Mise-En-Scène In The Wachowski Siblings’ V For Vendetta
Mise-En-Scène in V For Vendetta: “The landscape is a reflection of the inner life. Since I can’t shoot the inner life, all I can shoot is the exterior, but I know that when I’m filming outside, I’m filming inside. I can only really touch the inside through the mise-en-scène. So through the mise-en-scène of the outside, we can explore the inside.” — Bruno Dumont
Mise-en-scène refers to combining all elements captured by the camera in a particular shot. A mise-en-scène is supervised by the director in association with a team of assistant directors, actors, set designers, music composers, costume and makeup artists, location manager, et al. This helps establish an ideal combination, achieving what the director wants to convey on-screen. In his book A History of Narrative Film, David Cook points out how a mise-en-scène is produced by all the features that appear “within the shot itself, as opposed to the effects created by cutting.” A mise-en-scène includes sets, location, costumes, makeup, sounds that create or enhance emotions, lighting, et al.
This segment will target certain elements while creating a Mise-En-Scène in V For Vendetta related to Setting, Costume and Make-Up & Lighting elements.
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Setting and location are essential components of any scene as they provide basic information on the socio-cultural and economic aspects of a film or shot in particular. It emphasizes the placement of objects in a scene. For example, even basic items like tables or chairs are appropriately placed at a specified depth or distance to communicate what the director wants to portray.
The setting during this scene is unquestionably used to create a sense and show a subject matter. The scene is in a concrete interrogation room that is incredibly dark and has no natural light with only a table, a chair, and a few table lights. The interrogation room builds focus on Evey, as she is being treated as a criminal. The questioning shows the discomfort Evey feels in the sudden abnormal conditions. Lack of natural light brings out stronger invalidating feelings towards the room because, without windows, it seems confined and agonizing. Having no windows showcases how Evey feels isolated and alone, signifying her lack of freedom. The usage of bright-white artificial lighting also registers a harsh and unforgiving environment. The concrete walls and floor make the entire scene feel very cold, dark, and scary.
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During the interrogation, Evey’s character and her decision to betray the information regarding V, or not, decide the further course of the film. The interrogator is a puppet of the authoritarian government who follows a form of fear to establish and maintain their rule. The director uses this cold-hostile setting to fabricate the audience to feel the condemnation and fright that Evey feels.
Costumes and makeup play a significant role in conveying the emotions and traits of a specific character. They highlight the good and evil, young and old, rich and poor, et al. Makeup ordinarily helps the director to show the process of ageing of a character. Sometimes, a part of the makeup, for example, a tattoo, becomes symbolic to the character, providing it with a unique identity among the viewers.
In this scene, the costume communicates with the audience. Evey, dressed in a white singlet, creates a high visual contrast with her surroundings, standing out to the viewers’ eyes, making her the center of the scene. The color white customarily relates to purity and innocence; it suggests that Evey is innocent and holds her dignity. The costume of the interrogator is non-existent; it is an entirely black contour without any identification, creating a sense of mystery while providing a scary and suspicious look. With no way to identify the interrogator, both Evey and the viewers are unnerved, raising suspicion in their minds about this man’s powers. Later, the black silhouette occurs to be V. The director had no costume on the capturer to create a higher sense of fear and control in the scene, and the use of the white top furthers the importance of Evey in the scene.
Lighting is a critical element of any scene as it indicates the mood of the shot and what the director is trying to communicate. There are two lighting components: Firstly, High-key lighting, used to create a bright and romantic setting, encompassing an even lighting pattern and avoiding dark areas in the frame. There are no shadows to be seen in a high-key frame. Secondly, Low-key lighting, used to show dark and disturbing moments, keeping the viewers on edge and is regularly utilised for sad, dull or gory scenes.
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Lighting is particularly effective in the scene where Evey is interrogated. Right before the interrogation, Evey is ‘black bagged’ where the screen goes black, just like what Evey would have seen under the bag. The lighting here manifests fear, and the audience gets a sense of the terror Evey is feeling. Swiftly, the bag is taken off to draw attention, with a high contrast of Evey’s face to the ongoing black screen. Evey’s face lightens up by a spotlight that only illuminates her, looking as she is caught in a shaft of light, becoming the centre of attention. The frame in which the scene takes place is menacing and fearful. Thus, light usage has been significantly used to point out the atmosphere of fear and terror and lay down the centrality of the scene.
Sound plays a pivotal role in adding sad, happy or extra emotional overtones. It consists of dialogues between the characters, background music, the noises created, songs, et al. Sound, mostly becomes a direct way of interacting with the audience, what the director wants to express in a shot.
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This scene holds one of the most famous dialogues in the film, in addition to the beautiful music by Tchaikovsky, “1812 Overture”. V on the silent terrace with Evey says, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November. The Gunpowder treason and plot; I see no reason why the Gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot,”(02:02:40) followed by the concerto on the streets orchestrated by V. The music brings out people on the streets witnessing the blatant destruction of Madam Justice on top of the Old Bailey building. V let people know that the symbol stands for nothing in the current scenario, and people need to wake up and look out for their liberty and justice. Also, V sought to reset everything back to how it was before, “Of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The sound and the visuals of the fire-crackers add excitement to the scene, which turns a horrific event into a celebration.
Thus, mise-en-scène in V for Vendetta, plays a crucial role in communicating the sentiments of the story and what the director wishes to explore using these diverse tools.
Author: Gitesh Chand Maurya