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A static scene. That is, the actors do not move around or speak. They are blocked (positioned) in ways meant to communicate the relationships between the characters at that moment. The entire scene need not necessarily be a tableau; scenes can open or close with one, often held as the curtain rises or falls. Although usually scripted, a tableau might appear due to a director's decision. The original French word "tableau" is usually used to mean "painting", which the trope is partially about.

Not to be confused with what you put playing cards on in most solitaire games.

See also Time Stands Still, Art Imitates Art and the latter's subtrope "Last Supper" Steal.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion used tableaus almost to excess, in part because it saved money and effort not to have the characters move around. They seem to pop up a lot in Hideaki Anno's work.
  • Cromartie High School uses tableaus with Running Gag frequency, both in the manga version, but also in the anime adaption — where it is completely lampshaded.
    "I'm getting sick of this. If you have any complaints, then watch the anime a thousand times over. [gets suddenly shocked] WHAT ANIME?! It's not even moving!!! [his pencil falls to the ground] Ah! It moved!!"
  • The anime version of Thermae Romae uses this throughout the entire show. The vast majority of the characters have one 3/4 shot that is used repeatedly (with small changes, like eyes open, etc.) but often have animation that's used once and very rarely. When somebody walks across the screen the figure jumps across.

  • Steve Martin's "Death of Socrates" sketch opens with the characters posed to resemble the painting of the same name (also an example of Art Imitates Art).

  • The film musical 1776 ends with a tableau that reproduces the famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  • The Star Wars films all end with a dialogue-free tableau:
  • A Field in England begins several scenes with the characters standing in a stylised tableau pose.
  • A unique use of this trope in early silent film A Corner in Wheat (1909), to establish mood. Twice—once when the poor people are lining up for bread, and once when the financier's body is discovered—the actors remain motionless while the camera rows. The poor people in the breadline are presented frozen at the beginning, while the actors in the latter scene freeze upon discovering the body. The first scene is presented in contrast with the rich people having a fancy dinner.
  • The Iron Mask (1929) opens with Douglas Fairbanks (D'Artagnan) and The Three Musketeers posed in a tableau. Then Fairbanks steps down, whips his sword around, and delivers a little speech inviting the audience to join him on an adventure. Except for one similar scene halfway through, the rest of the film is silent.
  • Mama Turns 100: A very weird, surrealistic scene at the climax. Mama goes into a seizure at her birthday party, and this time she dies. Then all the lights go dark. The actors freeze in place. The actors remain frozen in the dark as a clap of thunder is heard, followed by, for whatever reason, the sound of a helicopter. Then the noise goes away, the lights come up, the actors start moving again, and Mama comes back to life.
  • Every scene in ''Stations of the Cross is presented with a static shot of characters in dialogue in detailed sets with little to no movement.

    Live Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: When Head of the Board of Education, Mr. Stone, visits Mr. Conklin, he finds Conklin, Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton, and Walter Denton motionless. They're stuck to the furniture. Walter Denton had unknowingly mixed his touch-up paint with liquid cement:
    Mr. Stone: I must be having hallucinations! What is the meaning of this grotesque tableau!
  • The Accursed Kings starts with one to explain who the characters and how they relate to each other.
  • In The Office (US) episode "Garden Party", Dwight interrupts some heartfelt toasts to do a live tableau reenactment of The Last Supper with Dwight as Jesus.
  • Stella: The first episode had the three principal characters form a tableau to greet the landlord.

  • The stage directions in The Importance of Being Earnest call for tableaus at the end of many scenes.
  • The Inspector General ends with a tableau, described in detail in the script, showing the characters' Mass "Oh, Crap!" reaction to the news of the real Inspector General's arrival.
  • Tom Stoppard's play After Magritte opens with a surreal tableau, the meaning of which is explained in the opening dialogue, and ends on another.
  • The characters in Sunday in the Park with George are based on figures who appear in the paintings of Georges Seurat. At the end of the first act, they assume their respective positions in Seurat's "Sunday on the Grande Jatte."
  • Paul Fleischman's parodic one-act "ZAP" has over fifty blackouts in ninety minutes. Due to the nature of stage lights (even the fastest ones will still quickly fade rather than an immediate cut-to-black) and the progressive nature of insanity, the front-end of the play can be rife with tableaus.

    Western Animation 
  • A few episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars end with the characters dramatically posed, usually watching ships take off or land.