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Donnie Darko Mise En Scene Analysis Essay

Donnie Darko (2001) is a surrealist, mystery, sci-fi film set in suburban America, which follows the disenchanted and troubled teenager, Donnie Darko. The film follows the teen as he begins to explore what it means to be alive and believes to uncover secrets of the universe that gives him, what he believes to be a tempting power to alter time and destiny, letting him lose touch with what is and is not reality. In the following text I will be analysing and focusing on the opening scene of Donnie Darko and how mise-en-scene is used to create the mood, theme and setting of the film to audiences.

Also how it establishes the characters and their state of mind, mainly of Donnie’s. Mise-en-scene (originated from a French term ‘to place in the scene’), is the arrangement that appears in the framing shown to the audiences on screen. This includes the lighting, colour, framing, costume, movement of camera, focus and so forth. The theory states that everything that is shown, is there for a reason that is relevant and that establishes the scene and characters to audiences.

All of these pieces of mise-en-scene play a huge part in Donnie Darko, in which the director purposely uses contrasts f lighting, colours, setting and characters to show the audience what type of film they are watching even from the opening scene. In the opening sequence of Donnie Darko, The setting is very isolated, as the camera pans across an empty woods, with no there person in site, showing this is common in the mystery/ thriller genre as it suggests that the protagonist is trapped with no way of escape and is on their own.

The very first scene denotes a dark road with Donnie lying down in the middle of it who has fallen from is bike, this already possibly signifying a journey the character is about to take, or even he has fallen from a journey. This instantly allows us to assume something is wrong and sets of the whole tone of the film; that something is not quite right, inciting the viewer further to what the story will be about The landscape and the characters position also suggests to the audience that the film is not a typical thriller sci- fi, and the film will be quite surreal. Surrealist film found a way to rupture the film fictional and conventional units of the sed without resorting to the usual devices of dream sequence or subjective fantasies” , from the opening scene, the audience can already interoperate that the film is not ordinary or typical, just rom seeing the setting, which is seemingly and a dream like set. As the film moves on, the surrealism of the film becomes much more apparent. Also the audience can already interpret that they are about to see is going to be some kind of hybrid-genre.

Moving onto the lighting and colour used in the scene. “Intelligent narrative movie uses lighting with as much sense of its possibilities and purpose as a painting does” like stated by Timothy Corrigan, lighting play a big part in setting the tone of the film, and should have that sense of reason to it, which in the opening scene, it has achieved. The shot is very dark and almost murky looking, this creates a sense of confusion and mystery for the audience. Also the fact that the scene’s lighting is dark suggests that the protagonist may have a darker side.

The theme of darkness is conveyed throughout the movie as well. Even though the film is set in the 80’s, an era in which colour was of the essence, rarely any, if not any, bright colours were used in the movie, which also sustains the fact that this film is in fact dark and is very eery in the way it comes across to the audience. The shot has a blue hue to it and this conveys a sense f coldness and maybe even loneliness. This is purposely done to show the audience that perhaps the main character is lonely, or perhaps shows that the character is currently living in a cold, heatless life.

In contrast to this, the sky itself is warmer looking, using the colours, red, pink and with hints of yellow, which are usually conventional colours to show warmth and love. This shows to the audience that character may be in a conflicting environment, or even conflict with himself. Not only does this convey a metaphorical meaning to the scene but also tells the audience that it is morning, which adds extra confusion and anting to know about the character and why he is there at such an early hour.

In addition to this, cinematography also plays a role in how the mise-en-scene is able to convey meaning to the audience of the film. ” The position of the camera governs our access to the action. how we experience a given set of events is going to be profoundly affected by the nature of the view, or views with which are presented” meaning the way the opening scene is filmed, can govern the way in which the audience can perceive the narrative and characters.

The first shot that is seen is a panning shot across the countryside/woods to give the audience perspective of where the action is taking place, and showing the audience what I mentioned earlier about the setting and lighting, in this one shot the audience is able to establish an understanding of what the tone of the film is, and an idea of the genre. An establishing shot is then used to show Donnie in the middle of the road, showing he has fallen off his bike, having this establishing shot, without any action, or seeing that Donnie has fallen, the audience already has gathered what has happened.

A close up shot is then used to let the audience see Donnie’s facial expression in order for the confusion of this cene to be shown. After, another panning shot is used, almost as a point of view shot so that Donnie is aware of his surroundings, using a point of view shot, then lets the audience go into the mind of the character, which highlights the convey of loneliness and the tranquility that is presented in his surroundings.

D “The importance of costume has been presumed to go beyond the purely functional to attain levels of symbolic resonance by both film theorist and by practitioners” Costumes are picked out specifically to guide audiences on for example who has authority or the era in which a film is set. The ostume used in Donnie Darko is purposely used to show the differences of characters and to separate different clicks of people. For example, when in school scenes, the students are differentiated from the teachers by wearing a school uniform.

Also the clothes that are worn throughout the film are specific to the 80s clothing, establishing the era to the audience. Back to the opening scene, Donnie is wearing pyjamas which is extremely unusual, as who would wear there pyjamas outside, this tells the audience that Donnie is a strange individual. It also confirms to the audience that Donnie has been out there all ight, making them want to find out more of whats happened.

The fact that Donnie has woken up in his pyjamas makes the audience believe that he has been thrown in an extraordinary event and it adds to the excitement for the viewers, for what else is going to occur in the film. O The performance of the actor is also considered to be apart of mise-en-scene, as “a great deal of significance can be bound up in the way in which a line is delivered, or where an actor is looking in a particular moment”. As in the way in which the actor decides to act or how the director directs them, has a great ffect on what is perceived on screen.

In the scene, Donnie wakes up in the middle of the road, looking hazed at his surroundings. This makes it obvious to the audience that Donnie has crashed and passed out, confirming what they should have thought when watching the establishing shot of the film. When Donnie awakes his facial expression suggests that he confused and disorientated, resulting in the fact that he can’t remember where he is, and therefore certifying the fact that he may have fallen off his bike and knocked out.

After Donnie has taken in his surroundings he begins to smirk which suggests to the audience hat he is remembering the events that occurred that led him to his current location. He then smiles which indicates that maybe he wanted to end up where he is which again, or even has had this happen to him before, giving the audience more of an insight to the characters life, and the fact he finds this normal, even though it goes against the everyday, ordinary character narrative. I Finally moving onto sound.

Sound can be used to create the mood of the film, or can put across to the audience how to the character is feeling. In Donnie Darko, sound plays a huge part in doing this, and the soundtrack used helps the audience grasp in hen Donnie is in his content place with himself and feels happy or when he’s unhappy or insecure. It also helps the audience follow when reality and non reality is occurring to Donnie. In the opening scene there is no diegetic or ambious sound, the only sound in the whole sequence is the non-diegetic film score.

When the camera pans across the scene, a low humming sound can be heard, this adds a sense of uncertainty to the viewers of whats going to be shown on screen, it also sets the tone of a dark eeriness. As Donnie wakes and looks around at his surroundings, the soft dynamics and light texture of only piano otes allows the viewer to immediately assume that Donnie is a curious and adventurous teenager, and that while waking up on a mysterious road can be off-putting, this situation is more amusing than frightening, and has maybe happened before.

Donnie then gets on his bike and the song “The Killing Moon” written and performed by Echo and the Bunnymen, (ironically, as Donnie ends up befriending an imaginary character called Frank the Bunny), the song immediately places the timeframe of the film in the late 1980s. The lyrics are ominous, and foreshadow the basic theme of the film: “Though I know it must e the killing time / unwillingly mine / Fate / Up against your will / Through the thick and thin / He will wait until / You give yourself to him. As the plot concludes that Donnie must become a tool of fate and destiny, eventually killing Frank, and then choosing to sacrifice himself to restore order to the universe. However the viewer cannot make the connection between the lyrics and the narrative at this early stage, but the correlation is notable after repeated viewings. To conclude, mise-en-scene theory states that everything shown and heard on screen is there for a reason, and Donnie Darko is able to back this up.

From the use of lighting, the setting, colour, costume and sound. They have been deliberately chosen and used to set the overall tone and theme of the film, and also able to convey about the character in a short space of time. As said in this review presented in The Guardian, “It sets the tone for a film that slaloms with giddy abandon between different genres, moods and voices”, so the director has successfully used miseen-scene to put across the message to its audiences and well executed the film.

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