A bunch of us spent the last two days in Paris, at the opening of of this year’s Cinema cent ans de jeunesse programme. We have London Nautical School, joining us for the fourth year, and Long Bennington primary school, from Newark. This year, the programme is moving into Scotland, led by Alasdair Satchel, working for the Centre for Moving Image, with support from Creative Scotland.
This year’s approach is ‘mettre en scene’: how directors dispose people and things in a range of spaces and then where they place their camera, and the axes along which their shots run.
It’s both more concrete than previous years (Real/ fiction last year was especially philosophical), but also wide open, in terms of the sheer range of possibilities and examples.
Alain Bergala, artistic advisor to the programme, critic, cineaste, presented us with a typology to help structure things: we have sites, and we have situations.
The sites are the kinds of space and place that directors choose to film in. I’m reading Geoff Dyer’s Zona, about the film Stalker; it’s full of stories of how Tarkovsky tried to control the spaces he was filming in, on one occasion insisting on the crew removing all of the dandelions from his field of vision – but without leaving any trace of footprints, squashed grass etc, to keep the impression of the Zone he was filming being untrammelled by human beings. (He still wasn’t happy: ‘the flowers are no longer here, but their presence can be felt.’)
Our spaces, or sites, are more concrete: cars, rooms, corridors, lifts – and classrooms, schoolyards. And we contrast those with wide open spaces, those without physical limits or constraints, and how to film in those. We talk about taking children to the beach to film, and about filming situations under tables.
The second category, situations, refers to the myriad ways in which human agents are presented in relation to each other: attracted, repelled, indifferent; jealous, curious, empathic. And in social relations: queueing, quarrelling, competing.
We will post the exercises proposed, and the film clips suggested, on the ‘Mettre en Scene’ page soon; for anyone wanting to get on with homework early, Bergala showed us extensive clips from Coppola’s recent Tetro (a film I’d ignored because.. I thought it was science-fiction..). The room at the heart of the apartment in which much of the story is set, is gradually revealed to us through changes in lighting, movement and relation of characters, movement of furniture. It’s a master-class in mise en scene and its uses to support drama and story; in fact, an elegant example of how film might be said to think.
Read Chris Waugh’s reflections here: http://chris.edutronic.net/2012/09/30/learn-through-making-the-worlds-best-film-club/