Gladiator Director: Ridley Scott Writer: David Franzoni Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris Genre: Action/Drama Release Date: May 5, 2000 Format: 2.35:1, 35mm With over 42 years of film experience and over 25 feature films under his belt, Ridley Scott has become one of the most dominant directors in film history. His eye for detail is one of his main strengths, not just in every scene but every shot. This can be said for every one of his films, including the critically acclaimed Oscar winner “Gladiator”. Ridley Scott’s mise-en-scène in this film is incredible. Everything from the lighting to the costume design elevates the tension, character development, and reveals the themes throughout the film. “Gladiator” is a film about General Maximus Decimus Meridus, commander of the Roman army. When the Emperor of Rome chooses Maximus to succeed the throne, his son Commodus murders the aging Emperor and takes his rightful position on the throne. In a jealous rage, he sentences Maximus and his family to death. Surviving the attack, Maximus is forced to fight as a slave in the Coliseum and avenge his family’s death and bring balance back to the Roman Empire. This is where the heart of the story comes in to play as themes of revenge, defiance and respect. The climax of the film comes in the final battle where Maximus battles Commodus in a fight to the death. In this final battle, the elements of mise-en-scene are very strong and elevate the storytelling in a very positive way. In this particular shot, Maximus has disarmed Commodus but instead of finishing him off, he drops his sword to fight like a man with just fists. In this shot, Commodus is pulling out a concealed dagger to kill Maximus. In this shot we see that the dominance is being attracted to Commodus. In utilizing the squint test, we see that the only thing that sticks out in the shot is Commodus. This is done to reveal that Commodus is pulling out a hidden dagger and to get our attention to it. This shot is virtually all high-key lighting except for one particular spot, the eyes of Commodus. When looking at the face of Commodus, we see that it is all very well lit until just below the eyes. Then, there is a big drop off and the eyes are dark. Ridley Scott loves to use symbolism in his films. One of these symbols are the eyes, which represent the gateway to the soul. Maximus has done an honorable move and dropped his swords, giving respect to the man who murdered his mentor, role model, and father figure. Since Commodus is denying this respect and being a coward, he is selling his soul to win the fight. Since he has no soul and respect, the gateway is closed and all that is left is emptiness, shown by the darkness. This shot is an over the shoulder two-shot. The camera is in close to the actually focusing on the two characters. This type of shot is used to focus on action and make it seem like the viewer is participating in the fight. It attracts the viewer and makes them feel more emotion for the fight. The angle of the shot is a neutral eye-level shot. The eye-level shot conveys the emotion of drama and intensity. Since the high-angle and low-angle give off certain emotions to the viewer, the neutral angle allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions about the subject. In this case, the evilness of Commodus. The color values in this shot greatly represent the themes and represent the story, giving it greater depth. As we can see from Commodus’ white clothing, it is a great difference from the way his eyes cannot be seen. Commodus believes he is good, and the true emperor by wearing this royal clothing, but on the inside we see from his eyes that he is a fake. This is quite a big contrast to Maximus. He is wearing dark clothing, which shows that he knows he has done some bad things and killed men when he was a general. In the background we see that the soldiers are wearing the same colors as Maximus. This is symbolic because it shows that the Roman Empire no longer supports Commodus and his views but they support Maximus and the rightful owner of the throne. The lens used here is a short lens, giving it a great depth of field. This means that everything is in focus and it makes Maximus seem bigger, showing how he is still in control of the fight even though Commodus has the advantage with the dagger. The main subsidiary contrast is Commodus’ eyes. After the eye is drawn to the white of his clothing, it is immediately drawn to the blackness of his eyes. The shot is highly detailed. Everything from the detail of Maximus’ armor to the cages of the slaves in the background. The composition is segmented into two sides, the left and right. On the left we have Maximus and on the right we have Commodus. This represents the fight for good and evil. The form of this shot is closed. We see that Commodus is enclosed and surrounded by Maximus and the army who want to be under the lead of Maximus. This shows that Commodus must resort to pulling out a dagger since the sense of being trapped has him worried. The framing is very tight, converying the action in the shot and further portraying the sense of being trapped. This shot is composed on three frames, the foreground, the midground, and the background. Maximus is physically the biggest on the screen, taking up the foreground. In the midground, we have Commodus and in the background we have the Roman soldiers. The foreground and the background work together to entrap the midground and they comment each other, sort of like a sandwich, where Maximus and the soldiers are the bread and Commodus is the lettuce. Maximus’ back is towards the camera while Commodus is facing the camera. This allows us to see how Commodus’ fear and the worried look on his face. The proxemics between the two characters is very close. They are in the midst of an intense battle. This shows he severity of the situation and also foreshadows that things are going to get a lot more intense. In conclusion, the elements of mise-en-scene of Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” are very strong and elevate the storytelling in a very positive way. Ridley Scott is one of the most consistent directors in Hollywood with over 25 films completed. It’s only a matter of time before his next masterpiece conquers the industry.