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Face Framed in Shadow

"He was dark, too. I don't mean dark-skinned. No, this was different. It was as if he was always walking in a shadow. I mean every step he took towards the light, just when you thought his face was about to be revealed, it wasn't. It was as if the lights dimmed... just for him."

A face half-covered by shadow, very often through a partial Lightning Reveal. Good way to emphasize a character's sinister side. This can overlap with Hidden Eyes.

Not to be confused with The Faceless, who requires full coverage of shadow all of the time.

Often called Chiaroscuro, because it uses the more general chiaroscuro effect. May be called Rembrandt lighting, because Rembrandt used it, a lot.

Stark chiaroscuro such as this is technically known as Tenebrism.

Compare Emerging from the Shadows.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The "Who Is Richard Drucker?" ad that keeps popping up on this wiki.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Death Note anime has both varieties.
  • Used with the chairman of Nergal in Martian Successor Nadesico, emphasizing his role as what amounted to the show's Big Bad... before we even knew what he was guilty of.
  • Dio looks like this through Part Three of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure... for no real reason, because we know who it is. This was done to add mystery to Dio's newly acquired Stand, whose time-stopping powers were kept secret from both the characters AND the readers for 99% of the story.
  • Vexen does this in the Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories manga.
  • Most of the time the Mad Scientist Professor Tomoe of Sailor Moon is seen with his faced obscured by a black shadow, Scary Shiny Glasses and a strange red smile.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni does this at times.
  • After a tense battle in Code Geass, Lelouch slumps exhausted against the side of a building, and talks to his second-in-command Kallen, brazenly not wearing the helmet of his Zero disguise, only from the chin up is his head bathed in shadow. It's at this point the bond of trust between him and Kallen fully crystalizes, with nothing but a few paces between Kallen and Zero's true identity.
  • Before his introduction Jack of Pandora Hearts uses this. More like, Face Framed in Shadow and Fancy Curtain, though.
  • Sgt. Frog has Kululu/Kururu, who always has a shadow over the center of his face.
  • Until his actual introduction, Father from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is always shown like this.

    Comic Books 
  • In the early decades of Batman comics, his cowl was always drawn as if his face was in shadow (i.e., the front was black, fading into blue at the back). (Some artists (and the 60s TV show) interpret this as his cowl actually being two different colors.)
  • Harvey Dent, both before and after his transformation into Two-Face, often has his face framed in shadow, either as Foreshadowing (before), mysterious effect (after), or symbolism of some sort (both)
  • Hilariously subverted in one The Far Side comic which shows a reporter saying 'Our next guest is an organized crime informant. To protect his identity, we've placed him in a darkened studio. Let's go to him now.' while in the background we see the janitor entering the darkened studio and flicking on the light...
  • DC's The Phantom Stranger doesn't wear a mask, but no matter what type of hat he's wearing it always casts a shadow over the top half of his face to achieve the same effect. Even when he's not wearing a hat at all.
  • Due to its Film Noir roots, Sin City indulges in this quite a bit. This is mostly seen in Yellow Bastard with almost every shot of John Hartigan invoking this trope.
  • In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, the Beagle Boys have their faces in shadow before they get their trademark Domino Masks, ensuring we never actually see their faces without them.
  • In The Boys the comics showing Sociopathic Hero/Villain Protagonist Butcher's Start of Darkness has several of these, most notably the absolutely terrifying one where a teenage Butcher's face is half covered in shadow (complete with the eye covered in shadow glowing ominously) when he decides to kill his father as he listens to his dad beating his mother.
  • Dark Phoenix is often drawn this way, ironic, since she gives off a lot of fire.

    Fan Fics 
  • A non visual example in the Hellraiser fanfic The Dark Angel:the crime boss that employs Scarface and later Two-Sides is almost completely hidden by the shadows in his appearances so far.

    Films — Animated 
  • Cars 2 featured a variation of this: The film's Big Bad has his entire body concealed by having his hood open wide so no one will ever see his windshield (his eyes), with the only part of his body being visible being his own engine. But then Mater figured out whose engine it was...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Almost every introduction of Harmonica into a scene in Once Upon a Time in the West is like this, especially the scene where he's revealed by a lantern being thrown into the corner of the bar where he's sitting.
  • Star Wars:
    • Luke Skywalker, in Return of the Jedi gets this while hiding during the duel with Vader, while Vader is taunting him about his sister. Presumably intended to demonstrate Luke being conflicted and tempted to give in to his anger.
    • Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith when he pledges allegiance to Palpatine.
    • For a slightly different version, Palpatine's face is shadowed by his deep hood, but only the top half—you can still see his mouth and chin just fine, and sometimes his nose. Occasionally light glints off his eyes for an overall creepy effect.
  • Apocalypse Now:
    • Kurtz throughout his appearances. Word has it Coppola did this in order to compensate for Marlon Brando's lackluster performance and the fact that he turned up for the filming morbidly obese rather than built as the script had called for.
    • There's also a shot of Martin Sheen with his face half-covered in shadow and half in light while another character is talking about how every man has both good and evil in them.
  • Darkman has a shot of this right near the end.
  • Clint Eastwood's face is often framed in shadow in The Outlaw Josey Wales, usually when someone recognizes him or says his name.
  • Citizen Kane has a few shots of Kane's face framed in shadow and stepping into light, or the other way around.
  • Dr. Gogol gets one of these in Mad Love, when he's watching one of Yvonne's shows.
  • Used by Don Diego to protect his secret identity when dressed in a padre's cowled robe… with the Zorro costume on underneath that.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull, when telling Dr. Zola about having located Dr. Erskine, is covered in shadow within a window shining light behind him. Presumably, this was intended in order to hide his true face.
    • However, he is having his portrait painted at the time, and you can see the artist's palette has only red paint
  • In Pulp Fiction, Butch Coolidge first appears with half of his face in shadow (albeit as much shadow as you can get in a strip club) as he's being offered a large sum of money to throw his upcoming boxing match.
  • The documentary U.N. Me had a former peacekeeper official at the UN supply everything he knew about his experiences as a UN peacekeeper (particularly the negative ones) in exchange for his identity to remain hidden. As such, he always is framed in shadow with a voice modifier that sounds similar to a System Lord.

    Literature 
  • Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter was introduced with one of these.
  • Raistlin Majere, the mastermind wizard from the Dragonlance chronicles. His face was often hidden in the shadows of his hood, with only his golden eyes glowing from the darkness.
  • Discworld does this with secret societies. A lot. They try for The Faceless, but generally have a hard time with it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Redemption Pt. 1", Sela, daughter of a Tasha Yar from an alternate timeline, first appears with her face half in shadow, after having appeared with her face completely covered (to conceal her identity from the audience) in a handful of previous episodes involving Romulan plots she masterminded.
  • In the LOST episode "The Shape of Things to Come," Ben Linus and Charles Widmore have a conversation in which each face is only half-visible due to the darkness of the room. This underscores the audience's uncertainty as to which character is the true villain of the piece.
  • In Horatio Hornblower, main villain Simpson is introduced with this and dramatic music.
  • In the season 3 finale of The West Wing, while President Bartlet is struggling with the decision to order an assassination, he and Leo meet in a dark corner of a brightly-lit theatre where both have half of their faces obscured by shadows. They have a brief conversation about right and wrong before Bartlet gives the order and walks out of the shadows.
  • In Rome, during the entirety of the scene where Octavian confronts a defeated Cleopatra after the death of Marc Antony, half of Octavian's face is covered in shadow. This underlies his two faced nature in the conversation, and how his polite invitation for Cleopatra to come to Rome and his assurances that her children will not be harmed are bald faced lies, despite the utter sincerity with which he says them.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE loved this trope. Almost every single promo image featured a character's face, usually the antagonist's, in the background either half-covered in shadow (sometimes dust or fog), or blended with an image of the current location.

    Video Games 
  • The teaser trailer for Myst III: Exile does this - the game's tragic villain Saavedro leans out of the shadows with a pained look on his face, sheds a single tear, then says "Hello, Atrus" and grins like a maniac. He later disappears back into the shadows, implying that he's hiding there... just waiting for you... Needless to say, the overall effect is quite chilling.
  • There are a couple times in Mass Effect 2 where this happens to Shepard. It becomes especially effective if your Shepard is a renegade, as then all you'll be able to see of the shadowed side of their face is the glowing, red scars.
    • Kasumi's face is always half-obscured by shadow thanks to the hood she wears. Seeing as how she's by far the most upbeat member of Shepard's squad and is only a few notches away from being a Genki Girl, this is probably intentionally ironic.
  • Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket, is shown with a partially-shadowed face in his Pokémon Stadium mugshot as well as the mugshot supplied in the official strategy guides for Red, Blue, and Yellow. This is likely also referenced the Pokémon anime.
  • Due to its cel-shaded nature and somewhat noir style, Killer7 has its share of shots like this.
  • In Blood, a variation of this occurs: The upper half of Caleb's face is shrouded in shadow from his hat. This is the case in the in-game sprite and in some cutscenes. For the in-game sprite, this was accomplished by painting the upper part of the model's face black (the model would later get photographed and converted to a sprite).
  • The cover for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker presents Big Boss like this. Considering this is the game where he embraces his Heel-Face Turn, it's quite appropriate.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Todd in the Shadows, a pop song critic from That Guy with the Glasses.
  • The Nostalgia Critic has this a lot in Kickassia, highlighting how his darker Drunk with Power side is consuming him.
    • More serious Rule of Symbolism version in "The Review Must Go On", as both he and Doug have half their faces obscured by darkness, while innocent sacrifice Donnie always has his in the light.
  • During "My Eyes", Doctor Horrible sings about the darkness within him growing with his face half lit by a nearby lamplight. When he sings that soon darkness will be all that remains, he steps back allowing the darkness to cover the rest of his face, so that only a few specks of light (coming from a hobo's burning trash can) hit him.
  • Agents Of Cracked's "Chief" purposefully puts a lamp behind him to create this effect in his office, which works in tandem with a voice distorter.

    Western Animation 
  • Slade from Teen Titans has this all the time, regardless of lighting conditions, because it's built into his mask.
  • The end of "Almost Got 'im" from Batman: The Animated Series has a variant. When it's revealed that Killer Croc is really Batman, a swinging ceiling light casts a shadow over Croc's face and you see Batman's face framed in shadows. Paul Dini even admits on the dvd commentary that it made no sense, but it was just so cool they had to do it.
  • From Kim Possible: "Father? Why are you sitting in the dark?"
    • To elaborate: This was in the episode where Senor Senior Senior arranges for Senor Senior Junior to be tutored in villainy by Shego because he notices that he is severely underqualified in that department. It works a bit too well, as now Senor Senior Junior is shutting Senior out of his life. Because of this, namely out of jealousy, he ends up sending an anonymous tip about Junior and Shego's intention of stealing the Granny Bakery recipe before Kim Possible attempts to help, by sending a video message to the company while in the dark. Junior walks in on his father doing this, and, not quite realizing what his father is doing, asks why he is sitting in the dark, turns on the lights, with Senior rushing to turn off the lights during the last second of the video.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts," Smithers, a'la Deepthroat, is in shadow while telling Bart and Lisa to "follow the names," trying to offer as little information as possible about who his identity is other than that he was one of the people in Sideshow Bob's campaign. Unfortunately for him, Homer chose that moment to drive up and activate the front lights of his car.
  • Von Reichter's face is always like this in Cyber Six, save for his glowing monocle and bright yellow eye.


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alternative title(s): Rembrandt Lighting
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