The movie, “The Night of the Hunter” directed by Charles Laughton’s in 1955 is unique because of it’s lyric and expressionistic style from other movies of that era. Taking place in West Virginia, a married man named Harper is arrested for robbing a bank for $10,000 and killing two people. He scurries home to hide the money inside his daughters doll and makes her and her brother John to never tell anyone where it is and that it is theirs when they are old enough to use it. While in jail, Harper meets a man named Powell whom he shares his cell with. After his execution – Powell becomes determined to woo his widowed wife and steal the money. However as the story progresses, Harper’s wife Willa becomes convinced that he was only in the relationship for the money. After her discovery, Powell kills her and tries pressuring the kids into revealing where it is with no success. Eventually a stand off occurs between Powell and a woman named Rachel Cooper who doesn’t trust him and he is arrested, and then sentenced to death.
There are many cinematography scenes in this movie that help convey the mood of horror. In addition to the cinematography, the fact that the film is in black and white I believe helps stress the menacing and maniac characteristics of Powell. One of my favorite scenes was when the DOP captured a street lamp casting Powell silhouette as a shadow on the walls in the children bedroom. In the first image, we see Powell's daunting head largerand at a higher level than John's strongly suggesting the boys fear. Another scene that contains expressionistic elements is when the Preacher tries to chase John and Pearl up the stairs conveying a sense of horror and humor after he trips falls, and catches his fingers in a door. This so far has to be one of my favorite expressionism films I’ve seen because of the imagery and unlike The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari it was filmed in America and is easier to relate to. In hindsight of this movie composition and mood defiantly struck out the most to me as a viewer. Also, the strong horror elements I believe made it difficult for the audience of the time to appreciate these expressionistic elements.
The Night of the Hunter. Dir. Charles Laughton. Perf. Robert Mitchum, Shelley
Winters, Lillian Gish. 1955. Film