is essential that students understand how a film director uses the camera, lighting, and sound to create a mood and to communicate his vision. Once
students understand these elements, it will be easier for them to understand
and appreciate how director Robert Mulligan approached each scene and how he
made certain decisions about how to portray it.
Consider this published 1963 movie review:
Robert Mulligan has paced his picture so that
it can affect us. He has perceived that the relationship of the children to
their widower father is the central theme of the film, not the more volatile
ingredients of an attempted lynching, the trial for rape, nor a red-necked farmers foul revenge against Atticus for defending the Negro he had
accused. Each of these would lend themselves to the kind of excitement that
pleases audiences easily, but which would
have been completely inappropriate-
if not indeed antagonistic- to the mood and purpose
of his picture. Instead, Mulligan permits us to look with a childs
lingering curiosity at a broken swing on the porch of a ramshackle house, at
the galleries of a courthouse where Negroes rise in silent homage to a white
man who had defended one of theirs, at faces filled with gentleness, or
hatred, or love. 2
Questions to consider:
What is pace
How does a
director achieve pace in a film?
elements can he use?
(Consider: camera movement, lighting, editing, selection of music, etc.)
- What is purpose?
Mise en scène
This French term comes originally from the theatre
where it refers to 'putting
the scene together.'
In film language it refers to
- setting and props (including architecture and
- costume, hairstyles and make-up
- body language and facial expressions of the
- the use of colour and design
studying the language of film, students may wish to consider these questions:
1. Why do you think the film was shot in black and white and not color?
2. Does the fact that it was shot in B&W have an impact on you?
3. Where is the camera placed during the very first scene, after the credits?
Would you agree that this is an effective establishing
shot? Why do you think the director chose that perspective?
How does this tell the audience about the historical time period
4. How does the director introduce us to the main characters?
5. How do camera angles, lighting and music
contribute to the overall success of what the director is trying to