(500) Days of Summer (2009) is a movie where Tom(Gordon Levitt) falls in love with Summer (Zooey Deschanel) but things do notgo quite according to the romantic dream he has in mind. The film is told through its first protagonist Tom’sperspective. Tom believes in the concept of soul mates. Unfortunately for Tom,Summer sees true love as fairy tales, and is not looking for romance.
Not onlythat, the breaking of gender stereotype characterization is also clearly portrayedin both Tom and Summer’s character. This movie does not play out chronologically, butinstead jumps back and forth through time using flash back (Giannetti& Leach, 2008). (500) Days of Summer addresses the main theme dealing withthose small but significant moments between two people and taking a risk atlove when uncertainty remains. Mise en scèneMise en scène encompasses the most recognizable attributes of a film like the settingand the actors, which includes costumes and make-up, props, and all the othernatural and artificial details that characterize the spaces filmed.
Therefore,in (500) Days of Summer, there are many elements of Mise en scène shown in the movie in many perspectives that anindividual can study. Mise en scène is a French term that means, “placing on stage” (Gabe, 2014). In cinema, placing on the stage literally means placing on the screen, and usually a director wouldbe in charge of deciding what goes where, when, and how. The frame andcamerawork are also considered part of the Mise en scène ofa movie. Furthermore, Mise en scène is formed by all the elements that appear “within a shot itself, as opposed to the effects created by cutting.”In other words, if a physical object recorded by the camera is on the screen,then it is considered as part of the Mise en scène.
Settings, Lighting, Blocking, Facial Expressions andBody LanguageSetting creates both a sense of placeand a mood and it may also reflect a character’s emotional state of mind. It can be entirely fabricated within a studio – either as an authenticre-construction of reality or as a whimsical fiction – but it may also be foundand filmed on-location. Blocking is also another term used infilmic study. The meaningful arrangement of the actors on the set is calledblocking. Most of the times the way in which the actors are positioned can showthe dominance of one character over another, the importance of family orreligion, a myriad of other relationship possibilities and etcetera.
Figure 1 (Photo courtesy of (500) Days of Summer) This setting shot Figure 1 was a longestablishing shot to show the introduction of the two main characters; Tom andSummer, while sitting on a bench looking at skyscrapers. The lighting is alsonatural showing no signs of sorrow. On top of that, they are blocked sittingclose together which gives the impression of them being a couple. By judging from the gap between bothshoulders, for a couple, the girl would either lean her head against the guy’sshoulder or even it would both body seen overlapping one another to portraythat intimacy.
From this shot, they may be seated closely together but not closeenough to make them a couple. Figure 2 (Photo courtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Following from the establishing longshot, again another shot Figure 2 of the two main characters smiling away toeach other seemingly portraying they appear to be an ordinary couple lookingover a city. It was medium close up and shot in reverse shot, in one glance toshow the audience that they are happy, in love through their facialexpressions. Figure 3 (Photo courtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Moreover, this shot Figure 3 was addedto deceive audience and make it seemed as if they really are a couple. This isa close up shot showing Summer’s wedding ring.
Summer’s hand is placed on topof Tom’s. The director has made such placement that so it deceives the audiencethat they could possibly be married together, in which the audience would thinkthat they are together. But the question is, what the director did not show isif there is or is not a ring on Tom’s finger. Thus, it could actually bringmany meanings like a friend just placing her hand on another friend’s hand. Moving on, the placement of Summer’shand above Tom’s hand also has a message behind it. Traditionally, a man wouldalways be labeled as dominant thus a guy would take charge of a situation andplaces his hand above a woman’s but in this case, it is the otherwise.
Here, wecan see that Summer’s hand is placed above Tom’s thus showing the power andsome traits of dominance Summer possess. Not only that, this also challengesthe norms of a patriarchy system. Figure 3 As Tom hurries down the street, combined with low-key lighting and the ambientsound of an ambulance, added to the distraught feel of the shot. Thecamera then cuts to Tom walking away into the center of the frame, which drawsattention to his loneliness in such a lively city. The city then becomes asketch: the greyness highlights his somber mood. Then the sketch is erased, leaving Tom in the empty nothingness. Themusic concludes at the end of the scene as Tom fades, again making the audiencenotice the precise timing of elements in the scene (Giannetti & Leach,2008).
Here, we can see how the technique is used to strongly portray sober. Figure 4 (Photo courtesy of (500)Days of Summer) Next, as the nonlinear storyline brings us back to day1, as the camera dolly in on Tom, based on Figure 4, Tom is seen sittingpassively in the office. From his facial expression, he appears to look boredand discontent with his office job. Traditionally, men are depict as a more activecharacter but Tom happens to be the otherwise.
In the movie, Tom has a romanticor domestic interest because he will never be happy until the day he found “theone,” which pretty much explains Tom’s character indirectly. Figure 5 (Photo courtesy of (500)Days of Summer) Tom’s early exposure to sad pop music and misinterpretingmovies and Tom’s interest in relationships and finding “the one” are typically associatedwith women in films. Costumes Costume can include both makeup or wardrobe choicesused to convey a character’s personality or status, and to signify thesedifferences between characters. Figure 6 (Photo courtesy of (500) Days of Summer) In contradiction to Tom, Summer is verymuch the opposite. Figure 6 shows that Summer is an active and hardworking woman.
Her white dress is also not revealing and her blue bow ribbon pinned on herhair seems to signify to the audience that she is not sexualized. Tom, on the other hand, he isrepresented by brown/auburn and neighboring shades, whereas Summer isrepresented by blue. According to Figure 8 of Tom’s clothing, the amplify ofmuted colors signifies drab mood. It could be because of his liking towards the80s British melancholy pop music, which could have significance to hischaracter as Figure 7. Figure 7 Where as Figure 9 the medium close upon Summer’s dress showing a blue butterfly, mimics her blue bow pinned on herhair reflects that Summer is feminine but not sexual and she may be a cold lady.
Figure 8 Figure9 Whenever they both spend time together,the general surroundings of the scene becomes blue as to represent Tom cannever be part of Summer’s life no matter how hard he tries. Additionally, the color blue varies inthis film after Summer and Tom had sex (Fergues, 2015). As shown in Figure10, the dancers were seen wearing in various shades and tones of blue, whileTom is still dressed in his beige and brown colors. This is the moment Tom entersSummer’s world, but he does not belong (Fergues, 2015).
Figure 10 (Photocourtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Props Figure 11 (Photo courtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Based on Figure 11, the prop hangingon the mirror shows a picture of a girl with part of her hair cut off. Thisforeshadows what Summer is about to do. In this scene, the natural lighting iscoming through the windows as well as lighting from the lamp on Summer’s leftside. Summer does not have romantic or domestic interest, which is very unlikemost women depicted in films.
Figure 12 (Photocourtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Following from that, Figure 12 Summercuts off her hair and is not even affected or impacted by it. In films, women areoften viewed as fragile and less powerful, however Summer defies the typicalrepresentations of women and beauty because to her, appearance does not have asgreat of an impact on her. Summer is the opposite of manytraditional representations of woman in films. Firstly, she does not fit intothe mother/whore dichotomy. Summer is presented in workplace as an independentwoman who does not need protection from men.
She is also not sexualized either.Furthermore, she is uninterested in relationships. Summer portrayed an active female as sheseeks out what fulfills her and that is not necessarily things that areromantic, domestic or sexualized.
Summer’s attitude towards relationships istraditionally associated with men. Based on Figure 13, even at young age,we can see that Tom is indoor, in his room playing guitar signifies a passivecharacter while Summer is outdoor, doing backflip signifies a more activecharacter. Figure 13 (Photocourtesy of (500) Days of Summer) On the other hand, Tom defies thetraditional representation of men in films.
His masculinity is not emphasized buthe also does not represent a collapse of masculinity. Tom is more domestic thanmost men represented in films. His main goal is to establish a relationship andfind the love of his life.
His interests are more romantic in which reversesthe traditional gender role. Figure 14 (Photocourtesy of (500) Days of Summer) Referring to Figure 14, the purpose ofthe side-by-side shots of a young Tom and Summer growing up is to reflect thesimilarity and equality between males and females, as well as to break thestereotyping of what a female and male should characterize themselves are. In conclusion, (500) Days of Summer promotesa progressive message on gender by challenging the traditional norms and values.It is indeed a great enjoyable contemporary film, which not only defies thenorms in terms or storyline and gender stereotyping.