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Mise en scene in Goodfellas

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    Coming from the theatre, the term mise-en-scene refers to literally everything the audience gets to see when watching a film. It is the mixture of props, lighting conditions, the cast and the medium they develop their action in. It is all about creating a specific visual display the stories are going to take place in. Goodfellas (1990) presents a well-defined scheme in terms of mise-en-scene as it recreates the United States of the seventies: the american culture of the time is flawlessly portrayed by the use of all the tools we just mentioned. The actors play such an important role in the creation of this atmosphere (as well as their clothings), and it is not just their appearance but also the way the act and speak what makes Goodfellas such a reliable piece. The clip we just saw shows a couple attending to a night club. In this stage of the film, we get to experience how society of the time interacted with others. As the couple gets into the “Copacavana” club, we get to dive in a whole new époque. The way the characters dress mixed with the environment they act in (a very fancy night club which offers performances and music while people have dinner) recreates a perfect period of time. The club, which is packed up with people whose clothings match the aesthetics we are talking about, recreates an atmosphere of tobacco smoke, alcohol and money.

    The scene starts with a sequence shot, therefore, the audience gets to walk with the main characters as they walk all over the club. They get to “Copacavana” using another way, which shows the couple has some facilities other consumers of the place haven’t. In this little journey, the couple crosses many corridors in the building, they walk through the kitchen of the club and they finally get to the main party room. All this movement is accompanied by some music: a catchy song helps recreate the atmosphere as it blends with some diegetic sound coming from the staff working in the club. Once the couple gets to the show room, they are immediately given a table to have dinner in. The atmosphere changes dramatically as they suddenly appear in a dinning place painted with a reddish tone (those were the lighting conditions), which helps create a suitable mood for the room. The place is then characterized by the red lights, the performing cast all dressed in suits and fancy dresses as well as the smoke bubble which mixes with the music the band is playing.

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    Mise en scene in Goodfellas. (2016, Jun 29). Retrieved from

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    How long is the tracking shot in Goodfellas?
    The three-minute Goodfellas tracking shot that takes us into the Copacabana nightclub and proves Henry Hill's gangster credentials is one of the most beloved continuous shots in cinema, inspiring similar sequences in everything from Boogie Nights to True Detective to — perhaps — The Irishman.
    Was the Goodfellas scene improvised?
    While Pesci's real-life experience informed the infamous scene, the moment wasn't improvised in the strictest sense of the word.
    What does the last scene in Goodfellas mean?
    At the end of Goodfellas, Henry is shown at his new house, starting his new life under a new identity, and when he goes back to the house and closes the door, the sound effect says a lot about Henry's life after the events of the movie.
    What type of lighting is used in Goodfellas?
    The red lighting in Goodfellas, in particular, was a warning sign that was set from the beginning. As was said, less than two minutes into the film, Scorsese made it clear that these mobsters were bad news; the audience should have seen the downfalls of the characters coming.

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