Mis en scène

The most common and often misused term in filmmaking is mise en scène. Those who know what it is find it hard to describe, ultimately leaving the seeker of knowledge lingering in the dark. Well, wait no more, this article will give you a thorough understanding of what mise en scène is and how one can identify it upon seeing it. So before we dig deeper to understand it in detail, what you should know is that mise en scène is everything that you see in a scene.

Mis en scène is a French word, that means placing on stage. In films, it refers to the visual composition of a shot. Set design, props, Blocking of actors, lighting, costumes, all of it together creates a visual composition. Mis en scène is a crucial aspect of storytelling as it helps create the atmosphere, convey emotions, reveal the character’s state and background, etc.

Let’s take an example of the movie ‘Parasite’ to understand how mis en scène helps convey a certain emotion and reveals information about the character and their environment.

Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

Here’s how the elements of mise en scène are utilized:

Set Design

In Scene 1, we observe the protagonist peeking out from dusty, prison-like windows of a semi-basement apartment, revealing his financial condition and societal status.

In Scene 2, the cramped and cluttered interior of the semi-basement apartment mirrors the lower-class living conditions of the Kim family. The small and confined space visually depicts their economic struggles.


In Scene 2, the setting is filled with various props, including scattered and disorganized personal belongings. These props contribute to the authenticity of the setting and aid in establishing the characters’ living environment.


The characters are dressed in a simple and ordinary clothing, representing their lower-class status. The costume choices reflect their economic situation.


Scene 3 is illuminated by a mix of natural and artificial light sources, creating a dim and gloomy atmosphere. This lighting accentuates the sense of confinement within the apartment and contributes to the scene’s mood and tone. However, in stark contrast to Scene 3, Scene 4 features more dynamic lighting, establishing the affluent setting of the scene.

Actor Blocking

In Scene 2, 3, and 4, the family members are strategically positioned within the limited space of the apartment. Their proximity to each other and the way they interact visually demonstrate their close relationships and the dynamics within the family.

By analyzing these scene from “Parasite,” we can see how the elements of mise en scène contribute to the overall narrative and atmosphere of the film. The set design, props, costumes, lighting, actor blocking, and camera, all work together to establish the characters’ socio-economic status, evoke a specific mood, and enhance the storytelling.

So when you make your movie, pay meticulous attention to these visual details, by doing so you can effectively convey the intended messages, themes, and atmosphere of your film. Whether, it is through the set design, the props, the costumes, or the light, each of these element will serve a purpose in shaping the audience’s perception and understanding of your story.

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