Ridley Scott's Use of Mise-en-Scene to Convey Atmosphere in the Opening Sequence of the Film, Gladiator

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“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”

The film ‘Gladiator’ was released in 2000. A thrilling action film, it was a huge success, scooping five Oscars and earning over $427 million dollars. Sir Ridley Scott- who directed the film-already had many great films to his name, such as ‘Alien’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘American Gangster’, so it was no surprise when this film became one of the highest earners of the year 2000. The mise-en-scene used throughout was, perhaps, behind the genius that made this film as much of a success today as it was nine years ago.

An example of this in the opening sequence is the music. Beginning calm and gently, the
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There is a close up of his face, which allows the viewer to see every emotion, which adds an essence of vulnerability to a character that is more often than not, perceived as the complete opposite. It is also used to emphasise the fact that Maximus is the character the film will be based around. Following the close up, there is a shot of a robin sitting on the branch of a tree, after a short while it flies away, perhaps sensing danger. The shot is then back to Maximus, who is smiling sadly, possibly at the thought of the robin being able to fly away from it all, when he can’t. The way that mise-en-scene has been used to depict a slight fear in the character of Maximus, adds contrast to his personality, which in turn adds depth, leaving the audience feeling able to connect to him. The music in this scene makes it almost haunting as it creates a calm yet uneasy atmosphere. Maximus is wearing gold in this which, not only continues the theme of gold, but also represents his authority. The combination of this strong, powerful figure being slightly fearful at what lies ahead, adds to the uneasy atmosphere. The lighting in the sequence is also a lot darker than the previous which adds to the implication that the atmosphere is about to change, this along with the non-diegetic sounds like the wind blowing and the distant sound of birds, help create a really dramatic, prominent sequence which leads on
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