Design For Living Analysis

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Film is a unique artform in which meaning can be derived from not only the content, but also the form in which it is presented. It is often the case in which the plot, characters, and themes of a film work in harmony with formal elements such as the mis-en-scene or cinematography in order to create a piece with a greater sense of meaning which typically may not be obvious to a viewer who is not analyzing them in conjunction. One film that excellently portrays the relation between content and form in regards to overall meaning is Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living. In Design for Living, the scene in which Gilda and Max have a conversation after their wedding shows through its mis-en-scene how Gilda has only married Max to comply to societal …show more content…
At the beginning of the scene, Gilda, having just been married to Max, is wearing a wedding dress and a veil. However, after she storms out of the room and kicks over the flowerpot sent by Tom and George, she removes her veil before going back into the room to fix the flowers. This removal of a symbolically significant piece of her costume prior to changing her mind about destroying the gift from Tom and George suggests Gilda’s true feelings about her marriage to Max and her lingering feelings towards her two estranged friends. A wedding veil is a garment which is typically associated with a woman’s purity and modesty, so by casting it away before reforming the flowerpot, she momentarily discards the illusion that she has created of herself as Max’s loving wife and instead reverts back to her real self, who has free will and control over her actions and who she …show more content…
Throughout the film, a modified 3-point lighting scheme wherein a bright kicker and a heavily diffused key light is used on Gilda to cause her to stand out from other characters, and to emphasize her beauty and Tom, George, and Max’s attraction to her. This lighting scheme becomes particularly noticeable when Gilda is in the same shot as another character, as it is typical that she will have the modified lighting scheme placed on her whereas the other character will have a more modest, dim and hard lighting scheme placed on them. However, this scene is an outlier in that the modified lighting scheme that is used on Gilda is significantly toned down, weather she is in the same shot as Max or otherwise. This change in the lighting could suggest that Gilda is no longer as passionate and vivacious as she once was, and that by marrying Max she is really suppressing her true self and desires in order to attempt to live a more modest and socially acceptable life.
The mis-en-scene used in Design for Living visually depicts Gilda’s dissatisfaction with her marriage to Max while emphasizing the film’s theme that one can not achieve happiness by force. In Design for Living, the set design is used to foreshadow later events and create conflict within the scene. The subtleties in the costuming choices are used to provide insight into Gilda’s

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