Cinematography In "The Night Of The Hunter"

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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The Night of the Hunter directed Charles Laughton, was a major step into the cinematography industry. Our first clue to this is how the movie was shot in black and white and kept that way. As the movie progresses you see various special effects, sounds, music, camera angles, and surroundings.

The movie opens when Ben Harper committed murder for $10,000. He hides the money and makes daughter Pearl and son John promise not to tell anyone where it is hidden, not even their mother Willa. He does this to help ensure that his kids will get the money and not some vengeful villain. After he has been taken away to prison and awaiting hanging, Ben meets his cellmate, the Preacher, who unsuccessfully tries to get Ben to reveal where he stashed the money. When Preacher is released from prison he heads for the Harper home, intent on finding the money.

Preacher charms Willa and they get married. The Preacher kills Willa when she learns his motives. With only the kids Pearl and John separating him from a small fortune, the Preacher unleashes the full force of his true, evil self. After many incidents to try to get the money, he does fail and gets killed.

The lead cinematographer Stanley Cortez, uses excellent camera angles and lighting to display the content portrayed in this film. The movie itself is was shot in West Virginia, and made so it's a gloomy out of reality type of film. The camera angles are also excellent. When the Preacher is discussing things with Willa in the bedroom, the camera angles make it as if the steeple in a church is there. This perhaps, might related to the preachers deceiving ways and his "Good" and "Evil" sides. The camera angles also make a huge impression on the moviegoers, during the basement scene, when The Preacher has cornered Pearl and John. He uses the camera in such a way as to create shadows. This also can be linked to "Good" and "Evil." Other than the camera angles used in the film, he also uses extremely appropriate music to also portray the mood of the film. He also uses the deep voice of The Preacher, played by Robert Mitchum, when The Preacher is riding his horse and singing the hymn "Leaving." Another facet in this film that helps one feel the mood of the movie is the imagery used. The use of the doll to hide the money is symbolism. The doll symbolizes the security blanket for Pearl. It is not a place that many would suspect money to be hidden, and one would not think of taking someone's security blanket away and purposely destroy it to find the money. Also some of the scenes in the film that get stuck in our minds include the horrific detail of The Preachers victim Willa. It also sets the amazing tone incorporated in this movie.

Overall The Night of The Hunter was a pioneer movie. All these cinematographic effects are relatively simple to perform, but hard to incorporate into the thick plot of a movie. The Night of The Hunter by far does this best out of all thriller, or drama movies. The movie characterizations are excellent, even in minor roles, such as the "typical townspeople". This movie is one of those movies that will be in your mind for a long time. It is not for the immature, as the frightening parts are too much like real life and might leave unsettling memories.