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Low-key lighting in Arrowsmith

by Oliver Gaycken

This clip from Arrowsmith demonstrates the use of low-key lighting during a daytime scene. At the beginning of the scene, Leora closes the doors of her house when she sees the funeral procession of victims of the plague pass her house, an action that motivates the low-key lighting. But the lighting also serves the narrative function of underscoring the presence of death in this scene. Unbeknownst to Leora, the cigarette she smokes has been contaminated, and she will die of the plague shortly after this scene, which is foreshadowed in the striking shot of her smoking with her back to the camera. This scene is a good example of the influence German expressionist filmmaking had on Ford, an influence that is also particularly evident in THE INFORMER. The television series BREAKING BAD provides contemporary examples of daytime interiors lit in a low-key manner.

Low-key lighting in Arrowsmith

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low key lighting

from Arrowsmith (1931)
Creator: John Ford
Distributor: United Artists
Posted by Oliver Gaycken