comfort. Her body posture suggests that she is trying her best to maintain her balance in her moment of vulnerability and fear. Or perhaps her body language suggests a high level of discomfort created by the close proxemics to the monster, and is readying her body for “fight or flight.”


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Conclusion
The scene analysis brings several things to light, but one major point is highlighted in this scene, and that is the dominance that the troll has over the princess. The following aspects of the analysis point in favor of the troll: dominant, lighting key, angle, color value, composition, framing, character placement, staging positions, and character proxemics. The troll trumps the princess in all of these categories, and helps to create the feeling that Snow White is helpless in front of the massive troll. And as previously mentioned, Snow White eventually establishes herself as the troll’s equal in subsequent scenes, but in this exact moment, everything about the princess’ existence depends on the troll’s, and she is pretty much at the absolute mercy of the monster. In this shot, Snow White is merely a secondary character, and all the focus is given to the troll and the physical power it has over the heroine. The troll is no doubt more physically powerful than the princess, but this shot shows the troll’s other dominance in terms of both visual appearance and the power relationship between the two.

Also, as previously mentioned in the color value portion of the analysis, it is of note that the theme of grey and dark barrenness versus colorful fertility is a theme that is featured throughout the film. Thus this particular shot is a very good representative slice for the rest of the film. It poses the innocent girl against the ugliness of the rest of the world. Furthermore, it is the innocent princess that eventually wins out, in both the end of the film and the end of this scene. Taken out of context, this shot may suggest that this is a film about monsters and that Snow White is a helpless, weak victim. But as the rest of the film will show, Snow White stands on equal ground (if not higher ground) with even the most fearsome of monsters, whether they are trolls or witches. So perhaps the true meaning of this shot is to show that initial impressions of power are not always true. Or perhaps it is to show viewers that our impressions of what power really is are false. True power may perhaps be having a pure heart, as Snow White does.


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