Sound and Mise-en-scène Essay

Sound and Mise-en-scène Essay FILM 2311: Film Analysis

Length: 1100-1400 words
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To identify aspects of sound and mise-en-scène in a short clip, to make an argument about the overall aim of the sequence, and to support your argument with extensive reference to the elements of sound and mise-en-scène.

Choose a Clip:

Choose a film from the list below. Watch the whole film and then consider the use of sound and mise-en-scène in about the first 3-4 minutes. You can decide exactly where you want to start and stop; for example, in some films you may want to discuss the sound over title cards, or even visuals during the title cards, but in others you may want to wait until the credits are finished. In any case, you need to write about the beginning section of the film; if you do a scene from the middle of the film, you will be asked to rewrite your essay, and will receive a very low mark if you do not do so.

Fist of Fury (Lo Wei, 1972): Bruce Lee plays a student who wants to avenge his master’s death in the context of strained Chinese-Japanese relations. This is the English dub, sadly, but if you can find the original Chinese version, so much the better.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966):, Netflix, Apple TV. At 3 hours, it’s long, but it’s a great classic, a Western that uses film language particularly magnificently.

I, The Worst of All (Maria Luisa Bemberg, 1990): and on DVD at the Killam. Abstract mise-en-scène creates a new, feminist take on the story of a real seventeenth century nun, scholar and writer.

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017): or Apple TV. A hit coming-of-age drama-with-comedy that focuses on a mother-daughter relationship.

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940): Based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, this thriller is Hitchcock’s first American film, and a great success.

Bound (The Wachowskis, 1996): available on DVD at the Killam or to buy/rent on YouTube and Apple TV. The Wachowskis’ first feature film foreshadows great things to come. This stylish crime thriller is tough, witty, and energetic.

Dil Bole Hadippa! (Anurag Singh, 2009): buy or rent on YouTube and Apple TV; available on DVD at the Killam. In this Bollywood film, a young woman goes under cover to play cricket in a village where women donʼt get to play the sport.

Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016): buy or rent on YouTube or Apple TV. Based on the true story of three African American women who contributed substantially to the Space Race despite facing racial and gender discrimination.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016): Netflix or buy/rent on Apple TV or YouTube. An unusual, funny, charming film (with some darkness) about a boy and his foster father.


Your analysis should be in essay form, with complete sentences and paragraphs. Your thesis statement should be your overall argument about the aims of the sequence. For example: “The opening sequence of Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 1991) establishes that the central, paradoxical figure of the blind photographer is alienated from his surroundings.” The rest of your essay should support this thesis. You can go through the sequence chronologically or address different elements paragraph by paragraph. Either approach can work well; itʼs up to you.


Your essay must clearly identify at least 10 different kinds of elements of sound and at least 10 different kinds of elements of mise-en-scène. In other words, you should not simply list 10 different props, but should address a range of design elements (acting, setting, set, make-up, costume, hair, props) and compositional strategies (symmetry and asymmetry, emphasis, etc.); the same for sound. 10 is the minimum for each category, so you will not automatically receive an A+ in the category for hitting this number; you will also be evaluated on accuracy, range, and precision (see rubric). You will not have space to be detailed about every element, so you should emphasize the most meaningful and important details and explain why they are meaningful. You are welcome to discuss elements of the film that do not qualify as sound and mise-en-scène; just make sure you give yourself space to do justice to the requirements of the assignment. Intended


Your reader is a hypothetical undergraduate student who has not seen the film. Depending on your interpretation of the scene, you may need to provide a brief plot summary or summary of the themes and message. Your reader has a strong technical vocabulary in film studies, so you can use technical terms (e.g., sound bridge) without explaining them.

Assessment Criteria:

Click on the rubric button for details.

The Feedback of the first time essay:
you have a really nice way of capturing character – your descriptions are vivid and fun to read.
The only reason your mark is so low is that your essay doesn’t fulfill the requirements of the assignment – it’s not that it’s bad work, but that it can’t earn full marks because you don’t focus on the opening scene in detail but rather characterize the film overall. This means that your descriptions are spread out and less precise about how sound and mise-en-scène create detailed meaning in a single sequence.
Nonetheless, this paper demonstrates that you are are using the technical concepts to help you see and hear the film, and you do an especially good job of explaining what you see different audiovisual elements to mean.
all you need to do to improve it in future assignments is to read and respond to the assignment more carefully. You show that you already have the ability to achieve the core goals of the course.

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