Theory of mise-en-scene

First thematic essay

Topic and direction:

  • Choose at least one film from weeks 2-6 and write a critical analysis of that film’s vision of the future through discussion of mise-en-scène (m-e-s).
  • Your analysis should include a close reading of at least one of the 5/45/85 frames as a way of explaining or illustrating your argument. You may use an alternate frame grab, either one you select, or where available, one that I provide.
  • Note that “critical” in this context means to be detailed, not to pass judgment. The essay should give a clear idea of what “the future” looks like through the selected film(s), and while that may include discussion of how hopeful or despairing, how good or bad, etc., that future is, such evaluation should not be the focus of the paper. The paper should not be about whether you like the future as seen through the film or not, but on what that future looks like regardless of how you think or feel about that vision.

Additional guidelines and requirements:

  • As a formal academic paper, this essay should have a clear thesis, or central argument, to make. Sample prompts for this essay: “As seen through Blade Runner, the future looks like … . The filmmakers show this vision through mise-en-scène, particularly through the following elements … .”
  • If you choose more than one film to write about, be sure to explain how those films are related, and in particular how they can be related in terms of images of the future and m-e-s.
  • Essays should cite and document sources following these guidelines.
  • Films should be cited as follows. The first reference should provide a complete title and a date of release in parentheses, e.g., Brazil (1985) (note that the film title is italicized). Subsequent references need only include the title. For films with longer titles, such as The Royal Tenenbaums, subsequent references can use a truncated title, as in Tenenbaums. Film titles do not need to be included in the list of cited works.
  • You may also reference blog comments in your essays. Do this with in-text references to the author of the comment, the blog post, and the date of the comment, as in, (Shaun Huston, comment on "Welcome, Spring 2012", April 5, 2012).
  • Initial reference to mise-en-scène should use the full term. For subsequent references, “m-e-s” is acceptable. You can follow this guideline for all specialized terms (see Corrigan, chapter 2, from week 2, for additional guidance).
  • There is no page requirement or limit for this paper, but use four to eight (4-8) as a guide.
  • Essays should be double-spaced with reasonably-sized fonts and margins (readability should be your goal). Number your pages.
  • Be specific in referencing names of filmmakers, characters, places, etc. IMDB and Wikipedia are both good sources for basic information about films and film productions.
  • For guidance on writing academic essays, refer to the resources I have on this page, including the WOU Writing Center. You can also consult with me. For longer questions or to have me review drafts, come to office hours. Shorter questions can be handled electronically via e-mail or on IM or over the phone (503-838-8296). You can also ask for advice via the class blog.

Due date and submission:

  • Schedule a due date with me individually for between M 5/14 and R 5/24. I will only schedule three (3) papers for after 5/21.
  • Submit your work electronically by the agreed upon date following these guidelines. For the filename, use “FirstEssay”.
  • You will have until the end of your due day (11:59 pm) to either submit your paper or arrange an extension for full credit. If you miss that deadline, I may still accept your essay for partial credit.
  • You will have an opportunity to rewrite this essay. Details TBA.


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