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Mise-en-scène is a term derived from the French language that means “…putting into a scene…” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). Mise-en-scène is, therefore, everything that the audience witnesses on the screen as the movie unfolds (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). The aspects of the movie that fall under description of this term include actors, scenery, costumes, make up, hairstyles, and lighting among others (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). This paper analyzes the plot, scenery and lighting in the film Thunder Soul (2010) director by Mark Landsman.
Thunder Soul is directed by Mark Landsman and produced by a team of three artists who include Keith Calder, Jessica Wu, and Mark Landsman himself. The cinematographer is Sandra Chandler while Jim Black and Gabe Hilfer are responsible for the supervision of music. Jermaine P. Duprey does the post-production coordination and the executive producer of the movie is Jamie Foxx.
The plot of the movie is based on the 2008 reunion concert of 30 alumni of the Houston school band. The concert is organized as a tribute to Conrad O. Johnson ("Prof"), who had been the school’s music director for years. Prof had become old (he was 92) and had serious health problems. The event, thus, becomes very emotional and takes on an even deeper meaning as the movie unfolds. By using numerous and sometimes unnecessary flashbacks and on-screen identifications,, Landsman manages to focus on the deep connection between the Prof and his former music students, who are now in their fifties. Students’ faces light up when they recall their band years. The scene of the band entering the room, when they practiced over 30 years ago,, and hearing their play transforming from ragged to righteous is fulfilling and emotional. The choreography arrangements and movements commanded by Prof ensure that Kashmere, who lined up all black participants, took the school-band circuit, which was dominated by whites, by surprise. The lighting in the room is also manipulated to create an intense emotion that is provoked by the performance. This scene leaves the audience not only with the sense of satisfaction from listening to good music, but also with feelings of hope and excitement about future possibilities.
Thunder Soul is one of those rare films that are able to motivate and give a thrilling feeling to people leaving the cinema. In addition, the film is based on a true story. The documentary Thunder Soul centers on Conrad "Prof" Johnson and his truly inspiring work with the first all-black stage bands of the '70s. Prof completely changed the lives and sounding of his band, and brought all of them to places they did not think were possible at the time. The film then describes the events which happened 35 years later, when Prof and the members of his legendary band reunite and the band decides to give Prof a thank-you concert.
Indeed, Miller (2010) confesses that every time he recommended the film to someone at the festival, he would get chills just talking about it. He also confesses being very excited when he sits down with director Mark Landsman and discusses how Thunder Soul was made. In the course of the interview, they talk about how Landsman got involved with the project and also how important music education is for children.
Conrad O. Johnson lived in Houston Texas in the ‘70s. He is a quiet legend whose legacy is widely spread because he was the director of the band in Kashmere high school. In addition to that, he was a humble man who led the band to great heights for numerous years. He led the band from the state level to international level, which gave the school an excellent reputation. His philosophy, which was extraordinary marvelous, was that there is no limit to what a child can do when it comes to playing music (Miller, 2010). He added that the child simply has to be told that he or she can play music. In the documentary, the children that were taught by Mr. Johnson are all grown up. They have taken different professions becoming lawyers, doctors and specialized musicians. They feel that Prof, the name they gave to Mr. Johnson, was more than a teacher to them. He was the one who strengthened their spirit and helped them live fruitful lives for a number of years. Furthermore, they claim that they were brought up in rough conditions during a period when their parents were fighting for the civil rights and participated in other movements. During this time the Prof gave them a purpose in live so they did not give up.
Prof is ninety two years and he still plays his saxophone vividly. The film picks up thirty five years later after the peak of success of the Kashmere band. The Prof is still passionate, although it is evident that at his age he has little time and energy. In the contract, however, he is even more devoted to his love for music. He has a deep love for Duke Ellington and James Brown and, in addition, he is still communicative and vivacious (Miller, 2010). There is the reunion show organized by former members of the band, some of whom have not played their instruments for many years. The influence that Prof had on their lives has led them to come out and show appreciation through music. This, most likely, was the last time they played for their leader.
There is always some amount of fortune that is put forth when assembling an excellent band. First and the most important, there is the need of having a story. In the Thunder Soul, there is a clear depiction of the story. The documentary describes life, poignant journeys, and is at times heartbreaking. The audience is advantaged since it has the opportunity to witness the band first hand, as they take on their journey. Through the emotions of the band, it is evident that the influence that the Prof had was quite immense (Miller, 2010). The film is full of the appreciation that the team members have for Prof since he saved the lives of a number of the band members. It is, therefore, evident that Mr. Johnson was soulful and changed the lives of numerous individuals.
It is not usually someone’s story that matters. Conversely, what matters is what the person can do with it. The director Landsman has incorporated thirty years of narration into an authoritative, energetic, and spirited film which has a running time of eighty three minutes full of funk and emotions. The narration is mainly based around the music. The film is more than a letter about love, but it is an encouragement towards teaching music in schools (Linden, 2011). The documentary should be made available to all the teachers and parents. The film has an excellent human story that proves the positive effect that music has on young people.
The movie has three kinds of effects on the audience: heartbreak, inspiration, or both. The feeling that it creates is one that inspires and makes the audience want to grab the first parent that they meet on the street and tell them about the importance of music for children. It gives inspiration to go forth and share the power of music as an art (Linden, 2011). Linden encourages all people to watch this fascinating and powerful film.