Mise-En-Scène is vital to creating a believable product

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Last updated: April 23, 2019

Mise-En-Scène means “placing on stage”, or its more literal French translation would be ‘Staging’. Mise-En-Scène is a concept that started in theatre but has since worked its way into the world of cinema and television, it is basically everything that the audience sees and hears on the screen, for example, Costume, Props, character placement, lighting, the set, and sound (both diegetic and non-diegetic). Mise-En-Scène is vital to creating a believable product that helps tell a convincing narrative, you can’t have a 19th century period drama with people dressed in tracksuits or driving Ferrari’s.  In this essay I will further analyse the use of Mise-En-Scène within the film and how it is used to create a narrative, how it portrays characters, and if it is successful in making it believable.The Mary Harron film American Psycho (2000) is an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis book of the same name, looks into the mental state of a wealthy investment banker, Patrick Bateman and his materialistic and narcissistic tendencies. The introduction of Patrick Bateman, who is played by Christian Bale, is set up as though he is an ordinary likable main character as he asks his friend to stop being anti-semitic, this sets up a false impression of him being the Hero of the story according to Vladimir Propp’s character theory of the Hero, Villain, Dispatcher, Donor, False Hero, Etc.

when in reality he is more along the lines of the False Hero or Villain, which we discover as the narrative progresses and we see him commit various violent and vile acts. The Opening scene starts with the main character, Bateman, and three other men having a meal in a restaurant, this sets up who some of the characters are as people, all of them are dressed in expensive suits and are shown to be relaxed, the character Craig starts making anti-semitic jokes while Bateman asks him to stop which gives the audience a false sense of his character having good morals and being the nicer one of the group whereas the others laugh along to the jokes or are indifferent to the situation. The character of Timothy Bryce states “God I hate this place. It’s a chicks restaurant”, this is in reference to the colour scheme of the room due to it being a mixture of lime greens and lilacs which are typically attributed to being ‘womanly’ or ‘girly’ colours, the next line also gives us a look at the characters male machismo, Timothy asks “Why aren’t we at Dorsia?” which is met with the reply of “Cause Bateman won’t give the maître d head.”, Bateman then throws a straw at him, all of this is done with them looking very relaxed and as though they own the place giving off a slight aura of power which is a theme that recurs throughout the film for Bateman.

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Another thing that displays their power and wealth is when the bill for the food arrives, it is given to them on a shiny almost gold looking plate, the bill turns out to be $570 to which they all agree that the price “isn’t that bad” they then all put what looks to be an American Express card onto the plate in an uncaring manner.The very next scene is in a nightclub, the establishing shot outside shows the place to be grungy and dirty as the walls look decrepit and old also there are broken windows. On the inside there is an instant difference to the last scene, in juxtaposition to the high class, bright coloured restaurant that has high key lighting, they are now in a dark dingy nightclub where everything is dark and the colours used are blacks, purples, deep blues, and green. This lighting difference is very important to the scene though as once it shows Patrick Bateman in a different light, both literally and figuratively, as I have established during the opening scene Bateman is shown to be somewhat caring and a soft spoken gentleman who seems to have a good moral compass, whereas in this scene we are given a look at who he really is, when his drink tokens are rejected and his is informed that the bar is now a cash bar he hands over money with a strained smile, when this bartender turns her back he states “You’re a fucking ugly bitch, I want to stab you to death and then play around with your blood”, this makes us as the audience realise that he may not be the hero of the story that we were initially lead to believe as he has now revealed his dark side. Another thing about this scene that is interesting when he says that statement out loud, no one around him blinks an eye or even acknowledges what he just said, this could be for a few reasons; one, they just didn’t hear him or two, maybe he didn’t actually say it outloud, which sounds ridiculous but there are other parts of the narrative later that support this that I will talk about, this for me is a vital part of the narrative as it sets into motion the idea of does he actually commit the crimes we are lead to believe he did or is he just losing his mind.The scene after this is also interesting to me in terms of the set, it is set inside Patrick’s home apartment and everything seems to be bleached white with a few things here and there being black, the white connotes cleanliness and sterility which replicates who he usually is as a person as we see him have a rigorous hygiene regime, the black represents wealth, evil, and anger all of which he displays in the film from his expensive suits, his job as vice president of his company, and his violent tendencies.

During this scene we also see him showcases his morning hygiene and exercise routines, which involves lots of lotions, creams, body washes and face masks this is indicative of his narcissism and his need for perfection and controlling how he is perceived by those around him, this plays into the narrative that he is seeking to seem as normal as possible to mask who he really is, if he looks and smells ‘human’ then people will believe he is just like them a quote used in this scene that is taken directly from its novelisation says something I feel reinforces my statement; “…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.”This to me shows us that he knows he is different and I think that by having everything about himself be perfect then he can fool those around him to drop their guard

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