1. I chose the scene “Living at Ikea,” which was taken from the recent dark romantic comedy, 500 Days of Summer. The director of the film was Mark Webb, and this movie was his “feature directing debut” (“Movie Review,” 2009). The production designer was Laura Fox, and the art director was Charles Varga (“(500) Days,” 2014). As he was the director, Mark Webb controlled the actual creation of the film, including its different dramatic and artistic characteristics. For 500 Days of Summer, one of the most dramatic aspects of the film was its nonlinear storyline, which was interspersed with different, seemingly random scenes, such as the scene in Ikea, to underscore the random nature of the young couple’s relationship. Webb was responsible for the overall impact and vision of the film, and he needed to work in cohesion with other people to achieve this impact. These other people included Laura Fox and Charles Varga. Laura Fox worked directly with Mark Webb to achieve the film’s overall look and aesthetic sensation, which included making the dramatic leaps backwards and forwards in time not only believable, but also the most preferable way to depict the couple’s ups and downs. Lastly, Charles Varga helped to ensure that the film’s visual elements, including the various lighting, angles, and colors used, would be the most effective in conveying the film’s vision.
2. Lighting is a vital aspect of any major film, as the presence or absence of lighting can make a significant difference in the film’s overall impact. Specifically, “lighting creates the environment for storytelling and we must never forget that, at its heart, filmmaking is telling stories with pictures” (Brown, 2008, p. 1). In the “Living at Ikea” scene, the lighting is very bright, illuminating the light blue dress that Summer is wearing, as well as illuminating her enormous blue eyes. The couple strolls throughout the store, and there is not a single shadow that obliterates their vision. Therefore, the evoked mood is cheerful and happy, and the audience laughs along with Summer and Tom. The choice of this lighting is deliberate, as this scene highlights one of the happy moments in their relationship. This lighting impacts the overall story that the filmmaker is attempting to tell because Summer and Tom’s relationship is filled with bright moments and dark moments, and the lighting choice illuminates which moment is being illustrated.
3. The setting is modern American, specifically in California. The culture of this setting is casual and fast-paced; many of the characters drink regularly and engage in casual sexual activity without giving their behavior much thought. Reviewers have noted this type of cultural liberality: “So a winsome, accessible movie about more-or-less recognizable young people navigating the murky waters of post-sexual-revolutionary, mid-recessionary heterosexual attraction has a novelty and a measure of bravery working in its favors, whatever its shortcomings” (“Movie Review,” 2009). Therefore, the culture is one that is confused about what defines relationships, particularly when sexuality is involved. This film is particularly original when compared to the other romantic comedies that have come out in recent times, which often run “from gauzily implausible fantasy to blatant and fatuous dishonest, with an occasional detour into raunchy humor” (“Movie Review,” 2009).
4. Costuming can reveal quite a bit about a character. In this scene, Summer wears a light blue, summery dress. This type of clothing underscores her laidback, casual nature. On the other hand, Tom wears darker colors, even though he is happy in this scene. His choice of darker clothing reveals him to be a brooding, more emotional character. This scene is not the only scene wherein both characters are dressed that way; Tom wears similar clothing in other scenes while Summer wears bright, flowing dresses. Both characters’ clothing suits them perfectly.
5. Hairstyling and makeup, similarly to costuming, also helps tell the story. Tom does not appear to wear any makeup at all, though he likely wears some basic foundation that all actors wear filming. His hair is dark brown, and it is neither short nor long; instead, it errs on a longer side and looks somewhat unkempt. This type of hairstyle further underscores his wild, romantic nature. Summer’s hair, on the other hand, is very dark, pin straight, and perfectly styled. Her hair mimics her emotions; her emotions are just as controllable as her hair is. Even in this scene, when she flops backwards on the bed, her hair stays perfectly in place, while Tom gazes downward at her adoringly, his hair falling in his line of vision, symbolizing his blindness when it comes to Summer. In contrast, Summer’s eyes are made up in such a way that they always appear wide open, which reveals that Summer is a character not easily duped by anything, especially relationships.
6. In my opinion, the mise-en-scene in this particular film is excellent. All of the elements work together in a harmonious way. Tom and Summer walk naturally beside each other, as if they had known each other their whole lives. The scene does not seem discordant at all, as Tom and Summer are clearly playing a grown-up game of house, skipping from the kitchen to the bathroom and ending in the bathroom, oblivious to the strange looks that they receive from other people. This scene also aligns perfectly with the director’s vision of the film, which shows two people in the same relationship who both have very different ideas of the same relationship. Just like the grown-up game of house depicted in the “Living at Ikea” scene, Summer views her relationship with Tom as a game, or something to amuse her until she becomes bored. Tom, on the other hand, views their relationship as something that will grow into a serious commitment. Both of them have their illusions firmly intact in this particularly scene, which is why both are happy. However, many dark scenes follow this one happy scene, which makes the brightness depicted seem artificial.
- (500) Days of Summer. (2014). The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/447353/-500-Days-of-Summer/credits
- Brown, B. (2008). Motion Picture and Video Lighting. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
- Living at Ikea. (2014). MovieClips, Inc. Retrieved from: http://movieclips.com/rgct-500-days-of-summer-movie-living-at-ikea/
- Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer. (2009). The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/movies/17five.html?_r=0