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Analysis of the Use of Lighting in the Godfather

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Analysis of the Use of Lighting in the Godfather

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  • October 1999
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I am writing about the use of lighting in the opening scene of The Godfather, (1). The
photography of The Godfather as an entire film is very planned and used specifically to
generate moods, and have great psychological affect. This is just as true for the very first series of shots for the film, and perhaps more important since these first shots will give the audience the initial feeling of the film, and set a tone for the picture. The first shot is highly dramatic in its lighting method, and the audience is drawn in immediately to one single detail. A man begins revealing the details of a tragic incident that befell his daughter. We don't see who he is talking to. There is a spotlight directly above the man, and this is pretty much 95% of the light used. This really lights up the top of his head, which is bald, but there is no hot spot or reflective element which is good because reflection here would be aesthetically displeasing. The lighting causes dark areas under the man's eyes, which emphasize the passion and eventually the hatred of what he is talking about. The scene is lit so that the background is completely black, so that the only thing we can see is the man. Even though this is logically unrealistic, the stylistic decision to light in this manner is warranted, since this or any other good film draws heavily upon our expectations and imagination to convey a message or meaning. We as audience accept the unrealistic elements, if they assist in making the story more engrossing. There is another light placed so that the man has an obvious highlight in the center of his black eyes. This highlight area of his eye is the part of the frame which has the greatest contrast, so naturally the audience is drawn directly into this man's stare, and this is also achieved by having the man look right at the camera. As he speaks, the camera slowly pulls out and then we start to see a slight increase in the surrounding detail of the scene. We...

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