To What Extent Does the Mise-En-Scene in ‘Night of the Hunter’ Reinforce an Understanding of the Film's Mood, Character and Narrative Themes? Essay

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To what extent does the Mise-en-Scene in ‘Night of the Hunter’ reinforce an understanding of the film's mood, character and narrative themes?

The term Mise-en-Scene is used to signify the director’s control over what happens in the film frame. In English the phrase literally translates to “putting in the scene” (Bordwell, 2010a). ‘Night of the Hunter’ (Charles Laughton, 1955) is a prime example of a film that uses aspects of Mise-en-Scene to sway the audience’s opinions of characters and their understanding of narrative themes and to create a certain atmosphere in the film. “Although the fundamental aspects of Mise-en-Scene in both theatre and cinema are those of lighting, blocking and production design (costume, props and sets),
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As this film was shot in studio, like most Hollywood films of this era, the director had greater control over the style of the settings he wanted to use. For example, when John and Pearl arrive at the barn house from the river, the silhouettes of the buildings look as if they are not in perspective with the rest of the shot. This expressionist style creates an unsettling mood in the scene, reflecting the children’s nightmarish journey and making the buildings seem eerie and unwelcoming.

This expressionist style is again used the interior shots from inside the Harper family’s house. However, instead of literally creating set so that it looks out of perspective. The expressionist aesthetic has been made by the lighting techniques. For example, when Willa Harper murdered, the director has used hard shadows that cast against the rafters on the ceiling. This gives the impression that the room they are in is abnormally shaped which creates unsettling mood in the scene and reflects the sinister personality of Reverend Powell. Another prominent use of cast shadows is when Reverend Powell and John and Pearl Harper first come in to contact. The large shadow on their curtain is created in the scene by a solitary streetlight from behind Reverend Powell. This use of shadow suggests to the audience the darkness to Reverend Powell’s character. This is hugely contrasted to the high key lighting used in