There is a visual distinction between the two

How effectual is the usage ofmise-en-scenein the movie Stepmom?

The genre of melodrama trades with the underlying and actuating emotions of people and how these desires affect relationships between people of conflicting motives and desires. The genre has a long tradition of rich tonic imagination that dates back to the 1950s movies of Douglas Sirk and Vincente Minnelli. Melodrama frequently relies onmise-en-sceneto make a elusive ocular reminder of the struggle between characters this essay will look at how that tradition has been carried on in Chris Columbus’s 1998 movieStepmom.

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The movie is concerned with the tenseness between two adult females Jackie ( Susan Sarandon ) and Isabel ( Julia Roberts ) over Isabel’s function of Stepmother to Jackie’s kids. There is a ocular differentiation between the two adult females that illustrates their differing personalities and high spots their ain separate makings for Motherhood. Toward the terminal of the movie there is a scene in which the two adult females settle their differences and do peace. Isabel describes Jackie as ‘mother Earth incarnate.’ Jackie visually embodies this description through the apparels she wears. She is invariably seen in earth tones of brown xanthous and orange. She wears lumberjack shirts, wax jackets and woolen jumpers. These are the apparels of a middle-aged in-between category state female parent, they besides serve to desexualize her ; the autumnal tones a signal that she is past her old ages of birthrate.

By contrast Isabel dresses in really fashionable and stylish apparels that extenuate her figure and her young person and gender. She wears power suits or leather pants. Most of her closet is either black or white. Her closet reflects her young person her verve and her success as a immature professional and besides draw attending to the fact that her busy life style is non easy compatible with the busy life style of a female parent and household adult female. At the terminal of the movie when Isabel has been accept as a female parent figure by both the kids and by Jackie she is seen to be have oning a ruddy woolen cap in the same manner as Jackie’s closet. Although it is non a complete transmutation into a maternal figure, and the coloring material red still proclaims her young person and birthrate, it is symbolic that she is get downing to accept the function of female parent.

The contrast between the two adult females is besides apparent in themise-en-sceneof the two women’s places. Isabel’s place is a voguish Manhattan loft flat, in the bosom of the world’s most busy metropolis. The Windowss that wall the flat have blinds that are about invariably unfastened supplying a bird’s-eye position of the neighbouring edifices. It has an unfastened planned, industrial/commercial design. There is low illuming hanging from the ceiling ; the hallways have big chrome filing cabinets in them. There is stairway and gangway in the Centre of the room that connects the lower and upper floors without a ceiling. The kitchen is unstained steel with a breakfast saloon and modern contraptions. It is the place of a immature professional as opposed to a household place.

Jackie’s place is a much more traditional state place. The house is a big degage household house and made from white wood, resembling something from a Norman Rockwell picture. There is a big gallery that boundary lines around the full house. The house itself is situated within a glade and is surrounded by trees and countryside. Unlike the loft flat it is appointed with antique wooden furniture and white curtains. The kitchen is a separate room and contains a big wooden tabular array. It is the type of room that you can imagine extended household eating breakfast together at on Christmas forenoon. The icebox is covered in motley station it notes and drawings made by the kids.

These differences in costume and home ground serve as a ocular metaphor for the differences in the two women’s life style and work as a changeless elusive reminder of the underlying tensenesss between the adult females.

Lighting and barricading are besides used to make a ocular tenseness between the two adult females. In one scene Jackie visits Isabel in her dark room to inquire her to look after the kids. Jackie is clear uncomfortable doing this petition. As she enters the scene her and Isabel are separated at opposite terminals of the panavision frame and by a long work bench. For the remainder of the scene there is a changeable contrary shooting redacting form that maintains the physical distance and psychological separation of the characters.

The scene is illuminated via the ruddy visible radiation that Isabel uses to develop her exposure. There is a particular struggle at the bosom of the scene in every bit much as Jackie has entered Isabel’s workspace to inquire a favor and as such is at a disadvantage. Before Jackie enters the room we see that Isabel is developing a image of Luke ( Ed Harris ) with Anna ( Jena Malone ) and Ben ( Liam Aiken ) and reminded that it is the household that Isabel and Jackie are at struggle over. The ruddy lighting besides serves to foreground the tenseness between the adult females, as it is color of danger and warning. Isabel diffuses this tenseness as Jackie turns to go forth the room by turning on the chief visible radiation throwing the room into coloring material before agree top grant Jackie the favor. This marks a minute where the two adult females are get downing to do an attempt to happen a via media.

The movie is set over the unsmooth clip span of a twelvemonth. At the beginning of the movie spring or summer is in bloom and the leaf of cardinal park and that environing Jackie’s house is green and alcoholic. After the audience is let into the secret that Jackie has malignant neoplastic disease the season begins to alter to autumn. Golden brown foliages start to emerge amongst the subdivisions and get down to litter the land. By the clip that her secret is revealed to Isabel it is mid fall. In the scene where Isabel finds out we see Jackie sitting in her garden at a tabular array. She is dressed in a familiar brown wax jacket with fiting chapeau and baseball mitts with a cover across her demands. She sits in the Centre of a broad shooting surrounded by about bare trees and dead brown foliages on the land. The crude aureate browns that Jackie has been continually have oning throughout the movie fit the fall coloring material palette and she is at one with her milieus. If Jackie is so mother Earth incarnate so her ain decease is connect with the decease of summer.

The Cinema Book, edited by Pam cook and Mike Bernink highlights the jobs of specifying the genre of melodrama. “Lack of generic specificity may originate in portion from the fact the involvement in melodrama foremost entered movie unfavorable judgment via the channels ofmise-en-sceneand theauteur…a transmutation of commonplace and melodramatic books through the power of auctorial vision expressed in themise-en-scene.”( Bernink & A ; Cook, 1999, p 157 )

Although this essay has shown the consequence to whichmise-en-sceneis employed to visually heighten the book, finally the movie leaves to much to be desired to undergo the transmutation that Sirk and Minnelli could accomplish. The scene in which the two adult females find a via media feels forced and contrived. The character of Luke is marginalised and there is no geographic expedition of Jackie’s post-marital love life.

‘The power of auctorial vision’ to which Cook and Bernink refer is the vision of such Masterss as Nicholas Ray, Douglas Sirk, Otto Preminger and Vincente Minnelli. Although themise-en-scenedoes function to heighten the narrative the auctorial vision is losing, as this reappraisal fromSight and Soundmagazine goes to demo.

“Ultimately, Stepmom remains excessively calendered, contrived and conventional to prolong the involvement ; its rap, melodramatic dictums endeavor merely to restructure its divided household without interrogating its indispensable structures.” ( Richards, 1999, sight and sound ) Bibliography

Bordwell, D. & A ; Thompson, K. ( 2001 )Film Art: An Introduction( 7Thursdayerectile dysfunction ) , London: Mcgraw Hill.

Cook, P. & A ; Bernik, M. ( 1999 )The film book( 2neodymiumerectile dysfunction ) . London: BFI

Gibbs, J. ( 2001 )Misc-en-scene:Film Style and inerpretation.

Landy, M 1991Imatations of Life: a reader on movie and telecasting melodrama,Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Mercer, J. & A ; Shingle, M ( 2004 )Melodrama: genre, manner and esthesia.

Lang, R 1998,American Film Melodrama, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Neale, S 2000,Genre and Hollywood, London: Routledge.


All That Heaven Allows ( Dir Douglas Sirk, 1955, US )

Stepmom ( Dir Chris Columbus, 1998, US )

Written on the Wind ( Dir Douglas Sirk, 1957, US )

Web sites

Accessed 28/03/06

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( Richards, A ( 1999 )Sight and sound: February 1999. BFI

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