An analysis on how Mise-en-scene and sound create meaning and generate response in the film Marnie, by Alfred Hitchcock. The scene is of Mark trying to rekindle Marnie’s memories from the night of her mother’s ‘accident’: Marnie, having seeing Mark trying to hold back her mother’s punches, begins to remember parts from that night. The first shot, of Marnie, her mother and Mark, uses Mise-en-scene to show the higher achy within the three characters.
Whereas towards the beginning Hitchcock had always had Marnie positioned higher than other characters to show her importance and power, he now has her positioned lower than the other two characters; she is constantly being looked down on by both Mark and her mother. It introduces the aspect of her being childlike because she is now having to look up to other people and being talked down to rather than on an equal level.
This idea is reinforced when she begins speaking as though she were back to the time of the ‘accident’ – her words are spoken erratic and panicked. Another example Hitchcock shows to imply the idea of Marnie being childlike is that all of the movements and gestures that are directed towards Marnie, are those that would be expected to occur between a parent and child. Although the speech within the first shot is Diegetic Sound; there are two sub-types within the shot. All speech up until when Marnie speaks to tell Mark to let her mother go is simple diegetic sound.
However when Marnie begins speaking the sound briefly becomes both simple diegetic; as she is speaking in the present to both Mark and her mother, and displaced diegetic sound; as she is saying these words also from her past. As the scene moves forward slightly external non diegetic sound is introduced with the diegetic sound. The background music is the same sound sequence repeated multiple times, but increasing the volume as it is repeated. This background music creates a tense atmosphere as they are waiting to see whether or not Marnie will remember.
The sound element in film is one of its essential aspects which determines if a movie will be a success. It sets the tone, gives emphasis, changes the mood, determines the pace and takes the plot to a higher level. The sound in a movie is as indispensable as its mise-en-scene, editing, cinematography, screenplay, directing and other key components of a motion picture. In “Mission Impossible 2”, ...
The tense atmosphere is reinforced with having the simple diegetic sound of the rain going on outside of the house. Hitchcock has Marnie’s costume as expensive clothing that would communicate to the audience that the person wearing them is rich and powerful. However he contrasts this by her appearance in the clothes and the makeup that she is wearing; Marnie’s appearance appears to be dishevelled, hair all over the place and untidy unlike earlier in the film where it was tied back without a hair out of place. The use of use blocking that Hitchcock uses in this shot o show the identification of Marnie as detached from the other characters. She is always, in this scene, further away from others to create difference and the show that Mark and her mother cant break into her world of thought. The external diegetic sound used whilst she is trying to remember her also creates the feeling that she is lost; going in repetitive circles trying to build to the point where she can remember her childhood memory. Hitchcock has the character Mark wear a large amount of white clothing in this scene, the white clothing is also apparent in the flashback in the next shot.
The white clothing was used as a way to break in to Marnie’s memories so that she could begin to remember; it brought her back to that night by portraying Mark as the man in her flash back. The simple diegetic sound of Mark knocking on the wall also succeeds in portraying Mark as the ‘man in the white suit’. During the flashback, there is very little colour apparent in the shot; the only colour shown that isn’t dark browns or greys, is the colour of each of the three characters present in the flashback.
This symbolises the significance of them in the flashback; the place in which they are in is not the main focus, Hitchcock has chosen the costumes so that the stand out from the surrounding that they are in. This allows the audience to interpret that this flashback is purposely to show the incident that took place that night, and that it is the action and not the scenery that is going to be important. Between the shots of Marnie’s flashback and her back in the present, Hitchcock has used a sound bridge over both shots.
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In both shots there is lightning going on which is significant in the reasoning behind Marnie’s fear, as well as pointing out that she is coming closer to figuring out what happened that night to make her the way she is now. Hitchcock intended the lightning to be a significant trigger to Marnie’s memories and using that, as well as the similarities in clothing between Mark and the ‘man in the white suit, help to break through the emotional block that Marnie has on her memories of the night.
The lightning symbolises a warning in her flashback, as it highlight over the man holding Marnie, that something bad is going to take place. As the fight takes place within the scene all of the simple diegetic sound becomes echoed in the shot, slipping in and out of displaced diegetic sound as Hitchcock switches between the past and present. This is used to show the confusion that Marnie’s in; how she is mentally between both the past and present, believing that she is experience her past while she is with Mark and her mother.
When Marnie’s mother reaches for the fire instrument Hitchcock uses a complete contrast in colours; the weapon is a dark colour, as if foreshadowing the death that the weapon is going to be used for, it symbolises something bad and dangerous. And when the weapon is lifted all that you can see it the white clothing of the man. These two contrasts allow the audience to experience that something is going to happen with that weapon, and that the white clothing that the man is wearing is going to be tainted and changed when they are connected.
Throughout the shots of the present and Marnie’s past, other than the simple diegetic sound of the speech between characters and the sound effects of the weapon impacts; Hitchcock has the two shots in complete silence. The silence ensures that all focus is clearly on the action taking place and symbolises the silence that Marnie has been in all those years with not being able to explain to both herself and anyone else why she is afraid of a man’s touch, or the lightning, or the colour red.
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The sound of Marnie crying in both the present and the past also shows her vulnerability to the event and refers back to her being presented as childlike in the first paragraph. The weapon in the next shot is foregrounded to show that, as Marnie got up from her chair, she is going to take it. This gives the audience the chance to wonder whether or not Marnie will actually pick up the weapon. When she does pick it up, Hitchcock uses the contrast between the size of the weapon and Marnie’s hands to symbolise the fact that it does not belong in her hands; she is too small and powerless compare to the weapon that is in her hands.
When Marnie lifts the weapon above her head there is a brief moment in which Hitchcock allows the camera to linger longer on the shot of her holding it over her head. This could have been intended as a way for the audience to believe that Marnie is hesitating on actually going through with attacking the man with it. However as she begins to bring down the weapon there is the thunder and lightning that flashes in the window besides Marnie as she finally makes the impact.
This lightning symbolises the final decision as she brings it down towards the man and the break though into Marnie’s memories: as well as symbolising the breaking of her innocence that night when she killed the man. The next shot breaks the silence of not having any non diegetic sound. As Marnie screams Hitchcock gives the audience a point of view shot in which we see exactly what Marnie is seeing. The diegetic sound is loud and creates tension as it repeats one sound sequence. It allows the audience to soak up the true nature of what Marnie’s done as we see the blood soaked in to the man’s contrasting white shirt.
The amount of blood stained onto the shirt almost covers the whole shot as we only see small amounts of white left visible. The white symbolises the innocence that Marnie thought she had, but now the memories of that night have destroyed and tainted what she thought. When Hitchcock zooms the camera forward into the blood, he brings the red colour forward and makes it appear more vibrant. This symbolises all of Marnie’s memories becoming clear and the fact that she can’t hide from the truth anymore because it’s clear and in front of her.
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