Night Of The Hunter Analysis

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Released in 1955, The Night of the Hunter tells the story of a violent preacher named Harry Powell, played by Robert Mitchum, and his search for money hidden in the home of Willa Harper, played by Shelley Winters, and her children. It is this greed which compels Powers to marry and then murder Willa and pursue her children as they escape along the Ohio River. The film is famed screen actor and stage director Charles Laughton’s only directed film, and while a failure with audiences and critics at the time, it has risen to critical praise in recent decades. In particular, critics praise Laughton, and his cinematographer Stanley Cortez, for their use of stage lighting techniques to provide an eerie and gothic quality to the film which critic Roger Ebert called it a “stylized nightmare”. It is through this lighting aesthetic, the visual language of duality and shadows, which Laughton and…show more content…
Not only is this the traditional location of God in most Christian depictions of the Almighty, but Laughton reinforces the tradition through Powell looking up while communicating with God, from conversing in one of the opening scenes to praying later on. Laughton furthers this idea through lighting, almost every indoor shot in this film uses high ceilings with light streaming down in one direction, creating an extreme triangle. This gothic use of lighting shows God’s presence in every moment as Laughton depicts Him through the light. Laughton illustrates this omnipresence in an emotional early scene, wherein a hangman talks about how he feels guilt for all the deaths he has performed. God's light streams down illuminating only him and excluding his wife to whom he is talking. Another director would choose to light both equally, but Laughton does not. This choice focuses on the audience on how the light represents God’s judgement of the man which is what is causing the main to feel
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