The opening scene of The Godfather called out to me in terms of lighting used for maximum effect. As we all know, the scene begins in darkness – then we see the face of a man, a troubled man who begins to tell the story of how his daughter was beaten. The light is shining directly above him, only casting light on parts of his face and leaving the rest in shadow. This, to me, conveys that he is doing something wrong. He is in darkness, almost “lurking in the shadows” if you will. He is asking for murder. As the scene progresses, the camera loosens and we see more of the room. It is still dark and the light is only shining on the man in the chair. As the man continues to tell the story, we see a new figure – but only his hand and side profile. This new figure is in the shadows still. The new figure is Don Corleone, The Godfather.
This scene is a great introduction to the film. It immediately gives the audience a sense that the activity that goes on in this group is not what we would call “legal.” The lighting in this scene does a lot for the story. It shows the dark side of the Corleone family, and it becomes more apparent especially when juxtaposed with the following outdoor party scene. The lighting in this first scene is mainly for dramatic effect, to draw attention to the man’s story, as well as the introduction to the darkness and violence that comes along with the Corleone family.