Help me find examples of powerful or sinister lighting
May 1, 2018 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in the way light fixtures can project power or authority. I'm looking for images of powerful and/or sinister lighting and fixtures from film, art and architecture.

Images, books, videos with good references all welcome.
posted by fake to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you asking only about physical instruments of lighting, or are you also asking about dramatic lighting effects? E.g., the campaign speech in Citizen Kane.
posted by praemunire at 10:49 AM on May 1

Here's a nice 12 minute video essay on composition in Jonathan Demme's Talking Heads concert movie. He talks about more than lighting, but it's particularly dynamic and interesting (and sinister) in the song he discusses.
posted by caek at 11:07 AM on May 1

The Nazis created a stunning/terrifying "cathedral of light" at the Nuremberg rallies.

Not entirely unrelated. there were great examples of lighting and projections at Roger Waters' The Wall shows over the past few years.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun at 11:18 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Not a specific reference, but as a search term you might get some mileage out of the phrase "low-key lighting." Despite the name, it refers to a lighting style that is often used to portray a harsh, alienating feel in film and TV.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:51 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

I'm more interested in the physical instruments of lighting than dramatic effects (or Hollywood-focused tutorials), but I am still interested in exceptional examples/images of effects. Jellybean_Slybun's answer is perfect, it encompasses both a dramatic display and specific hardware.
posted by fake at 11:56 AM on May 1

The gas lighting effects in Gaslight (link has close-ups of the lamps used)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:55 PM on May 1

Sort of architecture-related: innocent twigs and unassuming uplights combine forces to frame the long walk to the most sinister Christmas tree? I'd feel as if I was offering myself up for sacrifice just walking down the hall to look at it. I mean...that ceiling.

The people who light Gotham, the tv show, deserve all the awards. The light, and lack thereof, is spectacular, and is a character in itself. I can't even describe it, but every frame is like straight out of a comic book. The lighting is by turns moody, dark, claustrophobic, enveloping, hostile.
posted by the webmistress at 1:05 PM on May 1

Browse through /r/evilbuildings. Sinister lighting is a favorite theme there.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:11 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

You should check out John Alton's book Painting With Light. It's an excellent reference on classic cinematic lighting techniques.
posted by cleverevans at 2:44 PM on May 1

The Terry Gilliam movie Brazil features much sinister lighting.
posted by ejs at 8:13 AM on May 2

Check older music videos. They were generally done cheaply, so scenes of contrasting light and shadow were common techniques.

Echo and the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon is an example, but I'm sure there are others.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:53 AM on May 2

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