Mise-en-Wren: Capital City
Updated: Feb 26, 2021
Mise-en-scène (French: [miz. ɑ̃. sɛn]; "placing on stage") is the stage design and arrangement of actors in scenes for a theatre or film production, both in visual arts through storyboarding, visual theme, and cinematography, and in narrative storytelling through direction.
To conclude the Lothal section of this series, we’ll be looking at a final, and highly significant, location on the planet- Lothal’s Capital City. The capital city is a setting for many scenes throughout Star Wars Rebels’ four seasons, and it changes dramatically throughout the series as the Empire’s occupation becomes stronger, and then again as the planet is liberated.
Based off of some early Ralph McQuarrie art, Cloud City is mostly filled with tall, spiry buildings and small, rounded ones with flattened tops, as seen above. These buildings are tall, bright and beautiful, and they match the surroundings of the planet that they’ve been built on- many of them are similarly shaped to Lothal’s naturally occurring rock spires. We can tell that the people of Lothal, however they came there, are in tune with the land around them, and their architecture reflect’s Lothal’s natural beauty.
However, there is one glaring exception- the imposing, dark, spherical Imperial center that sits among it all.
While it’s clearly been there long enough to have let the city adapt to its presence, it still stands out among the skyline, and you can tell it doesn’t belong. It dwarfs nearly every other structure we can see, and sends a clear message- the Empire is here, dominating this land and has taken control. It also doesn’t have a spire-like or plateau-d shape like many of the other buildings that we can see in the city, because, frankly, the Empire does not care about the culture of this planet. What the Empire cares about are what resources that it has that they’re able to take and use, regardless of what the people of Lothal have to say about it.
When we look a little closer at the city, we see similar messaging sent by the set design.
Most of Lothal’s city when we’re within it is dominated by neutral grays and beiges- but what little splashes of color we do see are faded and chipped away. While we don’t know exactly what Lothal may have looked like before the days of the Empire, what we can tell from here is that there used to plenty of color all over the various walls of Lothal’s Capital City. And while not all of them may have been removed with clear effort, it’s clear that they are just being left to decay, and no one is bothering to take care of the upkeep of them as they do.
What we can feel from these images is that Capital City was clearly once a beautiful and prosperous beacon on Lothal. But in the age of the Empire, that has faded away. Now on Lothal, people are growing tired from being constantly crushed on the Empire’s thumb, and losing hope for a better life. They are simply surviving, and the whole city’s spirit is fading away as the Empire’s control strengthens. And this is only furthered by the images that we see of it in season 4.
Weaponry and blockades now line the streets of Capital City, where we used to see market stands. Screens hang above the citizens of Lothal displaying a stark black and white Imperial logo over a bold red background in an almost poetic way. The scraps of colorful art and posters that we saw still clinging to life on the walls of the Capital City in the early seasons are gone, replaced with Imperial propaganda, which is among the only color amongst the city. The Empire’s control is tighter than ever, and it has decided on every aspect of the city.
But once Lothal is liberated, however, Capital City looks very different.
While we don’t see much of post-Empire Lothal, and we certainly don’t get any close looks at the rejuvenated Capital City, we can just see from the skyline how much things have changed. Capital City is really glowing in the finale episode, with tall, bright white buildings pointing up towards the sky, surrounded by much, much shorter buildings that still glow nearly just as bright.
The big, dark Imperial Center that once dominated the landscape is gone, and the Lothal architecture that draws its inspiration from the natural rock spires of the surrounding plains has been allowed to thrive, and in just the few short years from fall of the Empire on Lothal, to the fall of the Empire everywhere, the people of Lothal have clearly been energized, expanding their city to new heights, and making it more and more beautiful. It’s clear that without the imposing, fascist government looming over it, Lothal has really thrived.
That concludes our analysis of Lothal locations in Star Wars Rebels. While there are plenty of other locations to look at (the rebel encampment in season 4, Tarkintown, or Kothal to name a few), I think it’s time to move on to another familiar location, offworld.