The sequence I have chosen is from Magnolia, directed by P. T Anderson. The sequence introduces some of the main characters in this movie telling us through the use of Mise-en-scene, editing and sound their life stories. We are introduced to the characters, storylines and relationships one by one. The film is set on a single day in California’s San Fernando Valley. It follows the lives of nine people who live there; their turbulent lives are displayed for us. I have chosen to look at two sequences from this introduction. Mise-en-scene
The first sequence is set mostly in the home of Stanley Specter. The sequence starts with a modern television set, Stanley’s on it answering unheard questions, his whole position and eagerness to answer the questions show. His knowledge and willingness to use it. The house is small by American standards and it is quite cluttered, dark and shaded, and indicators reveal they have several dogs. This gives the impression that they aren’t rich and that Stan’s dad isn’t married. The curtains are closed which might suggest they have something to hide.
In this case we are like a third person in the sequence, following Stanley and his dad around as they go about their routine. Stan’s dad relies on him to feed the dogs before leaving, but Stanley is being pushed by his dad to get out of the house. Stanley carries four bags of books out of the house into the car; his dad isn’t pushing him all the way. I think this symbolizes that his dad is pushing him to learn and this is what’s driving him to take these four book bags with him. This is mirrored and is an example of how he is being pushed (exploited) on the game show.
His eagerness is to please his father, who is clearly not in a relationship due to the mess in the house and is contrasted by the Frank T. J Maccie infomercial playing in the background. Stanley’s dad always seems to encourage his son while still keeping his distance in the frame, which is a symbol of their relationship. When they pull up at Stanley’s school his Father almost forces him out of the car throwing Stanley books out. This intentionally gives the audience the impression that his dad wants to be somewhere else as quickly as possible, reiterating their ambiguous relationship, it’s at this point the scene cuts.
In this scene the dad has an interview so he’s smartly dressed in a suit jacket and pants and a blue polo neck. Stanley is dressed in smart kids clothing a polo neck jumper and coat. His hair is long combed but still gives the impression of being unkempt. This tells us Stan has little time to look cute but he clearly has enough time to gather four bags of books indicating what his priorities seem to be. The lighting in this piece is dark inside in comparison to everywhere else. This adds to the cold feel this house gives off.
There are shadows everywhere, which could indicate that the father is keeping his son in the dark over some of his intentions. Outside the house it’s unusually cloudy (this is California), this could indicate Stan’s demeanor when he’s at home. When we arrive at the school the sky is clear this may indicate the distance travelled, and therefore the lengths his father is willing to go to ensure his child achieves his own aspirations willing to push his child to go, to this strange far away school. It may also indicate Stan’s happiness while at school.