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MDA1700 Assessment 01 Adam Amini Stylistic Analysis Assignment Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, Denmark/US, 2000)

) Analysis of an Extract of the Final Scene, Considering Mise-En-Scene, Cinematography and Editing The first notable stylistic element in my chosen sequence is the realistic mise-enscene. As part of the film itself, this sequence is one of the songs in the musical. Normally, the musical sequences are representations of Selmas fantasies and escapism from reality, so the mise-en-scene shown onscreen during them is usually full of bold, bright colours and unrealistic situations (such as a large choreographed dance in a functioning factory, or Selma and her love interest, Jeff singing on a moving train), which is what you would expect from a conventional musical. The last sequence, however, despite being a musical number within the film features no dancers or bright, bold colours. It is set entirely in the execution [Fig.01 room and features a constant greyish hue ] to the colours (helped along by the bland, grey background, and neutral colours of the prison guards uniforms [Fig.01]. This use of colour sets the bleak tones of the end of the film, representing Selmas negative emotions over the fact that she is going to be executed when she isnt entirely guilty. The grey, unsaturated colour also contrasts with the brightness of the other musical numbers, because they represent Selmas daydreams; her way of escaping from her troubles in reality, whereas this scene is presented as gritty, realistic and represents Selma, now content that her son has had the operation and will not become blind like her, facing up to her death and not trying to escape from the problems of reality. Due to this lack of extravagance in the mise-en-scene, Selmas raw emotion is more accessible to spectators, leading to a more engaging sequence and devastating finale when she is killed so suddenly. Another interesting feature of the mise-en-scene is how the room is laid out like a theatre, with the witnesses of the execution sitting like an audience. This is most evidence in the low angle long shot of Selma and the prison guards, which is from the point of view of the witnesses [Fig.02]. Seeing the action through the railing adds a voyeuristic element which makes spectators feel more like they are sitting with the witnesses, watching the execution, adding to the impact of [Fig.02 ]

Selmas death, increasing the emotional response of spectators. Also, once she has been hung, Selmas body is below the platform and in front of the audience, like an actor on the stage. The motif of the theatre within the mise-en-scene signifies Selmas love for musical theatre, as part of the films plot involves her starring in The Sound of Music, but having to quit due to her blindness. This is clearly an important theme within the film, as shown by the extravagant musical numbers shown as part of Selmas escapism, making the minimalistic style of this specific one particularly poignant, contributing to the dramatic ending of the sequence. As for the cinematography, the sequence is shot with a handheld camera, which lends an almost documentary-style feel to the events. This adds to the realism created by the non-extravagant mise-en-scene, emphasising the realistic, gritty nature already established within the sequence, which leads to Selmas death at the end being more emotionally engaging for spectators. To emphasise the aforementioned contrast between Selmas fantasies (where the musical numbers are usually set,) and the harsh reality in which this song is shown as being performed, all of the fantasy sequences had been filmed with static cameras, giving them a more theatrical look and feel. Therefore, when in this sequence the song is sung by Selma in the real world and not her fantasy, emphasised by the handheld, more realistic camera movements, it is dramatically different from the other musical numbers, signifying how at this moment spectators are to focus on Selma and her emotions alone, and not her escapist fantasies, making the song being cut short by her death more upsetting than it would have been, were the moment shown as an elaborately choreographed dance. The [Fig.03 realistic setting and camera also represents ] how no matter how hard she tries, Selma cannot, ultimately, escape her fate, whether that be blindness or death. Out of all of the twenty five separate shots in the sequence, only one of these is a long shot [Fig.02]. Thirteen include close ups and ten include medium close-ups. The closer shots of Selma and Brenda (the prison guard who befriends her,) help emphasise the sadness of the emotion felt by the two characters, draws the audience more into their emotion and signifies the importance of the emotional bond between the two characters. This is most evidence in shots nineteen [Fig.03] and twenty [Fig.04] which are three second shots (short in length to help with the dramatic build up before the hanging,) which zoom [Fig.04 from being a medium close up to a ] close up of the two characters. This juxtaposition emphasises their friendship and

the emotional bond they have developed. The zoom also adds more to the devastation of the police woman, as she is not blind like Selma, therefore can see and knows what is about to happen, so while in her close-up zoom Selma is singing, unaware that she is about to be killed, Brendas face is showing her feelings of sadness and disgust at what is about to happen, and the zoom into a close-up emphasises these emotions making them seem more raw to the spectators. An interesting comparison to make within this sequence is to compare the opening with the ending in relation to shot length. The first shot of the scene is thirty two seconds long, and although it is one single camera shot it contains three shot types. It starts with a close-up of Selma holding Genes (her sons) glasses which he no longer needs as he has had the operation to prevent the blindness. The camera then tilts upwards to a medium close-up of Selma, and then zooms to a [Fig.05 ]

close-up shot as she starts singing. [Fig. 05] This shot (with the three different shot types) is very slow paced as you would expect at the start of the scene, where the song is starting and the tension is slowly being built up towards the sequences climax.

This slow shot pacing contrasts heavily with the final three shots of the sequence [Fig.06], which while having the same shot pattern (close-up, medium close-up then another close-up) has a very quick pace, with the first two shots being half a second in length, while the last one, of Genes glasses on the floor, lasts three seconds. This contrast, and the suddenness and unexpectedness of the moment Selma is hung emphasises the horror of what has happened, and adds to the The 32 second opening shot tilts from the close up, to the medium close up, to another emotional response of spectators by making it seem more shocking than if the close up. execution of the hanging had happened when it was meant to happen, and not mid-song (Selma hadnt finished the final verse when the trapdoor opened). [Fig.06 ]

It is also interesting to note how the sequence both opens and closes with a close-

up shot of Genes glasses. The first, in which they are being held by his mother, represents her love for him, and how her main goal in the film was for him to have the surgery so he would not be blind like her. It also represents how she feels her goal is complete, as before she found out he had the operation, she was struggling and becoming hysterically frightened. The final shot (the close up of the lone glasses on the floor) has both a morbid and an uplifting meaning. On the one hand, the shot represents how Gene no longer has a mother to care for him (as The three shots cut from a CU of Selma, to an MCU of her hanging, and then a CU of Selma isnt holding, almost cradling the glasses,) but on the other hand, the fact Genes glasses. that the glasses are discard also adds an uplifting glimmer of hope to the film, as it emphasises the fact that he no longer needs them, as he has been cured. Overall, the main effects of the three stylistic elements I have analysed in the extract from the final moments of Dancer in the Dark are to emphasise the emotions felt by the characters shown on screen, to allow spectators to have an emphasised response to these emotions (of sadness and shock,) and, when viewed with the film as a whole, to add contrast between the more conventional musical numbers shown in the film, and the raw, emotionally gritty and realistic musical sequence in this extract. The mise-en-scene is very effective in doing this, as the dark, unsaturated greyish hue over the whole scene brings audiences harshly back to reality when compared with the bright and bold musical sequences seen throughout the film. The handheld camerawork also adds a documentary feel to the sequence, emphasising the realism and therefore the shock when Selma is killed. A combination of slow paced editing at the start, and fast-paced editing at the end of the sequence, with close-ups of important objects (the glasses), and of characters (Selma and Brenda), emphasise character emotions, relationships and then eventually signify the suddenness of Selmas death, and emphasise the shock felt by both characters within the film, and the shock emotional response felt by the spectators, as I felt when I watched the film for the first time. Bibliography Dancer in the Dark, 2000, Film, Directed by Lars Von Trier, Denmark: Canal+, FilmFour, France 3 Cinma Dancer in the dark Final Scene (YouTube.Com) Date Created: 01/08/2007 Date Accessed: 02/11/2011 This link was used to provide quick-access to my chosen clip, which can be found at the timings of 2:55 5:46