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Shadow Play in “Killer’s Kiss” and “The Hitch-Hiker”

The movies Killer’s Kiss and The Hitch-Hiker both have cinematographic elements that portray the mood and aesthetic of noir, but the two most common are shadows that bring attention to the foreground and that add to the character or scene portrayed. It helps that both are black and white movies, so the shadows are accentuated and night scenes naturally look more moody than if they were color films.

killers kiss1This first photo is towards the beginning of Killer’s Kiss, and show the elements of noir through the venetian blinds that cast a shadow on the character (Vincent). The filtered light makes the scene more melodramatic because Vincent is just sulking in his office alone. There is also light coming from across the room, but the way his body is tilted away from the light in the room and towards the light from the blinds makes deeper shadows across his face, while still allowing the viewer enough light to see what is happening. Later in the scene he sits completely in the dark, and it is hard to see him at all. Here the light is important because it shows that Vincent smokes cigars and drinks, which tells us something about his character.

This second photo is later in Killer’s Kiss during the fight scene at the mannequin factory. The killers kiss2shadows of the hands on the wall are incredibly dramatic (and really creepy) so that it almost looks like someone is trying to grab Davey (which technically is true). This is furthered by the fact that they were swinging slightly, but you can’t see that in a still shot. By standing against the wall and turning his head, there is also a distinct shadow of Davey on the wall, and most of the side of his face is in shadow. Additionally, the rest of the shot is completely black, which gets rid of any unwanted distraction and focuses completely on the character. The darkness also has the added benefit of deepening the shadow effect, which heightens the drama.

the hitchhikerThe last still shot is from The Hitch-Hiker, sometime during their long car journey. I found that this movie had less classically noir shots in it because they are out in the bright sun a lot of the time with plain rocks in the background. This seemed less like our discussions of the noir mood, so I found a shot of them in the car. Like the other shots, the shadows in this image are the driving force behind the mood of the scene. Over half of Myers’ face is hidden in shadow, while there is light on the other two in the front seat. The lighting works by clearly showing who the good guys are and who the bad guy is (if you hadn’t figured that out by halfway through the movie). The car itself is black which adds to the darker shadows. Once again, there is not much happening in the background, so the people in the car are the only thing to look at (you can’t even see the ends of the car). This intense focus, coupled with deep shadows are themes that all three shots have that are classic examples of noir in cinematography.

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