Most 11-year-old want new parents at some point. And Coraline is no different. Especially since Mom and Dad have moved the family from Michigan to Oregon—where it rains most of the year. (Ugh!) Mom says it’s too muddy to play outside. The house is boring. And the only kid she’s met is really weird.
Oh, and the food’s lousy, too. Mom doesn’t like to cook.
So nothing in Coraline’s little world feels right. Until the day she sets out to do some exploring—and finds a door to an alternate reality. Yep, right there in her new room, covered over with wallpaper, is a little door that leads to a world in which she gets just the right everything. Where her “other parents” love her perfectly and are actually fun! Where a magical garden paints her portrait with flowers. Where cute performing mice spell out her name. And where Other Mom cooks up all the scrumptious treats she could ever want.
This place is great!
You know what’s coming next, right? Perfection is just an illusion behind which a ghoulish nightmare lurks. But by the time Coraline figures that out, she’s in too deep. It’ll take every ounce of courage and every morsel of wit she can muster to keep the fake world from swallowing up her real one.
In terms of mise-en-scene, this is where the film really flourishes. In reality Coraline’s house is very dim, it is portrayed with dull shades of white, grey and brown exacerbated by low-key lighting. The Kitchen seems barren of food and the bedroom features very few home comforts such as a photo of friends and a string of birds around Coraline’s bed. Her fathers office is full of unpacked boxes and a dated computer on which her father is droning away with bags under his eyes to show how tired he is. All of these contribute to the very dim outlook on their life. As nighttime arrives the rooms become very dark using chiaroscuro lighting. To show the connection between the real house and the ‘other house’ Coraline goes through a tunnel consisting of entrancing purple and blue lighting, almost as if to show that something magic is happening.
In contrast to the real house, the ‘other’ house feels a lot more “homely”, the kitchen is full of food and flowers while the other mother is cooking a roast “just in time” for Coraline’s arrival. The use of color shows warmth with orange and blue as apposed to the grey cracking walls of the real house. The study has crooked and disproportionate frames on he wall showing an element of German expressionism. Replacing the dated computer in the center of the study is a piano with moving hands which plays itself by controlling the other fathers hands showing creativity through music rather than documentation. Coraline’s bedroom features live toys giving the room the home comforts that it was lacking before along with that portrayal of fun and excitement.
Lighting plays a large role within the film. though it uses three point lighting, its the highlight that the production team have used on characters that add to the story. Coraline has for the most part a soft warm yellow light on her. She is the protagonist, she is a representation of good, hope, etc for the audience to feed on. While the ‘Other’ mother’s highlights change (like her costume) over the course of the film. Staring with the warm yellows before switching to a bright green in the third act. Green being a general representation of evil and something scary within a children’s film. Because of these set ideas and tropes an audience has of the symbolic colors it helps add to the story.
Costume as well as acting contribute to how a story is shown and told. The ‘Other’ mother is the best example for this. During the first two acts of the film the ‘Other’ mother is shown to be exactly the same as the original. Her movement and costuming is down to be soft and gentle and warm. Even her physical appearance is shown to be rounder and more approachable. During the second act she is then seen to be bettering into the idea of perfection. In the final act her true nature is revealed. She dresses sharply, her movement is dangerous. her features become more defined until the point of where it turns unnatural.