Wanita Wednesdays: the cinematography in “The Godfather”, “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Psycho”

From special guest writer Wanita.

After taking an introductory film class, Wanita wished to contribute a little of what she learned. Therefore, every Wednesday until the end of January, Wanita will be talking about a specific aspect of filmmaking or a film she enjoyed, i.e. Wanita Wednesdays! This week: the cinematography in “The Godfather”, “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Psycho”.

I used to think that a good story with good acting was what made a good film. However, that’s not the entire truth. I now see that cinematography adds so much to films, like how description makes reading a book easier to visualize. Learning about camera angles, distances and lighting really opened my eyes to what film has to offer. I think that while watching movies, most of us subconsciously note the cinematography. I’ve seen movies where I feel I’ve predicted what was to come, but now realize that there were subtle hints given through the use of cinematography. Some hints were obvious like the one in the opening scenes of “The Godfather”. The low key lighting used in the office gave the impression that shady business was being conducted which was something different and wrong compared to the wedding outside, where high key lighting was used.

The-Godfather-Poster movie

I never thought much about the influence camera distance has on films. I know that close ups give more detail, but I never thought about the information given from long shots or medium shots. I now know that a shot can have a symbolic meaning encompassed in it like the boxes seen throughout the clips of “Raise the Red Lantern”, when the main character feels isolated and trapped. I actually used to think all of this was coincidental, things were put whenever and if people could find some message behind it then all the better, but now I know it’s not.


The first time I saw “Psycho”, that scene with Norman Bates and the bird in the corner freaked me out. I didn’t connect that sense of fear with that low angle shot. That brings back to the idea that we subconsciously notice cinematography, but if we don’t know what the effects are and how they are used, we can’t connect our feeling to it.

psycho poster hitchcock


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