Film Noir isn’t a pretty watch, it makes the viewer feel intentionally uncomfortable. The audio and the lighting play a key part in this. As DOP my duty is to create this unnerving feel to the film.
The visual style should reflect the characters and their motives. Our femme fatale, Maddy, will have her own lighting. First she will appear well lit, innocent a softbox to give her a romantic blur, a sparkle in her eyes.
As her character shift through the film and the audience learn of her betrayal, the lighting changes angle, dark shadows creep across her face. She is not the delicate creature we were mistaken to believe at the beginning. Similar to The Killers directed by Robert Siodmak, were the femme fatale Kitty follows the money.
With Johnny a the technique is reversed, he begins as a dark character, a lot of shadow will be cast on his face.
As the position of the characters begin to change Johnny becomes the unaware victim. The light will reflect his stupidity.
Similar to Detour, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer were the main character Al finds himself in a compromising position and is blackmailed by the femme fatale, Vera.
“Behind the lens.” This is how I created the blind effect.
Placing card with cut out slots infront of the light I have created a “blind” lighting effect. This is a popular trick in Noir to create interesting shadows. Again this is low key, just using a 300 watt Arri light placed to the side of the subject.
The 650 arri light bleaches out the detail of the subject, although I want a lot of contrast this is just appears featureless.
I did a few trials of different lighting styles to give me an idea of how to light the restaurant scene. Here I’m just using one light placed at the side of the subject from a height. It’s low key lighting that creates a strong contrast and long shadows. This is a Arri 300 light, with the spot and the barn doors almost completely closed over.
My decision on location will be whether to just use the traditional one key light, or have another one bouncing off a reflector to shed more light on the restaurant.