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LOST Mise en scène: 5.13 “Some Like It Hoth” Part 1

By nato64,

  Filed under: Lost, Lost Recaps
  Comments: 14

Hey you all everybody, here’s the next installment of my weekly analysis of Lost from a filmmaking perspective. For those of not familiar with this segment on the film visual, editorial, and directorial aspects of Lost, check out my first article going over what I cover and talk about.

As these articles take a lot of time to do, I thought I might break them up into parts in order not to keep you guys waiting all weekend and then on Tuesday, have an overly long article to digest. This episode was rich, very, very rich. And I’m going into greater detail than I ever have before. So each part will go over each section of the show. The Teaser, Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, and Act V. I hope to group some together but this week’s teaser was so dense it nearly blew my mind.

So, “Some Like It Hoth”. I, for one, loved this episode. On the podcast, Darlton exclaimed that they wanted to do a lighter episode, which it was… slightly. What I wasn’t expecting was a fantastically directed, edited, and well-written story going over important character history, all-the-while setting up what might be a huge mythological reveal in the season finale. This was an important episode riddled with editorial and cinematic hints that might have bypassed your thoughts and subconsciously impacted the way you feel about what’s happening.

Take note, however, that this week, I am unable to provide screenshots of the episode. I will instead go into great written detail about the scene. This is partly due to time constraints but also to the fact that this episode wasn’t as visually rich as “Dead is Dead”. Notice I didn’t talk a lot about the editing in my review of 5.12 because the editing and directorial elements took a back seat to the phenomenal visual storytelling. This week’s episode, however, is brilliantly told through a variety of cinematic elements in which I will go into great detail.

TEASER (Everything before the LOST title graphic)

We start off with a character 99% of the viewing audience did not remember from the season premiere. I even missed it! Shame. So, here we are, introduced (more less) to a destitute woman who we immediately sympathize with. The first reveal is that she had a husband. Boom. The audience is with her.

Then, we hear a boy’s voice off screen. Think about that for a little bit. This scene is not from Miles’ perspective yet. We’re focused on his mother. Unlike Jack’s first flashback where we open on him getting beat up (another instantly sympathizing moment).

The visual of Miles is interesting. He is surrounded by warm trees and nature but trapped by a doorframe. His mother is in a cold, dirty apartment. The scene is handheld but not noticeably so. The uneven camera conveys that things are uncertain in these character’s lives. They don’t have an apartment, Miles’ doeasn’t know who he is, and so forth. A stark contrast to the scene on Miles’ mother’s death bed, where the camera is static, indicating her death is a certainty.

Cut to Miles walking near a pool. Slow Dolly back and a Pan Left, following the character as he moves left. And the universal rule about a character’s movement right to left? It’s against the grain; something is wrong; something is about to happen. This scene is so foreboding, especially with the score.

Also, if any of you remember me talking about the symbolism of water in film from my last article, I mentioned how the film The Graduate took the concept that ‘water = change’ to a whole new level. Water is, frankly, wishy-washy. It isn’t hospitable to humans and in it’s excess, it washes away everything. The pool is like Miles’ heart, full but empty of anything with substance.

Begin fast cuts, on the cusp of being too fast for the audience to actually register and absorb what we were shown. Erratic movements from Miles’ POV, moving all around, panicking, all indicated by camerawork that is not handheld. After all I’ve talked about handheld equaling uncertainty and all-around bad juju, keep in mind that camera movement that’s not handheld gives off completely different vibes. Through…

  • Pans (horizontal movement on the camera’s axis),
  • Tilts (vertical movement along the cemera’s axis)
  • Dolly Shots (the camera physically moving forward or backward, typically on a wheeled contraption)
  • Tracking shots (the camera physically moving left or right, typically on a wheeled contraption)
  • Zoom (using a variable telephoto lenses)(keep in mind that a zoomed-in shot looks completely different than actually putting the camera closer)

Now, Alfred Hitchcock invented a unique effect where he combined a Dolly move and a Zoom change on the lens, in opposite directions. He would take the camera and Dolly In while Zooming Out, simultaneously, or visa versa. Lost has done this effect once or twice. It is quite a disorienting and dramatic event. Here’s an example of it I found on YouTube. Very recognizable.

About a minute into the episode, we see a shot of Miles where this effect is used slightly but noticeably. It’s quite effective. Even more effective is a twist on the Hitchcock Effect. Zooming In and Dollying In, simultaneously. They do that right after the shot of Miles I just described. It throws us towards the door by zooming in and physically moving the camera. We feel like we’re being thrown towards something.

This is a very unique feel of uncertainty. It’s not an action-ish scene, it’s like a psychological thriller. The tension is in the unknown, what is not being shown. These types of cuts and camera movement convey that.

I’m sure people noticed the cool speed-up and slow-down cuts. This could have been a decision made in post production by the editor. It’s easy to speed up shots and then return them to their normal rate. However, it could have been the intention from the start. Next, the slow Tracking left & Dolly in around the corner, from Mile’s POV. Now it feels like a ghost story, with slow creepy camera movements moving down a hallway. Only, the color tone of the scene is bright and warm, a stark contrast to the mood the cinematography and editing convey. Orange and yellow don’t convey creepy ghosts and such. However, how over-the-top would it be if the scene was also lit creepy and scary?

Notice the jump in time from when Miles picked up the key to him opening the door. I’m sure they shot it that way but the scene would have come to a dead halt and the editor cut it shorter. Editors started to discover they could skip time around 1918, when they started to wonder if they had to show firemen running up all three flights of stairs. It was a breakthrough in filmmaking to realize that the audience will understand that things happened without them being shown it.

Once again, we see miles looking through a door. Inside it’s dark and looking at him, he’s surrounded by green and orange. Friendly colors. Inside the room, it’s dark and shadowy. Almost like a cave. His mother is in the light as is he.

Flashforward (or back? haha) to The Island. We open on a slow dolly & tracking into Miles. It’s somewhat unnerving, not too much though. It tells us more than a static, unmoving shot would about what’s going on.

When Horace is putting Miles in the ‘circle of trust,’ the colors in the scene are so cold. Greys, deep blues, and dark yellows. Reminds me of the Rebel base on Hoth…

The opening of this scene is Miles driving from left to right. Friendly direction to us. Radzinsky flys out from the right side of the jungle. The scene is cut sharp to a tee. My favorite cut is after Radzinsky says “Take him back to Horace now, Miles,” it cuts to Radzinsky looking left and right, as if he was a predator in the jungle, which he sort of is. If you think about it, how much power does this scene give Radzinsky? He seems quite scary and powerful. Imagine if you just saw a picture of Radzinsky by himself. He doesn’t look very intimidating. So this unusually strong-willed and powerful character is given this perception through writing, directing, acting, cutting, and visualizing. All of it going against the grain of a middle-aged male balding and wearing thick plastic glasses.


That’s all I have for today. Hope you enjoy!

P.S. All of my “EXT: JUNGLE – DAY” stuff is a play on scriptwriting format. EXT means exterior, next is the location, and at the end, the time. These headers are on top of every single scene, telling the producer, production designer, and set coordinator exactly what their job is. How many times do you think “EXT. JUNGLE – DAY” has been written in Lost? It has to be a joke by them now they’ve written it so many times. I’d actually bet they’ve named specific jungle areas to specify. For instance, the jungle that was around the hatch and beach camp was different than the jungle around the caves, or The Orchid, or where Carl and Danielle were killed. I’m sure they even have a code for making sure that they’re in a a new part of the island. The place where Carl and Danielle were shot felt very new and I would imagine the writers made it clear that it was supposed to feel new and uncomfortable for the viewer.