Film Response: The Night Of The Hunter

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Topics: Orson Welles
Film Response: The Night of the Hunter

“Now, you remember children how I told you last Sunday about the good Lord going up into the mountain and talking to the people. And how he said, 'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God’… And then the good Lord went on to say, 'Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep 's clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.’ ” This opening quote by the Bible fearing woman Rachel sets the tone for the film The Night of the Hunter. This quote opens the film with a tremulous benevolence, yet there is also something sinister here, a sense that she, Rachel, is providing mercy for all the world’s wickedness, into which the audience is about to be
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The English actor and director, Charles Laughton, was the director of the film (“The Night”). Laughton chose to hire Stanley Cortez as the cinematographer for The Night of the Hunter because of Cortez’s mastery of chiaroscuro, the use of deep progressions and subtle variations of lights and darks within an image (Barsam 186). Stanley Cortez was an American cinematographer well known for his dramatic use of light, shade, and color. He worked on over seventy films and played a very important part in the creation of a handful of transcendent masterpieces such as The Magnificent Ambersons, The Night of the Hunter, The Three Faces of Eve, and Shock Corridor. Before he got into film, Cortez worked as a designer of elegant sets for several portrait photographers’ studios. This may well have instilled in him his great talent of a strong feeling for space and an ability to move his camera through that space in such a way as to embody it in film’s two-dimensional format. His first job in the film industry was for Pathe News. During the 1920s and the early 1930s, he worked his way up the Hollywood cameraman ladder from camera assistant, to camera operator, and finally cinematographer. He managed to work for some of the greatest Hollywood cameramen, …show more content…
Stanley Cortez worked as a cinematographer for both Laughton and Welles and stated that, “in his experience only two directors understood the uses and meaning of light: Orson Welles and Charles Laughton (Barsam 186).” Both directors’ careers began in the 1930s when theatrical lighting had transformed into this major element of expression. Much like Laughton and Cortez’s use of lighting and shadows in The Night of the Hunter, Welles’ use of lighting and shadows in Citizen Kane helped to create a certain ambiance or mood within a scene and also to help further develop the characters. In Citizen Kane lighting and shadows are used with great effect during the confrontation scene between Boss Gettys and Kane at Susan Alexander’s apartment. In this particular scene Susan is standing outside the door of the apartment with Gettys and Kane in the doorframe. Both men are cast completely in shadow, whereas Susan is cast completely in light. Much like the use of backlighting in association with the danger and evil of Reverend Powell in The Night of the Hunter, the significance of this type of lighting in this scene from Citizen Kane is to reveal that both men seem to be shady, maybe even evil characters, with wrong motives, while Susan is the innocent party of the quarrel (see image

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