The Wizard of Oz, Mise en scene, lighting

A film’s creation of the visual theme is greatly affected by mise en scene. This is “what is placed in the scene”, what the viewer “sees in a scene.” (Goodykoontz, 2014). These are visible things used to help tell the story, before the camera is brought onto set. A major element of mise en scene and the impact it has on the overall meaning in a film is lighting. In, The Wizard of Oz, the major lighting choice used is high-key lighting.

High-key lighting is very bright lighting over everything with few shadows, relatively low contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the scene, and is usually used in comedies, happy scenes, institutional and office scenes (Goodykoontz, 2014). This type of lighting helps the overall theme of the film, unnatural, situations that break the limitations of the real world. In, The Wizard of Oz, the main character “visits” a mysterious place called ‘Oz’. The lighting is very bright, visibly unnatural, surreal, dream-like quality. This contributes to the viewer’s senses of happiness, excitement, and invites the viewer to imagine themselves in such a surreal dream, situation.

The Wizard of Oz is classified as a Fantasy film. This genre is widely noticed for its pure escapism, a viewer is able to escape the real world into the fantasy. With the help of characters living in imaginary settings, and/or the characters experiencing situations that break the limitations of the real world (Goodykoontz, 2014). Through the lighting technique of high-key lighting giving unnatural, bright, dream-like appearance(s), the fantasy feel is created and suited for escapism.

If the lighting choice was different, the film’s happy, inviting senses would not be as is. If low-key lighting was chosen for the mysterious place of ‘Oz’, the scene would have been more intense and mysterious on a darker level. This would be due to the extreme use of deep shadows, dark overall, and possibly a single source of lighting used, low-key lighting is not for a ‘pleasant dream’, or an escape a viewer would choose to imagine themselves a part of. Low key-lighting is used for horror films, mystery thrillers, and intense dramatic scenes.

Text book reference:

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.


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