Monday, March 09, 2009

Mamma Mia the Movie: "to put into some pretty panoramic, beautiful scenes"

Over the weekend I watched "Mamma Mia!" for the third time since it was released last year. This film version of the musical based on the music of Swedish pop group Abba is fast becoming one of my favorite flicks, and not only because the effect of Meryl Streep serenading Pierece Brosnan and vice versa is so horrible it's amazing. The movie as a media text has engaged some very effective techniques in its process of mis en scene. Most awe-inducing of these can be found in the choices of lighting and depth-staging in each scene.

In particular I noticed that the staging throughout had an overwhelmingly deep quality. In addition to the sweeping panoramic views of the film's seaside Greek location (unfortunately photo of this were hard to find), there is rarely a close-up focus on an individual or group of characters that does not include some aspect or detail of setting behind or surrounding it. Always a sandy-colored stone pillar, a backdrop of sparkling aqua seascape or some other scenery finds its way into close-ups of the characters. I believe the reason for this is simply that the setting is so incredibly beautiful that it would be a shame to cut it out of any moment, and so the producers, directors, etc. have kept it in as much as possible.

In addition to the depth of the staging, the lighting choices for the film were certainly calculated to produce a very awe-inspiring effect in the audience. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the scenes were shot in very high-key lighting, with relatively little contrast between the light and the shadow in the image, means that the scenes take on a dazzling and dream-like quality. You find yourself thinking, Nowhere could ever be that bright, sunny, cheerful and refreshing all the time. And thus the end result is achieved - the audience is immersed in a fantastical atmosphere they only wish could be real.

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