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Mise-en-scene Analysis of “Good Will Hunting”

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The timing is reflected in the scene where the professor’s assistant and Will are alone and the assistant tells Will how lucky he is to have someone believe in him as much as the professor does. As if on cue, the professor walks in just as his assistant finishes talking and gets up to leave. The cinematography in the movie is good. The viewer is immediately given some insight into Will’s social status. The viewer is shown that he obviously lives in one of the poorer sections of Boston; you see that his front yard is overrun with trash and junk and that the overall look of the neighborhood is anything but colorful.

What you see is drabness personified, the colors muted to the point that they look a lackluster grey. This becomes even more apparent when you compare the scene setting of a Harvard class, where the students appear to be attentive, clean cut, well dressed, and very enthusiastic to learn. In the scenes depicting the community college atmosphere the setting is of a classroom full of students who are barely awake, shabbily dressed compared to their Harvard counterparts, and seemingly not gripped with enthusiasm with what their teacher is talking about.

The camera angles are as effective as are the appearances of the set. When Will is trying to solve a mathematical formula, he is seen writing his work on his mirror with a dry erase marker. The camera blurs out Will and focuses on the math work and then reversing back out again showing Will. While he is writing the formula out, the shots fade to the same shot, but at a different angle, creating a feeling that some time has just passed. To reinforce this feeling in the viewer with each changing shot, when the formula is shown there is more writing added with each shot to give the illusion that a large amount of time has elapsed. The additional benefit of this kind of cinematography is that it gives the viewer the idea that this is a complex equation that is not easily solved by a novice.

The focus is clearly on the mathematical task at hand and the fact that a janitor, not a Harvard student, is the one that is going to figure it out. What helps to focus your attention on the character and the task is the fact that the lighting is low except when it is focused on Will and the problem. The background is not well lit. It serves to not distract the viewer from concentrating solely on Will. It focuses on his knowledge of working out a complex problem without any apparent distress to him. It is in this particular scene you notice that Will isn’t your average Joe, but an extreme intellectual without the means to further is education until someone, like the professor, offers him the chance.

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