Sunday, 18 August 2013
Mise-en-scène: The Dark Knight Rises
Friend or foe?
Catwomans ambiguous moral stance is perfectly encapsulated by her depiction in this still. At a glance, she appears like a cat in a cage, pawing at her freedom and glancing out at a world she cannot be a part of. There certainly is a large component of escapism to her character. The fact that she masks herself and has created a separated identity from her factual persona of Selena Kyle shows that she, like numerous other Gotham inhabitants, enjoys the fantasy of an alter ego. We also know that Catwoman is only operating alongside Bane because she is biding her time to get out. In actual fact, Catwoman is looking on, both curious and concerned, as Batman finally confronts Bane. Her gloved hand on the bars almost looks sympathetic and tender as if she could be reaching out to assist him. In this still, she is both a captive cat and also the captor. The ambiguity and polarisation of her character, is she or is she not on Batman’s side, is captured here.
The Pit is a prison where bad men are sent to be forgotten. It is also the site of an unlikely love story. The ‘catch’ to this particular prison is that the prisoners are stuck in the dark, dank confines below whilst eternally tortured at the prospect of freedom poised precariously above their heads. The circular entrance and exit is like a brilliant, blinding sun forcing them to recall the world beyond that is excruciatingly, and tantalisingly just out of reach. We always see the pit from below where it seems impossibly high and distant. The dark cyclical walls contrast with this hopeful beacon above. The effect is expansive, vast and dizzying.
Bane the Beast.
This is one of my favourite images of Bane in the entire movie. Here he is not encased in his usual uniform. This still is a powerful representation of his sheer strength, brutality, menace and tenacity. There is an intense rebellious authority to the character of Bane. His mask makes him appear almost half octopus. He looks alien, robotic, even animal. This low shot establishes him as something gigantic and bulky – a real force of reckoning for Batman.
Posture and body language are such powerful indicators of a characters inner motivations. Here Bane looks celebratory, predatory, assertive and completely in control. Batman, by contrast, looks small and shrunken despite the look of insistent rage on his face. Bane is the focus here, perhaps to emphasise his size and status. The flow of water is a powerful elemental surge. Water represents the subconscious and perhaps is indicative of Batman’s own blocked dam of inner turmoil. The fact that it is bursting forth represents a clash, a pouring forth of secrets and emotion, a conflict, a rising.
Unmasking the bat.
Wielding the broken mask of Batman whilst his body lies beneath, Bane is victorious and has established himself as a true force of reckoning. Rain water is pouring. Gotham is literally weeping for Batman. A change has taken place. Again Bane is the focus here. Batman has been usurped.
The child in the pit.
Initially, the identity of the child in the pit is inferred, but not confirmed. The gender of the child is ambiguous. The features are large and expressive but the head is shaved and the clothes are genderless. The child’s expression is one of both vulnerability and purpose. The child is clearly about to lift there hood and head off into the desert. What is the future of this child? The still speaks of uncertainty.
The unmasking of Talia.
This is an interesting still of Talia which tells us much. She almost looks like a character from the masked ball of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Her subtle Venetian style mask indicates she too has something to hide, an identity that is not quite ready to be conveyed. Batman is so much about masks, concealed identities and alter egos. It would be natural to infer that Talia too has her secrets. Of course to begin with, we do not know that this woman IS Talia Al Ghul, we know her as Miranda. If Bruce Wayne has Batman and Selena Kyle has Catwoman, then Talia has Miranda. The difference is that Miranda is not a flashy superhero, but a respectable business facade that enables her to fulfil her father’s legacy. Talia wants to create a normal alternate persona, rather than a glamorous facade. The lowering of her mask and the sly, assertive expression on her face indicates that all is not as it seems with Miranda.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
After stealing Batman’s pearls, Selena looks at herself in the mirror. Beautiful, glamorous, sultry, the mirror is another way of hinting at the importance of alter egos and alternate personalities. Selena’s assertive, confident gaze indicates she knows who she is and where she is going. She is only mysterious and enigmatic in the eyes of the other characters!
He’s behind you!
This is a not so subtle way of showing the re-emergence of Batman as a prolific Gotham figure. Bruce is bringing Batman out of retirement, and Batman is also something inescapable for Bruce. His and Batman’s identities are fused. Bruce cannot escape being Batman – he is forever lurking in the background of Bruce’s life and psyche. The bat suit looks sinister and menacing here – something Batman is often confused as being to the inhabitants of Gotham.
Haggard, dirty and exhausted, Bruce staggers to the top of the pit for his freedom. This still is a symbol of determination, courage and hope. Bruce is emerging and evolving into his bat form, gaining higher and higher until he established his freedom and merges with his alter ego once more. The narrow ledge shows how precarious and uncertain his position is. The darkened pit below and the luminous ledge reveal the vast distance between plunging backward into darkness and elevating into the light.