The concept of mise-en-scene is a French term which literally means “put in the scene.” It is originally a theater term but when applied to film, it covers a broader meaning, and refers to everything used to complete a scene or a shot. It is basically concerned with composition, for example, framing, movement of the camera and characters, set design, lighting, and overall visual environment (Kolker, n.d). Considerably, even the sound or accompaniment helps achieve the right composition in order to achieve the mood of the film.
In the film Jane Eyre, the director used different elements in its mise-en-scene. In the introduction alone, the director employed symbolism and foreshadowing, while as the movie progresses, there is the use of colors, background music, space, and scenery.
The film opens with a symbolic presentation of Jane amid the heart of the dessert. The vastness of the dessert and its emptiness are used to foreshadow Jane’s future. The dessert represents contradictory meanings in Jane’s life. Its vastness could represent Jane’s opportunities in life, at the same time the long and tiring walk towards home that she has to bear before finding complete happiness. The emptiness of the place could represent her innocence, her openness to possibilities and optimism, which could later help her survive even the worst times of her life. At the same time, the emptiness of the dessert could also mean the loneliness that comes before her.
As the film progresses, the mise-en-scene becomes dark and melancholic. Elaborate but dark colored costumes predominantly fill the screen, adding to the struggles of the main character. The monotonous shade of gray, black, blue, brown and crimson forms the darkness in the room, succumbing to the evil character of Jane’s aunt and her cousins. Even Jane Eyre’s black dress which contrasts with her fair and delicate skin, presents the despondent situation of the young girl.
The angle from where the scenes are taken seem to give a narrow view of the room. This implies the distorted and unlawful situation of Jane. It also reflects the prison that she is in, at the hands of her cruel aunt. The scene where the aunt first appears is likewise purposely distorted to suggest the psychological imbalance of her aunt, and thus the inability to care for a child like Jane.
Throughout the introduction, the young girl’s confused but vivid facial expression speaks for her innocence and wit as a child. The background music, which completes the mise-en-scene stirs in the gothic and desolate reality of the innocent child.
Dyson, Lovell & Zeffirelli Franco. (1996). Jane Eyre. (Motion picture). United States: Miramax Films.
Kolker, Robert. (n.d.) Film form and culture. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from