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.
Of all the planets in Star Wars Rebels, Lothal is probably the one we see the most of, and it’s also probably the one that changes the most dynamically throughout the series. This week, and for the next two weeks, we’ll be looking at some of the locations we see around Lothal, and how they change from the beginning to the end of the show. This week, we’ll be looking at Lothal’s Jedi temple and Ezra’s tower.
We first see Lothal’s Jedi temple in season 1’s episode, “Path of the Jedi.” From the outside, it just looks like the many rock spires that dot Lothal’s horizon, though in size it certainly stands out. Kanan and Ezra have to work together using the Force to lift it so they can gain access. Stepping inside the temple is when things start to change.
The interior, though clearly once a refined temple, decorated with engraved walls, floors, and pillars, is more cave-like now than anything else. There’s dust everywhere, the cave is very dark- oh, and there’s a few skeletons sitting with Jedi robes on them. While I think Ezra’s scream when he sees one such skeleton articulates the sense of unease the temple gives off very well, the low lighting and set dressing in this first room of the temple definitely shows us that temple has been long abandoned, and Kanan and Ezra are the first to step foot inside for years.
As they get deeper into the temple in this episode (and the next one we see it in, “Shroud of Darkness”), it continues with its cave-like appearance, and it does give Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka visions of other places, people and events, visions that they learn from in the episode. Though our perception of the Lothal’s temple just being an old, deserted Jedi temple changes drastically in the final episodes of the series.
The next time we see the temple, it’s being excavated by the Empire, cut open and being mined and searched with no respect for the sanctity of it. It hardly looks like the Jedi temple we saw in the first two seasons, and the natural beauty that once surrounded it is marred by Imperial ships, tarps and crates. While our only other exposure to the temple was certainly not it at its peak, it still was much more peaceful and beautiful than what it is now. Harsh, bright spotlights sweep over the area now as the scene where we see it takes place at night, making everything appear so much darker, even darker than we previously saw it.
However, revealed by the Empire’s excavation is something of the temple we didn’t see previously- a mural depicting the beings of Mortis, characters that viewers of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will recognize.
The mural is very large, dwarfing Sabine and Ezra when they stand by it. The colors are more vibrant than really anything else we see in the temple, making it stand out and draw both the viewers and the character in. The mural is mostly shot from below or on equal level, adding to the imposing feeling its size, and the stern looks of the faces on it, give off.
Of course, we also know that there’s even more to it than that, and when the mural is becoming a portal for Ezra to go through and access the World Between Worlds it glows, much to the shock of the characters watching.
The visuals of the mural here are really mystical, and evocative (at least to me) of classical art, like stain glass windows that you would find in churches. The mise-en-scene is really giving us the sense that what we are seeing is ancient and powerful. Even when the temple is collapsing at the end of the episode, the mural has power as it continues to glow, and the figures move.
After the temple’s collapse, the land where it once stood is completely flat, and the shots we get of it are during a sunrise. It’s beautiful, peaceful and also very lonely feeling, to see what was once a part of Lothal’s grassy plains, dotted with rock spires, now completely flattened, as if it was never there.
Lothal’s Jedi temple, though only the setting of a few episodes across the show, changes dramatically. When we first see it, the mise-en-scene makes it feel old and forgotten, but before it’s destroyed, we see that it’s been desecrated, though much more powerful than it seemed to be before, shown by the higher contrast and brighter colors of the mural in that last episode.
The tower outside of the city on Lothal is the first place we see our beloved Space Aladdin (sometimes, I forget we used to call him that… how far we’ve come). Just from the outside, we can see that it looks old, dirty and rusted, meaning that whoever built it for its original purpose has simply left it behind and moved on, making it the perfect place for an orphaned lothrat to make home.
Inside, we can gain a little insight into how young Ezra keeps his living space.
Things are obviously pretty messy on the inside. He has scraps and parts of things laying around on all the tables, and stolen stormtrooper helmets are piled up too. Ezra clearly doesn’t prioritize keeping everything tidy and clean- which makes sense given his position in the early seasons. The mise-en-scene of this cluttered area certainly gives off a feeling of sympathy for Ezra- he doesn’t have a home or family in the beginning of the series that he can be proud of, he is young and on his own in a small space that wasn’t really meant for living anyway.
After Ezra leaves this old home to join the Ghost crew, we don’t see the tower again. Not until we see Kallus use it as a place from where he can send messages to the Rebellion as Fulcrum before getting caught.
However, in the scene that we see the tower in here, it’s dark so we don’t get a good look at it. What we can see is still cluttered, and it doesn’t appear to have changed much since Ezra left it behind. We only see the tower once more after this, though we only see the outside.
Though we no longer know where Ezra is, we can see in the epilogue that Sabine has taken over the tower, and she is taking care of it much better than he did as a child. We only see the outside of it, but we can tell that the tower is much cleaner and brighter than it was when Ezra was its inhabitant, the you can’t see any rust on it and it looks to be much brighter in color.
This change is, more than anything, reflective how much Lothal has healed since the Empire was forced away from it at the end of the series. Everything on Lothal seems much brighter and cleaner, Ezra’s tower included- and the brightness and more beautiful scenery we see in the epilogue compared to the Lothal we see throughout series make up the mise-en-scene that make us really feel how much better it has become thanks to the efforts of the rebels.
Next week, we’ll look at two more Lothal locations that show the change on Lothal in the series.