Posted 12 December 2005 - 06:58 PM
Well, a wide shot seen from outside of a window looking in may suggest someone's POV (ala "Rear Window") or it may be an emotionally distancing effect (sort of like a God's Eye POV, but not from above). It may be using architecture to suggest the "entrapment" of the characters in their environment, or it may suggest a warm & cosy interior surrounded by a cold & harsh world outside. Or it may suggest vulnerability (glass houses, nowhere to hide, etc.) or it may suggest protection (safe in their castle.)
Or it may just be there to tell the audience where they are...
Usually a soft or hard light is supposed to be suggesting a realistic source that would be hard or soft, rather than for symbolic effect, but it can be BOTH for a realistic effect and to suggest something.
The Japanese occupation scenes in "The Last Emperor" are generally hard-lit with strong blue accents to suggest a sort of moral ambiguity or the conflict between good & bad, as in Film Noirs / German Expressionism -- as opposed to the soft-lit childhood scenes.
Hard lighting tends to make a shot look sharper, crisper and therefore suggest harshness to life, living in the glare of the spotlight so to speak - unless it is used more to create big shadows, of course. The only time hard light may suggest happiness is on a sunny day, but even there are exceptions to that. Ingmar Bergman hates sunshine and says it makes him feel uneasy, hence why the opening nightmare of "Wild Strawberries" was shot at midnight in full sun during the longest day of the year in northern Sweden -- he wanted an unreal feeling of harsh sunlight in an empty street.