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Stephen C Walsh

Films that demonstrate good uses of shadow

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NOTE: I think this could be a broad question, and most people (I hope) will have something to say but admins feel free to relocate this thread if it doesn't belong here.

 

I'm writing a paper temporarily entitled 'Aesthetics in the Absence of Light: Storytelling Through Shadows' and have purchased several books on the film noir and horror genres and on film lighting in general. I'm finding, however, that the films referred to in the books are either too obscure and not great films or the few obvious choices. I can't watch every film in existence looking for shots that utilise shadows effectively and originally but perhaps some users on here can steer me in the right direction and could recommend a film I might have missed that has a relevant scene in it somewhere, a film that doesn't necessarily fall into the noir or horror genres, but is recognised and respected.

 

Any help would be much appreciated, Thanks,

 

Stephen

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I can't think of any titles off the top of my head, but most of the noire genre from the 30s and 40s have lots of shadow play. Largely because most films were shot in black and white.

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Look at Conrad Hall's films. He only lit what he wanted to show and left the rest in shadows. The Others had a good use of shadows.

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Guest Christopher Sheneman

Sunset Boulevard. Especially when Joe is watching her old movies (Norma Desmond) with her in the "home theater", absolutely chilling.

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By what measure or standard are you using to dismiss films as too obscure? If they have the examples you need, don't worry if TCM doesn't show them on a regular basis, include them in your paper.

 

Right off the top of my head, I love the way shadow is used to help tell the story in the original Scarface. In particular the symbol of a cross is shown whenever somebody is about to die. This is typicaly done with shadow and the scene that sticks out most for me is the Valentine's Day Massacre.

 

The shadow of the Vampire creeping along the wall in Nosferatu.

Edited by Pat Murray
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You should take a look at Ivan's Childhood (Tarkovsky), particularly the scene where the main character is acting out a war mission in his room in the dark.

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Thanks for the tips so far. Pat, I suppose I just want to avoid copying and pasting the specific examples from the text. A lot of them do seem to be low budget independent films for some reason and I don't think I could ever find them on DVD or even online to watch the scenes for myself. I'd much rather see the film and write about it in my own words more for the sense of achievement than anything else. I hope that makes sense!

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I would probably go to the masters of light and shadow, German Expressionism and Film Noir. As for German Expressionism look at films like Nosferatu, Metropolis,The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. the Gollum, Frankenstein. Then there are Film Noir pictures like A Touch of Evil, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Rififi, The Third Man, Night and the City, The Asphalt Jungle. I also would recommend Citizen Kane also, just for fun of it, Shadows and Fog. .

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Thanks for the tips so far. Pat, I suppose I just want to avoid copying and pasting the specific examples from the text. A lot of them do seem to be low budget independent films for some reason and I don't think I could ever find them on DVD or even online to watch the scenes for myself. I'd much rather see the film and write about it in my own words more for the sense of achievement than anything else. I hope that makes sense!

That makes perfect sense Stephen. I like James' follow up. If you're in a decent sized city, you should have access to a video store with the titles he listed. Also check out Netflix. I'm pretty sure the original Scarface I referenced is on Netflix. A few of those titles mentioned by James should be there as well. Very interesting topic, btw. Good luck!

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Gleißende Schatten

Kamerapioniere der zwanziger Jahre

Cinema Quadrat, Mannheim

Henschel-Verlag, Berlin, 1994, 156 pages

ISBN 3-89487-216-0

 

Perfect reading for the subject with a lot of illustrations

 

A few historical and editorial errors but nevertheless a book I am glad to have

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