Mamma Mia – Lighting – School Blog

One of the things musicals embrace when they are telling their stories on film is that they are brightly lit and tend to be colorful, even when dark. Mamma Mia manages to embrace the scenery of a Greek island and an upbeat situation, all while going for darker storylines that are usually outdone by how over the top the whole thing can be.

The story is about a woman losing her daughter to marriage, a hotel that is going under, a daughter who does not know her own father, and friends and family all coming together for a supposedly joyous occasion.

In one of the first musical numbers sung by Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia she finds out that the three men she had a love affair with twenty years ago are all staying in a room upstairs.

This scene uses light colors and the “daylight” sense to make it as bright and bubbly as the song presumes. Again, she’s singing about men who broke her heart and left her, one of them leaving her with a child to raise on her own. Besides the catch tune, what will keep people from weighing too heavily on the underlying dark story here? Obviously the lighting. Imagine the scene set at night, her trying to sneak a peak by candlelight or moonlight, it wouldn’t hold the same feeling, the same contentment with an amusing situation.

In a later scene Amanda Seyfriend’s character has a moment she had been waiting for through the movie. One of the three men she believes to be her father tells her he’s her father, and he’s walking her down the aisle at her wedding the next day. At first she’s excited.

After all three men tell her they are walking her down the aisle and that they are her father, it starts to eat at her. She’s dancing and growing dizzy. The cover of night makes up this scene and the lighting is all done in disco dazzles and neon coloring to highlight the type of music that is playing and her quickened descent at being overwhelmed. Again, while the darker sound of the music helps play a role, this would be a different scene if played in the light of day and admitted in a less dizzying way. The dizzy lighting helps the audience connect with the way the character on screen is feeling.

Being that Mamma Mia is a musical, most musical numbers in the genre rely heavily on lighting. Sure, the perfect song has to sit into the movie, but every musical scene is like watching a music video. A music video could lose its audience easily with the wrong story being told. Theater is often brought to life in the musical movie genre, and while I would not say that technique is repeated in every movie, the lighting helps cast a somber feeling, a feeling of joy, a feeling of giddiness, as the beat plays out the emotions of the characters.


Mamma mia poster. (2013, May 21). Retrieved March 12, 2015, from

Marylouisestreep00. (2008, October 5). Mamma mia! From Mamma mia the movie (FULL video/song). Retrieved March 12, 2015, from

WomanGB Random Channel. (2008, October 25). Voulez Vous – Mamma Mia! The Movie – FULL VIDEO. Retrieved March 12, 2015, from


Posted on March 12, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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