refers to what is put in front of the camera before you start filming,
therefore could be a part of the narration of a film, as “it has become a main
tool that directors use to control what they want the viewers to see”
(Elizabeth Poole, 2018). The Mise-en-scene in the film The Chronicles of Narnia (Andrew Adamson,
2005) such as settings, props, costume and lighting are all important to show
the fantasy genre and could aid the narration to give the audience an
understanding of the story and plot.
setting within Narnia is one of the most important mise-en-scene elements as it
sets up the fantasy and it moves the narration forward. Bordwell, Thompson and
Smith (2017) have stated that setting isn’t just needed to be a place for
“human events” but can help with the narratives action. At the beginning of the
film it is set in World War Two in London and it begins with a blitz attack.
This scene instantly shows the audience when the film is set and it moves the
narrative forward because the children are then forced to evacuate to the country.
The house that Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy all have to live in is a big contrast
to the start of a film as it’s country house with lots of rooms and a beautiful
and big garden. The setting helps to aid the narrative here, because it gives
the characters the opportunity to play the game that leads them to their
adventure. The setting of Narnia itself could also be very significant to the
narrative as it is a fantasy land with mythical creatures. According to Dix
(2008), settings aren’t just in the background of action but are actually
“themselves charged with significance”. This could be true of the setting of
Narnia with the snow covered forest and mountain scenery as halfway through the
film the snow melts and it becomes summer. This change in scenery helps to show
that the prophecy that was foretold in Narnia is coming true and the audience
can then understand that the children are already making a difference in
Narnia, which suggests that setting has helped the narrative. The director
Andrew Adamson (2005) said in an interview that the film “takes us into realms
that we can only imagine and the challenge as a filmmaker is to create those
worlds that live up to exceed people’s imaginations and really transport them
to another time and place”, which suggests that the setting helps the narrative
to not only make sense, but to also keep it imaginative.
well as setting props are too a great significance to the narrative of the
film, which is suggested by Bordwell, Thompson and Smith (2017) stated that
“when an object in the setting has a function within the ongoing action, we
call it a prop”. This suggests that props do have a part in the narrative and
an example in Narnia would be the lamppost that Lucy first sees when she steps
into Narnia. This lamppost has significance to the narrative because it allows
the story to come full circle. It is the first thing the children see when they
enter Narnia and it is the last thing they see when they leave as not only
kings and queens, but also as adults. The lamppost is a reminder of where they
come from and it is the marker for how to get back to reality. Other props that
suggest significance to the narrative are the weapons that Santa Claus gives
the children as presents and also the staff that the White Witch carries with
her. An example of one of the presents that aids the narrative is the potion
that Lucy receives because towards the end of the film she saves her Edmund’s
life with it. This shows that the potion has acted as a “function” (Bordwell,
Thompson and Smith, 2017), because it has actively helped the narrative move
forward. In terms of the White Witch’s staff, Dix (2008) has said that props
can provide information for characters and the staff turns anything it touches
into stone, presenting the White Witch to be like the monster Medusa from Greek
Mythology. This shows her as cruel and evil towards her enemies and only when
it is destroyed she becomes truly week, aiding the narrative in showing when
the heroes have won. All these props are part of the narrative because they
help the characters through their journey. Todorov’s (1980) three act narrative
structure is what the majority of stories are based on in films and props can
aid the narrative structure in helping the story to move forward. In Narnia the
gifts that Father Christmas gives the children helps in the third act of the
structure due to the fact that they help in the battle and therefore help to
restore equilibrium could suggest they are part of the narration in terms of Todorov’s
could be the mise-en-scene element that links the most to narrative as it is
the way actors are able to tell their story and get their emotions across.
Narrative evolves around characters and Vladimir Propp’s (1968) seven character
implies that there is
thirty one functions that seven
character types can have.
“Propp doesn’t spend too much time on possible character types, because to him,
they are mere vessels for
actions” (The Narratologist, 2014), which suggests that characters are a big part of the
therefore the performance of the actors must be important to help the audience
believe them as realistic characters. This could be true in Narnia particularly
through the four children as they create tension within each other at the
beginning, which overall causes
their separation and Edmund’s betrayal to them.
Their different personalities that they put across to the audience allow the
viewers to connect and sympathise with each of them, especially Lucy the
This could be argued as part of the narration because the performance of the
actors/actress’s is the only way the audience can connect and make an
understanding of why the character’s do what they do. The performance of the White Queen
is a little more stylised than the method acting of the Pevensie children,
because she is the villain of the story. Butler (1991) has stated that with characters in
film “the performance text are read and comprehended by the spectator, who is
sutured into the narrative through the operation of the cinematic apparatus”,
which can suggest that the White Witch’s cruel performance style adds to the
narration because it drives her actions and choices in hurting her enemies, to get to her final goal of killing the
well as props, costume also could be part of narrative even if it isn’t as
significant as other mise-en-scene elements. Within Narnia because it is set in
World War Two the outfits the children wear show the time they are living in,
which helps set the narrative up from the beginning. The children have a
costume change when they finally except that the prophecy is about them and
they can save Narnia, which links to Bordwell, Thompson and Smith (2017) who
said that “costumes can become motifs, enhancing characterisation and tracing
changes in attitude”. The Pevensie children become determined to fight for what
is theirs and changing into the dresses and armour shows they have accepted
that Narnia is where they belong. The White Witch has a few costumes that she
wears, the very first is a big, thick white dress and a tall ice crown that
reflects her character before she even starts speaking. The dress suggests that
she’s cold and cruel, but she’s very pale and wears limited makeup, that too
emphasises her villainy. This adds to part of the narrative because it makes it
easy for the audience to distinguish her as the villain of the story. The dress
that she wears for the battle is possibly meant to be made of Aslan’s fur which
had cut off him earlier in the film. This not only shows how monstrous she is,
but it shows her as a strong warrior ready for war. Her costumes could
therefore be part of the narrative, but they could actually be just part of
showing the genre of the film as “costumes on screen may encourage the
spectator to make assumptions about a films genre” (Dix, 2008). This could mean
that perhaps the costumes are about presenting Narnia as being a fantasy film,
particularly with the costumes of the mythical creatures like fauns and
centaurs. This could be the same for films like Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson,
2001) as the old fashioned looking costumes and creatures give the audience
clues to it being within the fantasy genre.
last mise-en-scene element to discuss is lighting of which also could be argued
as being both a part and also not a part of narration. Pramagiorre and Wallis
(2017) state that lighting creates an “understanding of characters, underscores
particular actions, develop themes, and establishes mood” and according to
Gerald Millerson (2013) it can also “transform a scene’s appearance or the
prevailing atmosphere”. Both statements show that lighting is about enhancing
scenes within a film rather than helping to aid the narrative, however it could
also suggest that lighting helps set up how the audience emotionally respond to
a scene, which could potentially be a part of narration. In Narnia most scenes
are set up with the natural lighting with the location, but the scene where
Aslan’s is sacrificed on the stone table the lighting is very interesting. The
scene is filmed in the dark and the audience believe that the characters are
lit by the torch flames, but warm lights were also used to make the scene
visible. The lighting here could be argued to act as part of the narration,
because the lighting adds a scary atmosphere to the scene, which builds the
tension between Aslan’s and the White Witch, which could be a part of the
narration by defining their hate for one another. There is also another scene
in Narnia where lighting could be seen as part of the narration, which is when
Aslan comes back from the dead. The lighting is very bright when he walks
through the archway and it is most likely meant to represent holy light, as
Aslan could be a representation of Jesus Christ. The lighting here could be
part of the narration in this scene due to what it represents, as it gives the
audience the opportunity to interpret the scene in their own way and it helps
to show how Aslan has risen from the dead, in a way that looks like a miracle.
From these examples it could be suggested that lighting is only part of
narration when it is set up for a specific purpose, as natural lighting doesn’t
add much to a scene, but by changing lighting so it becomes high key or low key,
it can affect how the audience views a particular scene in the story.
conclude, there are many parts within the film Narnia that show mise-en-scene
to be a part of narration, particularly props and performance. Both these
elements of mise-en-scene help the audience to understand the story better,
which is seen within Narnia through the Pevensie siblings and the props that
help them throughout their adventure. Elements like costume and lighting could
be seen as less relevant elements to narration as they enhance scenes and make
them more realistic to the genre.
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