As soon as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones enter the Headquarters room in Men in Black (1997) the mise-en-scene shows straight away that it is a typical sci-fi comedy film. The set is given a futurist look by the use of shiny metals (gadgets, columns), lots of circle shapes (lift, desks, patterns on floor, metal columns, holes in bridge, computer screen), grey/white/black colours, the use of glass and the occasional squares (cupboards, doors) in the props.There is lots of technical machinery spaced about the room, aliens walking around, people busy working wearing black and white uniform, and other people walking around who appear to be just ordinary people but we find out later are actually aliens (for example the tall man which the camera focuses on for a longer length of time than the others). The room is obviously made to look like a room most of us aren’t familiar with, which gives the place a sense of secretivity. The director Barry Sonnenfeld has gone for the obvious with this film.It isn’t made to be realistic as we can tell from the set and the way the aliens look, but this technique adds to the comedy. The first sounds we hear in this scene start with diegetic sounds, such as the lift going down and the big fan.
As the lift doors open and the view of the headquarters room is in focus the non-diegetic sound of the backing music starts. This sounds a bit like military music which isn’t really typical for a sci-fi film as you’d expect it to be more serious and perhaps computerised.I suppose you could say this was a contrapuntal sound, however it could emphasise the hard work that is going on inside the building as we are later shown busy workers frantically answering the phones etc. As we hear more diegetic sounds such as people talking, woman talking over microphone, we can also hear lots of echoing. This creates the idea that the room is very spacious. Also the cymbals crashing in background of the music give the impression of echoing.There are lots of diegetic sounds throughout the scene which back up the technical/futuristic aspect, such as lots of beeping of buttons and the sound of electricity. The main sounds which stand out the most during the scene is probably when the small metal ball is released by Will Smith, causing it to fly around which results in a lot of things being smashed, broken and knocked over.
There’s also a sound affect used when the ball is zooming around to give an even bigger impression that it’s moving at a fast speed and adds to the technical/futuristic aspect as well.The shots and camera angles vary a fair bit throughout this scene. To start with there’s a ‘long shot’ of Will Smith walking down the corridor. The camera follows him into the lift which makes it look as if we’re behind him also going into the lift. We are then introduced to a ‘two shot’ as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones talk. This helps show the contrast between Tommy Lee Jones’ calm expression and Will Smith’s more jokey, nervous performance.
As the lift door opens there is an ‘over the shoulder shot’ as the camera reveals a ‘very long shot’ of the headquarters room, this helps to show us what it looks like from their perspective. The camera then moves around the room in various directions to show what’s happening in all areas of the room and not just straight infront. There is a paused shot of the tall man who we are reintroduced to later on in the film. When Will Smith releases the small ball that flies around the room there are several jump cuts which again emphasises its speed.Also inbetween shots there are a number of close ups on Will Smiths face showing his worried expression. Other close ups throughout the scene are when Will Smith is introduced to his new uniform.
The close ups are mainly on objects such as his watch, glasses, shoes which help the audience indentify what it is that’s changed about his appearance and help us take it in one at time. If we just had a shot of him in his casual clothing and then another of him in the suit it wouldn’t be as exciting and we probably wouldn’t notice a lot of the things.