Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Lighting Techniques Used In Murder My Sweet Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1385 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

The visual effects performed in various film noirs was not to give the viewer the perception of an ordinary setting, but to provide a visual manifestation of terror and abnormality into human emotion through twisted plots and camera techniques. The plot is twisted and complex, taking the viewer into dark, terrorizing, and incomprehensible place. The camera techniques used in the visuals seen in Murder My Sweet instills these feelings, which are common in horror films. Art cannot be rushed and cinematographer Harry Wild had a nightmarish vision for this piece, to invoke fear and chills into everyone who watched it (Dmytryk & Chandler, 1944).

The visual motifs seen across all film noir are filled with the lighting and shadow effects needed to consume the viewer with moods of paranoia, phobia, and despair. Such attributes are acknowledged in an article by Janey Place and Lowell Peterson; Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir.

“Nearly every attempt to define film noir has agreed that visual style is the consistent thread that unites the very diverse films that together comprise this phenomenon.”

These moods could not be created just by reading the script alone; the effects desired results wound not happen.”

The lighting and shadows in Murder My Sweet are typical among the horror genre. The opening sequence in the movie takes the common creation of shadows and bright light a little further with low key lighting. This technique creates a deep shadow effect which is a key tool to produce a character that is mysterious and unknown. The use of low key lighting is not uncommon among film noir, but Murder My Sweet takes it to the extreme. Other noirs like The Big Sleep and Detour utilize the same technique, but to a lesser extent resulting in a more gray monotone-like image. It all boils down to the narrative reasons, and the usage in the opening sequence makes clear to the audience that the person is crucial and sets the tone in which the viewer interprets the rest of the film.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Philip Marlowe, the main character, is shown with consistency throughout the film. His facial expressions are barely visible because the majority of his face is always in deep shadow. He has just enough light to give the impression to the viewer that he is hardcore and tough; existing in life with very little emotion. By using this type of lighting, the character gets situated such that he appears to be trapped or lost in a nightmare (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.). In the article, Towards a Definition of Film Noir, Borde and Chaumetom uses qualities like “nightmarish, weird, and cruel” as pivotal. These qualities are encompassed in the film and define Marlowe’s character; as can be seen by the way he is lit or visually manifested.

The lighting schemes used on Philip Marlowe are in direct contrast with the ones used on the female characters in the film. Not only are they in contrast with Marlowe, but also with female characters in other films; the soft diffused lighting in melodrama. This is easily noticeable in the opening sequence when Moose Malloy questions the woman in the bar. She is just sitting in direct hard light with no shadow at all. To achieve the desired results of the scene, the bright lighting gives the illusion that she is in some sort of interrogation room. The shadows in the movie suggest mystery and secrecy, so by using high key lighting, all shadows are eliminated. The way she is lit or visually manifested is to set the record straight that she has nothing to hide and does not know anything with regard to the whereabouts of Moose’s girlfriend (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.).

Jessie Florian, the second female in the first sequence, carry a little bit more shadow than the girl in the bar, but still much brighter than Marlowe. When Marlowe interrogates her at her apartment, his lighting is still deep in this setting but she is not as lit up as much. In contrast to the woman in the bar, the light shadow gives the impression that Jessie might be a little mysterious or hiding something. Though her face has a light shadow, her face is fully visible, allowing the viewer to see facial expression and think about her motive. A little snippet is when Marlowe peaks through the window after leaving to verify if she was drunk or not; she was not drunk and unsuccessful in deceiving him (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.).

The lighting and shadow differences of male and female characters continue throughout the film. The extremes and exaggerations of light and dark, low key, indicate the level of mystery of the character; in Marlowe’s case, nightmarish. Murder My Sweet transforms these normal people into twisted people living in a dark world with dark events. Borde and Chaumetom discuss the removal of “physiological reference points” to take consume the viewer, to take the viewer away from reality.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

The lighting techniques of the characters are not the only tellers of the story, the physical locations of the events are telling as well. What is so interesting is that the mood s tends to be consistently different in interior and exterior locations. The interiors of My Murder Sweet are not safe, secure, and warm. They are shot in a way that seems chilling, creepy, and ominous; filled with blinding light and deep shadows. The intent is to instill fear into the viewer that something terrible is about to happen (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.).

Even the darkest character, Marlowe, appears scared in his own office. His feelings of unease are amplified by the lighting. While in his office, he is shot or framed close up cutting out much of the office. By cropping out the rest of the office and the ominous setting created by the lighting, there is a feeling that he is not alone and that he is not in control. This chill can be seen when Marlowe sees Malloy’s reflection while staring out of the window. The sudden surprise along with no noises announcing his arrival scares him (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.).

The exterior scenes provide a much different feeling; it is more subdued with few high contrast areas. This lighting scheme, along with voice over moments, makes Marlowe feel more relaxed. The voice overs are monologues about drawing conclusions on events which have happened thus far or contemplating his next move; giving the impression that he is on top of the situation. Interior shots are consistently of close-ups, the exterior shots are created such that there is much more space. Marlowe is no longer in a boxed in setting, the wide framing allows the viewer to see much more of the scene (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.). These dynamics of space pertain to all characters, but Marlowe’s character is the most common.

Not only how the characters are represented in both dark films and horror films like Murder My Sweet are very important in setting tone, how the movie is pieced together is crucial as well. How the elements are tied together is a special craft that cannot be overlooked. Film editor Joseph Noriega was truly an artist who made a mark film noir (Mubi Online Cinema, n.d.). The movie follows the classic Hollywood structure with spatial and temporal progressions and flashbacks, but the shot to shot editing is highly irregular, as can be seen in the opening interrogation when the shots of Marlowe blindfolded are pieced together into a circular motion (Murder, My Sweet (1944), n.d.). The purpose of this style of editing is to not allow the viewer to relax.

The constant chills and paranoia felt by the viewer can only be achieved through the use visual techniques, settings, and unsettling characters. Murder My Sweet uses a dark and twisted plot to take the viewer to an alternate reality that is very uncomfortable. In his book The Dark Side of the Screen, Forest Hirsch says “American films gravitate toward a neutral rendering of a recognizable physical reality rather than toward the delirious inner landscapes, the overwrought transmutations, of full-fledged expressionism.” The camera techniques, the sounds, mise-en-scene, and editing produces an environment that is nightmarish from beginning to end.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: