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Gattaca. Film techniques. Mise en Scene. pronounced “ meez aun sen ” French term meaning ‘ staging the action ’. Refers to all the visual elements within the frame. * setting * lighting * costumes * acting style. Setting, lighting, costume.

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Film techniques

mise en scene
Mise en Scene

pronounced “meezaunsen”

French term meaning ‘staging the action’. Refers to all the visual elements within the frame.

* setting * lighting

* costumes * acting style

mise en scene1
Mise en Scene
  • Overall the setting of the film is quite severe and uncluttered and is dominated by people and symbolic locations.

Try and list 5 of the main locations


It uses only 10 sets/locations and the main ones are: the Gattaca complex, the navigation lab, the space centre, Jerome’s apartment, Irene’s house and the police centre.

They are all bare, functional spaces with smooth polished floors, bare walls, glass, vast airy interiors which provide an overall atmosphere of modernism and minimalism.

This all adds to the premise of the film – that of a society based on the principles of ‘perfection’.

eugene s apartment
Eugene’s apartment
  • This is a good example of the ‘modernist’ style.
  • The staircase is a grand architectural feature and suggests wealth and taste.
  • The circular staircase is an important symbol and evokes a number of connotations – most significantly, it has the shape of a double helix (the DNA pattern).
  • This continually links to the theme of genetics
  • The ‘palette’ of the film is primarily green and blue/grey.
  • It is visually cold and this is deliberate and reflects the sterile environment
  • Niccol and his cinematographer wanted to show the idea that, in its desire to be ‘perfect’ society has squeezed all humanity out.


  • Floods of green in the film show threat or tension
  • Murky colours of brown contribute to the ‘noir’ sequences – the alleyway, the sequence when Vincent punches the guard
  • In contrast there are scenes which are bathed in golden light – e.g. when Vincent’s ambition of going to space is revealed, Vincent and Irene’s intimacy
  • Why might gold be used for these scenes?

Two main kinds of sound heard in film:

Sound effects: all the sounds made in the “world” of the film that help create realism.

Music soundtrack: contributes significantly to the mood of a film.



  • The close up opening scene of falling hairs and skin arouse curiosity (what is happening?) and the soundtrack matches the falling objects with booming sounds
  • Key theme – the importance of body parts in a world dedicated to genetic perfection.
  • Dialogue is extremely important in this film and key themes are found in speeches.


  • The film uses ‘voice over’ narration – it clarifies and co-ordinates the narratives as huge time jumps are involved, linked only by the voice over.
  • The confessional voice tells all about Jerome Morrow and then drops the bombshell: “I am not Jerome Morrow”
  • Music – the orchestral music sets a sombre and reflective tone
  • Sounds effects – e.g. Vincent crossing the road and the sound of the cars.
  • Why would the director emphasise these sounds?
  • Involves all aspects of the use of the camera to film the action.
  • Camera focus, distance, angle, movement.

* Camera Focus: draws the audiences attention to particular characters, or can place equal attention on characters and their setting.


Only a particular “zone” of focus

(depth of field)

Everything in the frame is in equal focus



What do the extreme close ups focus on in the opening sequence?

Finger nails




Vacuuming the keyboard for skin particles

Fingerprint ID entering Gattaca Corp.

Eye lashes


Finger tips

 The only people who are focused on in close ups are Jerome, Doctor Lamar and Irene. Within the corporation there are few people who are shown to be individuals.


* Camera distance: close up, medium shot, long shot etc.

* Camera angle: high or low. Audience looks up at – or down on – the action.

* Camera movement: panning, tilting, tracking.


Much of Gattaca is filmed using the horizontal angle

(at eye-level) to create empathy with the characters.

Vertical angle – There is a shot of Vincent looking

Down on Jerome from the top of the stairs. Jerome

appears small and lonely.

  • Is the process of determining the length and sequence of shots in a film.
  • Tension and excitement can be generated by brief shots and frequent cuts.
  • A more reflective scene would use longer shots

Editing also involves deciding which shots will be included in the film and which shots will end up on the “cutting room floor.”


Motifs are recurrent visual or audio aspects of a film

which have thematic meaning.

Vincent cleaning himself (of skin and hair)

Urine and blood samples

Hair, Skin


Water and swimming

Why do you think each of these things are used?


Why is this an important theme in the film?