Mise en Scene (Lost in Translation)




Mise en Scene in a Film


Movie Title: Lost In Translation

Genre: Comedy Drama

Rating: R

Writer: Sofia Coppola

Director: Sofia Coppola

Actors: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi and more.

Release Date: (2003)


What is Mise en Scene?

According to Goodykoontz and Jacobs (2014) mise en scene is, “a French term borrowed from the theater referring to what is placed in the scene.” (p.12). Mise en scene includes several elements very similar to those in theater such as actors, colors, makeup, sets, setting, costumes, props, and blocking (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014). These elements all have a special part that they play in every film but out of all the elements listed, it seems as though lighting may be one of the most important elements of mise en scene.

The Use and Effect of Lighting in Lost in Translation

The type of lighting used in the film and specifically the clip (above) is low key lighting. Goodykoontz and Jacobs (2014) explain that, “a low-key lighting design looks dark overall by comparison. It is marked by extreme use of deep shadows, with very high contrast between the brightest parts of the scene and the darkest parts, which are obscured in shadows. Often there may be only a single source of light, coming from the back or the side of the main characters. Low-key lighting is often used for intense dramatic scenes.” (p.21).The impact of the lighting used to establish the theme here is great. The overall theme of this gloomy comedy drama is loneliness. The two main characters are unhappy and dissatisfied in their marriages and cling to one another based on their mutual feelings of aloneness. The overall use and technique of lighting in this film directly reflects the mood and theme of the film which is sort of dark and dreary in many ways. The benefits of the style of lighting used in this film are tremendous because it sets the mood for the characters, the movie and the audience. In a way, it kind of forces the audience to be in that moment and really get a good grasp on what the characters are feeling. In addition, the low lighting really helps viewers to focus on the characters and the dialogue. The lighting technique is perfectly suited to the genre of the film. While it is classified as a comedy drama it is still a dark comedy in my opinion and the lighting technique exudes the dark comedy feeling and creates an overall tone of isolation. If different choices (lighting choices) had been made in the film, the scenes would have played dramatically different. For instance, had the film actually used high-key lighting, it would have given the film a bright, upbeat and happy feel which would have seriously contrasted the theme of the film. For example, in the scene above, if this bar area was brightly lit and everything and everyone were visible, viewers would no longer be forced to focus solely on the characters as well as the dialogue and it would be much more difficult to feel the comedic hopelessness that the characters emanate.


Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From Watching to Seeing. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc

“Lost in Translation (2003)-IMDb.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). N.p.,n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/

Movieclips. (2011, May 30). Lost in Translation (7/10) movie clip – Bob and Charlotte meet (2003) HD [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGvDCmuDKKE


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s