First Thematic Essay
A closer look at m-e-s

Who are Kit and Holly?

In chapter 2 of Patterson, Patterson argues that, "Through com-binations of mise-en-scene - their actions and their spoken (and unspoken) words - we are offered various ways of reading their [Holly and Kit's] characters; what we are not offered are emphatically clear and definitive readings ... these characters are fundamentally lacking a clear sense of their own identity" (28).

What do you think Patterson means by "com-binations of mise-en-scene"? Can you think of examples to support her argument? Do you agree with her interpretation of Kit and Holly? Are their specific moments 'in the frame', or combinations of moments, that shift your understanding of who these characters are?

Comments

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Josh Noble

I made a connections between Kit, Holly and the mise-en-scene. Many scenes (especially later in the film) show Holly and Kit alone in the middle of the wilderness. Regarding to m-e-s these shots of nature have an open form, deep focus, and often no subsidiary contrast. This could point to the emptiness and lack of direction in Holly and Kit's lives.

Lauren Hiland

I think my Real connection to Holly and Kit, though mise-en-scene, comes at the scene when Kit has his arms hanging over his gun and is just staring off into the distance out on the open plains. This wide open shot of nature and the vast wildness in which Holly and Kit are currently residing in helps me connect them to mise-en-scene, during that particular scene. I believe this particular scene gives views a kind of sad and longing feeling, and may help them feel sorry for Kit and Holly.

Lily Miller

My take on the "com-binations of mise-en-scene" is using several points of mise-en-scene to help explain and understand a character in a film.
One scene that pops into my mind is when Kit and Holly are in the rich man's house. Holly's behavior when trying the different chairs, leads me to think that she is, in a sense, trying on different personalities that go with each chair. The frames in this scene are full of objects making it dense, which suggests that Kit and Holly feel out of place.

Amy Elder

I believe the com-binations of m-e-s means using the background of the frame or the character placement to help emphasize the characters or the storyline. One recurring thing I noticed was that Holly is always standing either behind or below Kit. This makes Kit seem more important and authoritative because in the frames he is placed above Holly.
Another thing I noticed was as their relationship began to fail, the landscape in the background of the frames began to become more barren and depressing. This helped to emphasize the failing of their relationship. I think that the m-e-s really helps the audience to visually understand what is happening with the characters.

Lucas Ashland

The interpretation I have of the quote is that Malick never makes it perfectly clear who these characters are, but he uses m-e-s techniques to let the viewer interpret for themselves who Kit and Holly really are. One example we talked about in class is how we see Holly alone in her room playing with her dog. The m-e-s in this scene nonverbally tells the viewer that Holly is a young, playful girl who is sort of in her own world. A lot of movies may rely on dialogue to make this point obvious, but Malick tends to rely on imagery to convey information about the characters on screen.

I agree with the author that we as viewers never have a clear sense of Kit and Holly's identity. One of the fun things about the film is that we can slowly see their identities change throughout the film as they encounter new circumstances.

One frame that sticks out to me that really shaped my view of Kit is when he is trying to find a level spot on the ground to spin his glass bottle. He is unsure where to go next, which doesn't seem to match up with the decisive and sure of himself Kit that the viewer has been exposed to prior to this scene. The fact that he can no longer trust his own judgement shows the audience how lost Kit has become during his journey.

Anna Markee

I agree with Patterson in that both Kit and Holly are hard to read. This stems from Kit and Holly not really being able to read themselves. They don't really know who they are, so it makes it difficult for the viewers to know who they are. Throughout the movie, we do begin to see character development through combinations of m-e-s. The density of the film is a good m-e-s example of this. At the beginning of Kit and Holly's relationship the nature shots were dense and full of life. Near the end of their relationship, the shots of nature were barren and dry, giving the viewer less to look at. The density of nature, and consequently the density of the frame, symbolized the fulfillment of Kit and Holly's relationship. This example can also be related to the setting.

There were various moments in the movie that shaped my view of who Kit was as a person. The way he nonchalantly stood on the dead cow, the weird whispering music accompanying his attack in the forest, and when he shot the football in the middle of the desert all showed me that perhaps he was a little crazy. The way that Holly continually accepted his every action showed her innocence and feeling of being lost and misplaced.

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