In 1945, Mildred Pierce was made, combing elements of Film Noir and soap opera melodrama. This film illustrates perhaps the most common theme, betrayal. Mildred Pierce is about mistaken identities. Mildred Pierce explores social and sexual anxieties which force Mildred to convince herself that her fantasy is her reality: that Veda, Bert, and Monty truly love her. In this film, the director demonstrates that in a patriarchal society in post-war America, a woman stepping out of her gender roles may have devastating consequences. The audience feels the theme of betrayal in this movie from the use of high contrast, low-key lighting and Veda portraying the femme fatale.
Lighting and chiaroscuro reinforce the theme of betrayal by making the audience question the intentions of the characters and reevaluate what is going on in a given scene. The director shocks and betrays the audience immediately after the opening credits. At the beginning of the movie, there is a nice, peaceful shot of the ocean waves crashing onto the shore in front of a beach house as the credits fade in and out. After the audience has been relaxed by this scene, it cuts to Monty being shot dead by an unknown character. This scene contrasts and conforms to the conventions of film noir. The unconventional high key lighting of the ocean shot followed by Monty being shot cause the audience to trust the characters with caution because they will not know what to expect next through the rest of the film. Immediately after, as Mildred walks along the docks, the dark, crashing waves accentuates the drab expression of Mildred. Another example of lighting is when Mildred and Wally are talking in the beach house. Although Mildred and Wally both have positive attitudes toward each other, the shadows from the scene's lighting insinuate the dark turn their friendship will take. The entire inside of the beach house has patches of light and darkness from lamps.