As ground breaking as Willis’ lighting
was, the subtle techniques we would use for lighting the main characters in the
film would be a new approach in his cinematography and cinema in general up to
that point. Nobody would separately light individuals based on their
characteristics and arcs, but Willis found ‘The
Godfather’ to be a perfect platform in this family based gangster epic to
experiment.

 

Michael Corleone’s face remains
relatively bright lit for most of the film, but as he starts mixing up in the
family business, his face slips in and out of the dark as his innocent and
villainous sides wrestle to dominate him. Only in the romantic, Sicilian
section does Michael break away to a softer, subtler light that seems to offer
the chance to a care-free, richly coloured happiness. But the fantasy of escape
quickly becomes an illusion as his wife dies in a car bomb. By the end of the
film, the shadows over his eyes signal that his darkness has eclipsed his
light. When becoming the new Godfather, his face is shrouded in the dark, more
hidden and menacing than his father ever was.

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