Night of The Hunter – Misè-èn-Scene

The movie- Night of the Hunter (1955) directed by Charles Laughton, enthralled me with its beginning audio and visuals as the title popped on screen with the dramatic background music that gave the vibe of something thrilling about to unfold. The plot seems unknown at first as Harry Powell’s main motive is not yet revealed. This creates an element of suspense, curiosity the way Harry constantly tries to get any information out of Ben relating to the $10,000 hidden in his house. I come to realize that the character of Harry is invented in such a way that we begin to despise him and immediately title him as the villain. 

The fact that the children had to hide from Harry and the despising vibes that are pictured on their faces show us how loyal and understanding the children are of the differences between good and bad as shown in the entering scene where they’re told wolves come in sheep’s clothing. 

The element of suspense is perfectly captured in the chase sequence between john and Harry but could have been a bit more lengthened to keep the viewer engaged and in feeling of the uncertainty of whether Harry would actually capture John while he was rowing the boat.

The scene where Harry murders Willa is the perfect scene to analyse mise-en-scene. The lighting is used astoundingly to create shadows which reflect the good and the evil in both of the characters.

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Here we can see how the light makes Willa stand out from the background and  makes her look bright to foretell that she is a kind, gentle and a loving woman who just wants to please her husband.

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With Willa’s arms around her chest and being gently tucked in her bed with white bed spread and pillows also represent purity. The light focused on her face makes her seem innocent and  forgiving.

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Over here we can see how the darkness and shadows start to consume Harry and immediately get the signal that he is up to no good.

Lighting: brightness, contrasts and shadows along with other cinematic elements such as sound, editing, etc play a huge role in evoking reactions out of the audience. This scene is marked as a classic as it challenges the good old belief that the good overcomes the bad, but in this sequence, the bad overshadowed the good.

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