Les Mis

Movie goers and friends,

I begin with my grading and student work sprawled over my kitchen table. A glass of water almost empty (or partially full). My fan running for no real reason. My mind trying to stay focused before I call it a night. 


I want to welcome you all to the next stage of CInema Sunset. As many of you know, I lead a film club at the high school I work at. We graciously call our club “Cinema Sunset.” Last week, my students and I, watched the first half of Les Mis directed by Tom Hooper. While we continued our study of mise en scene  (See Lee Daniel’s The Butler post for a more thorough definition), which is everything you seen on screen during one shot, we aimed our eye towards the function and use of lighting. 


In the world of film, there are two general types of lighting: high key lighting and low key lighting. High key lighting is when there is a bright shot. There are limited to no shadows. The screen is typically even in terms of lighting. Low key lighting features a contrast of light and shadow. If there are shadows in one part of the frame and brightness in the other, that is a sign of low key lighting. Here are examples:

Note: Low key lighting is often used in suspense films, film noir, and other thriller movies. 


Lighting greatly influences the tone and mood of the film. It helps convey the emotions of the characters and aids character development. The following are the words of my students as they watched Les Mis, Note their fake names!


“Lighting is important because it changes the mood by making emotion.” –Anah-Bannah 

“Lighting is a key element to mis-en-scene. Depending on the lighting in a certain scene often represents the mood that it is meant to portray, such as light silhouetting a villain in the movie, making them appear more powerful, especially if the light comes from above. A dark scene with little light represents a scene meant to be scary, sad, or depressing, just as light coming from one side of the screen, with a character going toward them, represents hope for whatever that character that is in the scene. It takes a good eye to understand what lighting in a certain scene is meant to represent, but when you see it, its easy to do with any other movie. Farewell”–Sweety Poo

“Lighting creates many emotions such as dark for terror, grief, sadness, and anger. Lighter usually creates innocence, freedom, or righteousness. Les Miserables portrays a lot of light changes throughout scenes. In many of the songs when there is a change in emotion the lighting changes based on it.” –Dan


“The lighting in Les Miserables is very specific and portrays many different meanings. There lighting transitions in the movie that goes with the theme of the movie. For example, the protagonist is a very good person with good intentions, however he always seems to find himself in bad situations, so he is in the dark with lighting shining on his face.” –Ali-Cat

“Lighting is important to movies. Lighting shows the character’s emotions. Lighting also shows the character’s personality, and what they are like. Lighting can show the mood of the story.” –Dez-Baby


“Light effects the characters portrayed. For example, most protagonists are light and empowered. The antagonist is dark and depressing.” –Big Daddy Loop

“The lighting so far for the move symbolizes the emotion/feeling of the characters, but for Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, sometimes it’s based off their past. So, lighting in this movie symbolizes the mood of that scene or character.” –Ja-cob


“The lighting expresses the inner character, whether in dark situations or light, the inner character will show. The face of good inner characters is light while the darker/antagonist face is darker. Not everyone is bad though, more like struggling to do the good thing…law wise and moral wise. Good movie so far.” –Booky Nerd


“The light was many different contrasts for different characters. When moods changed or personalities changed, it went dark to light.” –Deigo


Those are the words of my Cinema Sunset members. There will be more to come. Continue reading to see them grow and develop as movie analysts! 


I end with my cup now empty. My head aching. My phone beeping at the sound of a text message and my student work and grading still sprawled on my kitchen table. 


’til next time,