How Mise – en – scene creates meaning in Gladiator

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The sequence of the movie that I have decided to focus on is the battle scene at the beginning of the movie in Germania. In total the whole battle takes approximately 7 – 8 minutes. I decided to use this scene because it is my favourite section of the film and it also has so many elements for me to discuss. The battle scene in Gladiator is a great example of how mise – en – scene can create meaning within a motion picture. The director, Ridley Scott, has given a greater meaning to the film using his techniques that he has used so many times before in other block busters such as Alien and Blade Runner .

These techniques such as clever uses of camera work, lighting styles, sound effects, computer generated images (CGI) and editing have added to the scene in making it more emotional and moving. The scene begins with the troops along with Maximus preparing for the battle. Immediately you feel a sense of eeriness because of the colour of the surroundings. Everything has a touch of blue about it making you feel very cold and wet.

The music from the start is moving, you can tell that something important and frightening is about to happen in the not to distant future The use of the music in this scene is an example of parallel sound where the music you hear is reflecting the narrative and what’s going on within the scene, I believe that the build up of music would be similar to the warriors heart beat, getting faster and faster as the battle draws closer. I feel that the music is portraying them as heroes at this point. The music is drowned out by the clunking of weapons at certain points leading up to the battle.

The chanting of the Germans in the woods echoes and adds a sense of horror, the noise that you hear of the Germans is also diagetic because its still a part of the narrative despite not actually appearing visually on the screen. After this point the music changes and begins to get stronger and louder. The build up of the music is a great effect and without it the scene would be lacking as it adds so much suspense and tension. This build up gets greater and greater for about 2 minutes before the battle is actually under way.

The music plays a huge part in setting the scene for this movie. The scene wouldn’t be half as moving without the use of the music, it creates a great atmosphere and builds up the battle. The props and the setting play a huge part in setting the scene. You really feel as if you are watching a real life Roman battle. This is one of the largest film projects for several years with full battle recreations and a cast of thousands. Ridley Scott went all out to make this film as real as possible the only real use of CGI was to create Rome.

I think Scott’s attitude towards this film allowed to be as emotional as it turned out to be. The costumes are very realistic and without them there would be no sense of realism whilst watching this film. The setting is fantastic, shot in a forest in Surrey which Ridley Scott had permission to burn down. It is the perfect setting for a battle. The use of light within the forest is really good, it sets a scene of eeriness as not a lot of light creeps through the tall trees. Any light in addition to natural light was low key lighting to tie in with keeping it dark to add a sense of eeriness.

During the battle the camera pans across the whole forest showing the battle as a whole to give the audience a sense of how large and important a battle this was. The camera work is very good, a large variety of shots are used to create meaning in this scene. On several occasions low angle shots are used to portray the hero, Russell Crowe. Low angle shots look up at the actor from the floor making them seem large and threatening, this lets you know immediately who the hero is. This is used in several films to portray heroes including Braveheart starring Mel Gibson.

A large percentage of the scene is shot in Mid Shot where you can see from their waste to their heads. This is so that can view most of the battle that is taking place, it would no good trying to watch a sword fight if the camera was pointing at the actors feet. There are points in the battle scenes where other types of shot are used. The camera is used during the battle to create a feel of motion and franticness. When the Romans are charging up behind the Germans the camera is more than likely hand held because the picture is moving very quick and is shakey.

This is a very good effect because it emphasises the speed at which they are moving and makes you feel that your moving with them. The camera work during the very middle of the battle isn’t basic. There are lots of very fast cuts as the camera angle keeps changing to give the impression that the battle is very hectic and it works as you feel worn out after watching the scene because there is so much going on within the shot. During the battle at certain points the picture slows down and speeds up as an effect.

These all create a sense of movement and time but aren’t as effective as the end of the battle where there is a total slow down and everything is in slow motion and at this time the music also is a complete contrast to the rest of the scene. The music is really pleasant and calm classical music compared to frantic build up and the explosive music during the battle. You now know that the battle is drawing to an end because the transition between fast and slow happens so suddenly that it stuns you and you know that its over.

In the remaining few seconds of the battle the picture goes into double time where they changed the number of frames to make the picture appear quicker but while this happens the music doesn’t change its pace, it stays slow which creates a great effect. This for me is the best use of editing in the whole scene as its really emotional and it brings the scene to a great end, although it may be seen as a bit of an anti climax it is still a brilliant and emotional ending to such a powerful scene.

As the scene is drawing to an end the breath in the air of Russell Crowe is really emphasised to portray that he is tired and that its cold, also the volume of his panting is made louder than the background fighting and music to help create a sense of relief and tiredness. This is one of the best sequences of a film in recent years. It manages to capture so much action and emotion into such a short space of time with great directing. The whole scene takes less that 13 minutes from start to finish and has more action and emotion in it than some action films which last over 90 minutes.

It’s a fantastic opening to a film, without it I don’t think that the next hour of the film would have been bearable because the next real action sequence isn’t until Maximus is a slave in Morocco about 1 hour after this scene. I remember when I saw this for the first time the opening scene left me in excitement for the rest of the film. The directing and the editing really have to be admired as they have managed to create so much power and meaning just by the use of lighting, camera, props and acting. Overall, in my view, its one of the greatest films in the last 10 years, if not ever.

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