There is some fascinating lighting work on display in Blonde Venus, a Marlene Dietrich star vehicle about a stage performer stifled by the patriarchy. The tedious home life of Dietrich’s Helen is all shadows and bursts of overexposed light, a harsh and jarring atmosphere that evaporates as she takes the stage. Characters move naturally about the set, sometimes going in and out of their light to the point of being completely obscured. This may be a distracting technique of examining the oppressive forces working against Helen’s hunger for the stage, but it also speaks to the path of the artist.
Of course, this effect only highlights Dietrich’s magnetism. If the lighting is a literal representation of the desire to create, then Helen is as much chasing the spotlight as the spotlight is chasing her.