"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
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- The "Who Is Richard Drucker?" ad that keeps popping up on this wiki.
- Saul Bass's two-tone redesign of the Quaker logo covered up the right half of the Quaker Man's face with the background blue color.
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.
- In Act 2 of Sailor Moon Crystal, this is twice used to communicate emotional agitation
- Evil Queen Beryl's eyes and left side of her face are shadowed during her testy scolding of her minion Jadeite in her throne room
- Afterwards, a troubled Jadeite has the right side of his face in shadow after sending off his second youma.
- The technique has been used by many 16th and 17th century painters, including Rembrandt Van Rijn and Caravaggio.
- 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.
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix is often drawn this way; ironic, since she gives off a lot of fire.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Persistence of Vision" the crew encounters an alien who greets them this way, which Captain Janeway puts down to psychological warfare. When he does step into the light, Janeway is shocked to see her fiance Mark whom she left back on Earth, as the alien is a telephatic Enthralling Siren.
- 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.
- In the Supernatural episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Sam and Dean get this treatment while in the Impala on a rainy night.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Vice Project Doom, one half of the villain's looming face isn't even drawn in the opening cutscene.
- The Real Is Brown aesthetics of Akatsuki Blitzkampf use this trope LOTS of times. In example we have Akatsuki's intro◊ and portrait◊, Murakumo's intro◊ and ending◊, Fritz's ending◊...
- Todd in the Shadows, a pop song critic from That Guy with the Glasses. Todd is always backlit, so he projects a silhouette to the camera. In crossovers and live appearances, he wears a black mask that obscures all of his face except his mouth.
- 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.