In The godfather as Vito is sitting behind his desk responding to request the lighting is dark and dim. Vito and other characters are visible in his dark office. The low-key lighting used in this movie helps the character to stand out. Low key lighting is a technique uses to bring out the edge of the shadows. In College film and media studies it states, this causes stark contrasts between the darker and lighter parts of the framed image, and for much of the subject of the shot to be hidden behind in the shadows. This lighting style is most effective in film noir productions and gangster films, as a very dark and mysterious atmosphere is created from this obscuring light (College Film & Media Studies, 2010).

The godfather is a dark movie with much killing, deception, betrayal, and anger. The low key lighting techniques helps to expose those elements to the audience with the dark outlines of each character. Whether they are sitting behind a desk, entering a restaurant or pointing a gun at an enemy the low key lighting gives off fear, evil and the knowing that something terrible is coming.

Low key lighting contributes to The Godfather by enhancing the mysterious atmosphere. The lighting contributes to the type of energy the actor is portraying. And in a sense you fear Vito as you watch him in certain scenes where he is deep in thought or contemplating his next move. This lighting causes dark areas under the eyes, chin and sides of the face. The lighting must coincide with the theme of the film.

Low key lighting suites The Godfather. Mobster films tend to use the low key light technique to light the subject and make the character look more intense as well as help the audience to focus on the specific character.

If low key lighting was not used in this film you wouldn’t really get feel is the theme (the story behind the plot). Imagine the godfather in a high key lighting. Everything would be brighter and there would be very low shadows. While in a low key lighting uses more shadows and places much of the attention on the character that is being placed in front of the camera. It states in Film110, The bright picture in the high key lighting shot gives a sense of normalcy, happiness, or everyday life. From the lighting in this shot you would not suspect that there is anything wrong and that the focus of the shot is to be on the character lit with the high key lighting scheme. The low key lighting shot of the same character in much the same location gives an entirely different story to the viewer. From the lighting alone it can be inferred that the scene gives off a “bad” feeling- such as spying, murder, crime, etc. The shadows on the character give an ominous and eerie feel to the shot and the character (, 2014).

Reference,. (2014). Retrieved 19 September 2014, from
College Film & Media Studies,. (2010). MISE-EN-SCENE. Retrieved 19 September 2014, from,. (2014). film110 / Lighting. Retrieved 19 September 2014, from,. (2014). Retrieved 19 September 2014, from,. (2014). Retrieved 19 September 2014, from


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