Film light

Meaning and emotion

By Lara Thompson

Film light


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8633-5
  • Pages: 172
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: October 2015
  • BIC Category: Film history, theory & criticism, PHOTOGRAPHY / Techniques / Lighting, PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism, The arts / Film theory & criticism, Film and Media


In one of the first monographs of its kind to focus on the aesthetic and emotional impact of lighting in cinema, Lara Thompson looks at the way light informs the cinematic experience, from constructing star identities, sculpting natural light and creating imaginary worlds, to the seductive power of darkness, fading representations of the past and arresting twilight encounters.

This groundbreaking and accessible introductory study offers a unique insight into the way illumination has transcended its diffuse functional boundaries and been elevated to a position of narrative and emotional importance, transforming it from an unobtrusive element of film style to an expressive and essential component. It includes analyses of over fifty renowned international films, discussed in inventive and illuminating combinations, from cinema's earliest moments to its most recent digital manifestations, and is essential reading for all those who want to understand what film light means and how it makes us feel.


'In this fascinating study, Lara Thompson unfurls the history and expressive potential of cinematic lighting. Thompson's nuanced readings, which span screen images from the silent to the post-digital era, are both complex and accessible, extending beyond formal analysis to engage with our experience of light and its significance in moving image culture. An exciting contribution to the field, Film light invites us to take a fresh look at the power of light in the cinema.'
Pam Cook, Professor Emerita in Film at the University of Southampton

'Thompson's careful choice of case studies and their contribution to the argument continually bring questions of materiality into dialogue with film aesthetics and film history. In the book's perhaps most engaging chapter, she explores the way in which light and darkness mingle at dawn and dusk, suggesting that these threshold moments illuminate cinema's own liminality. This is a passionately written as well as intellectually acute work.'
Laura Mulvey, Professor of Film and Media Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London


Part I: The presence of light
1. Identity
2. Authenticity
3. The imaginary
Part II: The absence of light
4. Mystery
5. The past
6. The magic hour


Lara Thompson is a writer and lecturer whose research focuses primarily on the relationship between cinema and photography

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