Training Day by Antoine Fuqua - Mise-en-Scene

A scene with Ethan Hawke from the movie Training Day
A scene with Ethan Hawke from the movie Training Day

I am using a shot from the film "Training Day" by Antoine Fuqua, as an example of a mise en scene. Within this systematic breakdown I will explain how each of the 15 elements of a mise en scene are used in this particular shot. After a thorough explanation of the shot's, dominant, lighting key, shot & camera proxemics, angle, color values, lens/filter/film stock, density, composition, form, framing, depth, character placement, staging positions, and character proxemics, I will present the reasons why I picked this film as the subject of my paper.

In this shot the main character Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is sitting at a table containing beer, soda, cigarettes, cards and weapons in front of him. Across from him on his left and right side we can see the arms of two tattooed individuals. One of these two individuals is sitting while the other is standing with one of his arms outstretched over the table. Apparently this outstretched arm is distributing cards. I will start with the dominant.

As you look at the shot your eyes are first attracted to the main character who is sitting alone on one side of the table. The reason your eyes are attracted here is because,

1. he is in the direct center of the frame and;

2. because he appears to be the biggest object in the frame.

Next up, what is the lighting key ? Well at first you notice a high key throughout most of the room giving it a bright non-threatening appearance. After all they are playing cards right? As you look closer you will notice that the only shadows in the shot are permeating from the two tattooed arms across from the main character. This combination is great. It helps the viewer realize that even though it looks like everyone is having a good time these two shadowy figures are up to something. I love this scene. Now for the angle.

The camera is lower than the subject looking up at it. This angle helps accentuate the dominant. The shot and camera proxemics are in the form of a " MS" or Medium Shot, focused on the dominant. The color values here consist of the dominant color red which of course makes the viewer think about blood. The lens/filter/stock appear to be standard.

The subsidiary contrasts are the two arms, followed closely by the beverages on the table. These objects catch your attention after your focus shifts from the dominant. The density of this frame would be described as highly detailed. Everything from the dull green in the dominant's shirt to the freshness of the red in the beverages catches your attention and gives you a sort of emotional tension as you anticipate what's to come.

The composition of this image is tricky. At first I couldn't come up with an exact position on this one. As I looked harder I noticed that with the camera angle low looking up at the dominant it appears as if there is a 3-D aspect. You almost feel as if you are right next to the two guys with the tattoos. The form , is definitely closed. The subject is trapped like a rat with no apparent exit. The framing is tight. The subject is packed in and you get the feeling that the space around him is getting more narrow as time goes by. I would say that the shot has three planes of depth, the two figures being the foreground, the main subject being the midgorund, and the cabinet being the background.

The character placement is great here. It serves its purpose beautifully. The main character is closed in with a sense of intimidation, and no apparent means of escape. Just like the character placement the staging positions are brilliant. The intimidating tattooed figures are at a high ground position as opposed to the main character's submissive lower position.

And last but not least the character proxemics. The two figures have built an intimate space in front of and around the subject. At the same time the frame shows one of the arms of the figures stretched across the table. This shows that although it appears that there is ample space between them, they can reach out and touch him whenever they please with not much effort.

Beyond the fact that this is one of my favorite movies, this still portrays each of the 15 steps of a mise-en-scene beautifully and with style. If I had not seen this movie before and came across this image of the movie I probably would have been very interested in seeing it. If you have watched this film before and in some cases if you have not, you might come to the conclusion that this one carefully orchestrated frame captures the whole scene in one shot, and that is what mise-en-scene is all about. Thanks for stopping by and reading my crap.

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