In film sequence from the movie titanic, directed by

this essay I will be talking about the use of mise-en-scène to convey narrative
in a film sequence from the movie titanic, directed by James Cameron. I will be
focusing on this film because I think that the film sequences in this movie
show the many different uses of mise-en-scene very effectively and it is very
visible to see the use of the different forms of mise-en-scene that pull the
scene together.


narrative is a story that you write or tell to someone, usually in great
detail. A narrative can be a work of poetry or prose, or even song, theater, or
dance.” (, 2018). Mise-en-scene is
the terminology used for the arrangement of everything within a frame, such as setting,
lighting, actors, body language, props, costumes and staging. David Bordwell
marks out four general areas: setting, costumes and makeup, lighting, and staging
in his book. (Bordwell, 1985)

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term mise-en-scene itself is a French word, which means ‘The arrangement of the
scenery (oxford dictionary, 2018)’. Another part of
Mise-en-scene is considering the way a film sequence is shot, so things like
the framework and camera angles are also a part of this. David A.C. writes in
his book a History of Narrative film that Mise-en-scene is made up the things
that actually “within the shot itself as opposed to the effects created by
cutting”, so basically, he is trying to say here that everything that you film,
and that is physically there in front of the camera, then that is
mise-en-scene. (MOURA, 2004).

scene that I am going to look at in this essay is from the movie titanic and it
is one of last sequences when Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater sink into the
ocean and Rose DeWitt Bukater climbs on to a door, which is unable to hold both
of them. This scene is very emotional, and it uses many different camera
techniques to deliver the narrative and show viewers what kind of situation
Rose and Jack are in.

(Screener, 2016)




talking about setting’s we are normally looking at things like costume, make-up, lighting and staging. The setting creates
the sense of the mood of the scene and gives an atmosphere to it, it can also
give us a sense of the characters emotions. Settings when making a film is a
main part the mise-en-scene. The setting can be both a fictional or
non-fictional set. The sets that get used in a film all contribute to showing
the realism and atmosphere. The term realism is what people who watch the film
sequence say when the film sequence creates and truthful picture of a society,
or a character or whatever aspect of real life that the movie is trying to
portray. When viewers talk about realism is can relate to the psychological or
emotional accuracy in the characters, viewers want to see recognizable or
logical actions and developments in a story line, they basically want to see
something convincing and relatable.

“Setting creates both a sense of place and a mood and
it may also reflect a character’s emotional state of mind.  It can be entirely fabricated within a studio
– either as an authentic re-construction of reality or as a whimsical fiction –
but it may also be found and filmed on-location.” (College Film
& Media Studies, n.d.)


If we look at the setting of the scene above, we can
see that it is dark lighting and the costumes of Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack
Dawson have been covered with ice to show us that they are freezing to death. Rose
DeWitt Bukater is laying down on top of the door out of the water and Jack
Dawson is nearly fully submerged into the water. This shows us how chivalrous Jack
Dawson is by giving Rose DeWitt Bukater the opportunity to climb up on the door
instead of himself. Both Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater are filmed in the
same shot together, so we can see both the character’s and their situations. The
way that this scene is portrayed really goes into the aspect of realism, even
though the scene itself was shot in a studio, the way it was portrayed and
acted, it looked real. With the lighting in the studio, to Rose DeWitt Bukater
and Jack Dawson being covered in white frost and blue lips to show the
impression that they really were freezing to death. This really helped the
development of the storyline and it was convincing, with all the mise-en-scene
that was in front of the camera whilst it was being shot in the studio, it really
led to a really convincing performance on screen. The viewers really got to
view what could have been a reality, with the dead frozen bodies around them in
the ocean, it looked like a convincing act.

(Facebook, 2016)


Lighting has one of most important thing when making a film
to show emotion within the film. The director of a movie must make that the
lighting is matching what atmosphere they are trying to portray. When making a
film a director uses two types of lighting approaches, low-key lighting and
high-key lighting. High key lighting is mostly seen in movies like comedies,
romantic movies and musicals. With high key lighting a director trying to avoid
any dark areas in the frame, the director wants to make sure that everything
looks bright, trying hard to make sure there are no shadows. The high-key
lighting has an effect of its own. Low-key lighting is usually used in movies
such as thrillers and horror movies. The lighting pattern that is used with
this type of lighting that has both bright and dark areas in the frame. This adds
to the eerie atmosphere that these movies are trying to create.

During this scene in the titanic, we can clearly see that
most of the scene we can see the use of low-key lighting in order portray death
and to really show what has happened when the titanic sank. The movies director
used both high-key and low-key lighting whilst filming to show the contrast of
everything when the titanic started to sink. We can clearly see that because
the ship is meant to be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and this is meant
to be late at night, so the lighting is very dark around the titanic. The
lighting that is used whilst filming the scenes in titanic really show us the
contrast throughout the movie it attracts viewers when we physically see the
difference in the scenes with the low-key lighting and high-key lighting
contrast. In the start of the movie we see the lighting in the movie as very
bright and making it look like an extravagant ship and this really sets the
mood and glamour of it all. High-key lighting creates a sense of culture and
how rich some people on the ship were whilst it was showing the glamourous
areas of the ship. However later on when it was switched to the part that I am
analysing, and the lighting is switched to low-key lighting this really gives
the viewers a sense of real death and how the titanic was sinking and also the
lighting within this scene became darker and darker as the lights in the ship
were also going out as it sank. This scene really does show that this is the
last time of the titanic.

(national geographic , 2018)


Costume is really big part of mise-en-scene because it is
what the characters are wearing within the frame. Make-up is another massive
part of costume as it adds to the realism that is being portrayed. Costumes
also give a sort insight to the viewer of a character’s personality or status
in society. Actors can wear costumes that range from fashionable suits and
dresses, (which would portray on upper class characters) to wearing more normal
dull coloured clothing, or clothes that are a bit ripped in places (this would
portray lower class characters). Make-up is another thing is important when it
comes to costumes, the way make-up is applied to an actor’s face and body and
the way they may sometimes alter a person’s face to look disfigured really
contributes towards what the character may be like and what the story might be.
 Costume’s are probably the most
noticeable part of mise-en-scene. When talking about costume we are talking about
the actual clothes that an actor wears and also the makeup that they may wear.
The costumes represent the personality or status of the character and the way
they are dress differently allows viewers to differentiate between them. They
also help to distinguish what era a film sequence is meant to be from. 

In the scene in the titanic where Rose DeWitt Bukater and
Jack Dawson are drowning we can see that clearly that they both have been
through a struggle. Rose DeWitt Bukater is wearing a Jack Dawson et that was
put on her by Caledon Hockley. Jack was in his usual dull coloured shirt and
pants with his iconic suspenders. In this scene it wasn’t just the clothes that
added to the scene, it was the make-up. Rose’s lips were coloured blue and so
were Jack’s, they were both covered in frost that gave us the impression of
them slowly freezing to death. This really gave viewers a realism approach, so
they can really see in the frame shot how much they were both suffering, alongside
the low-key lighting. The mise-en-scene used in this film sequence to portray
the narrative to the viewers really was enough to pull off a convincing

 (Back Benchers , 2017)


One of main things in mise-en-scene is an actor’s performance
itself, the way the actor delivers the performance on screen can bind all of
the movie together. When a shot is being taken it is the actors duty to bring
that particular character to life because if the actor does not pull of a
convincing performance, the realism aspect of the story is then taken away (if
that is what is meant to be portrayed). The emotions that an actor shows whilst
in shot must engage the audience. There also two methods that used in modern
cinema in this era, these two types are naturalistic and stylized. When an
actor is taking up the role of a character then it becomes their responsibility
to become one with the characters, dressing, personality and basically all of
their characteristics that this character may possess (this is when a character
is using the naturalistic approach). However, the opposite of this is stylized acting
which is more of an evident approach which is used to get what the director
wants to portray across. The main purpose of stylized acting is to over
dramatize the acting in order to portray a comical effect to the film sequence.

Within this scene in the titanic the acting skills of Leonardo
DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater were very
convincing. Throughout the movie itself the chemistry between the two
characters had been incredible. When Rose was laying down on top of the door,
and she was desperately trying to wake Jack up after he died we could almost
see the desperation on her face to try to wake him up. When Jack let Rose climb
up on the door instead of himself we really got a sense of the character’s
personality and how much he cared for Rose. The acting in this scene was very
moving and the way it was shot with close up’s and the different angles creates
more of the atmosphere. In this scene we see many close ups and in the
background, we can see the dead bodies of those who had frozen in the ocean,
this really adds to the scene, so the viewers can see the severity of the
coldness in the water. The mise-en-scene in this scene are mainly the actors
and the makeup and costumes that pull of a realistic performance.

(reblogger, 2013)


In this essay I have talked about the use of Mise-en-scene
in the narrative sequence from the movie titanic. We can see that there were
clear uses of setting, lighting, costumes and acting in this film. All of these
were used to the full potential in the movie. With the many different camera
techniques and the high use of low-key lighting to the actors pulling of a
convincing performance within each shot. We can clearly see that the
mise-en-scene has been used to a full potential to convey the narrative in this
scene. We have a clear understanding of what mise-en-scene and why it plays an
important part in conveying narrative to an audience. Mise-en-scene isn’t
normally a term that directors use on set however when doing analysis, the
technical term for everything within a camera frame or shot is classed as the
mise-en-scene. I feel like that with this movie we can see the many different
techniques and skills that the director has used to create the atmosphere for
delivering a realistic narrative. I have gone through the many different ways
the mise-en-scene helped create an atmosphere and deliver and convincing and realist
performance within the movie. Overall this essay shows the many different
skills the director uses to make a scene realistic. The way the narrative is
projected to viewers really is because the mise-en-scene is in front of the camera.
Overall mise-en-scene is really important when conveying narrative such as this.