Mise en Scene Analysis - The Last Emperor.docx

Mise en Scene Analysis - The Last Emperor.docx - Austin...

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Austin Dycus CTVA 210 Mise en Scene Analysis: The Last Emperor The Last Emperor, directed and written by Bernardo Bertolucci, was released in the winter of 1987. The film depicts the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China, from his early childhood when he was crowned at just three years old to the end of his reign and his recounting of his story in a red army prison, and finally his final years before he died. The story is one of reminiscence, as Puyi recalls the better years of his life and his thirst for power, importance, and freedom, all of which are constantly thwarted by different political interests. It appears Bertolucci simply wants to depict history, but he does more than that. He elicits sympathy for a boy used as a political figurehead, sheltered his whole life from the world around him, suddenly thrown into a world at war. The design of this film is periodic, reflecting the traditional style of feudal China within the isolation of the Forbidden City to the extravagant western fashion of the 1920s onward. For this analysis, the focus is on the first two sequences of the film and the design choices for both. The first sequence of the film is simply Puyi and other political prisoners arriving in Manchuria in the newly established People’s Republic of China by train. While being held at the station, he comes to the conclusion that his captors will probably kill him after judgement. Thus he isolates himself in the restroom and makes an attempt at suicide by slitting his wrists. This feeling of hopelessness is not only reflected in Puyi’s actions, but through the composition of this sequence. Everything, from costume and make-up to lighting, is meant to elicit a sense of despair. Costume and make-up are a key player in this sequence. Everyone, guards and prisoners alike, is wearing some shade of grey or dark clothing. The make-up used on the prisoners also conveys some sense of misery by using a variety of looks: sickly, pale, dirty, etc. all to reinforce the notion that things are not looking up. The guards make-up is a lot cleaner, but that is of little importance as the main focus is meant to be Puyi and his fellow prisoners.
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