Mise-en-scene is a term used to signify the director’s control over what appears in the film frame. Mise-en-scene includes those aspects of film that overlap with the art of a theatre: setting, lighting, costume, and the behavior of the figures. Realism is also tied in to this concept because it allows the viewer to determine if the setting, characters, and costumes are realistic. In controlling the mise-en-scene, the director stages the event for the camera. One director who is known for his cinematography and use of mise-en-scene is Martin Scorsese.
Scorsese’s film Goodfellas, has multiple examples of the theatrical concept of mise-en-scene. One aspect of mise-en-scene is the setting. Goodfellas takes place in Queens in New York City. It beings during the 1950s and ends in the 1980s. Historically, New York City is a known place for the Italian mob. By having the setting in this area, the viewer would believe that mob related activities take place there. Two other aspects are costumes and the behavior of the characters. In many gangster films, the Italian mobster is usually well dressed. They typically wear nice clothes such as a shirt and tie. Scorsese went along with this notion in Goodfellas. All of the characters where fancy clothes and look like they are Italian so they could be depicted as Italian mobsters. They have an Italian accent and many of their conversations are about illegal activities that they would partake in. They give off a hard and fierce attitude to those who do not know them. Lighting is also an aspect of mise-en-scene. In the beginning scene of the movie, the three main characters are shown murdering a high-ranking Italian mobster. There is a red light in the scene, which has an underlying significance. The red light appears to almost look like a flashlight. The lighting resembles a blood like color and it does not allow the viewer to see the blood that is covering the characters. The red light gives off a notion of death.
The beginning scene is the movie is a flash-forward to a later part of the movie. Scorsese uses a strong narrative form to tie in the significance of that scene to what happens to the characters after it. After the beginning scene in the film, it tells the story that builds up to that particular part of the movie. It is significant because after the murder, it turns series of events that leads to the demise of the three main characters.
Kolker, R. (2000). A cinema of loneliness. New york city: Oxford press.