The use of lighting in The Natural is a tool used to help tell the story. Everything commonly associated with light and dark applies to how these elements are used within the movie. This is more evident when one sees how consistent light and dark are used within the film.
Light and dark may be used throughout The Natural, but they are continually used in association with one character each. Those will be discussed below, but first I want to take a look at the use of dark silhouettes against a backdrop or scene of some kind. Roy Hobbs appears as a dark silhouette with four characters, Pop Fisher, Max Mercy, Memo Paris, and Iris Gaines. All of these need to be interpreted in view of the first dark silhouette, Roy Hobbs by himself.
Fifteen years after being shot, Hobbs walks out of a clubhouse tunnel and into a Major League dugout. This silhouette represents Hobbs coming out of the darkness that took place in the Chicago hotel that kept him out of the game for a decade and a half. So each time Roy is darkly silhouetted with someone else, it harkens back to this effulgent leit motif.
Hobbs is in the same tunnel when Fisher threatens to send him down to the minors, which is the same as being out of the game altogether. Hobbs is in a different tunnel after he knocked the cover off the ball when he is approached by Mercy and asked about his past. Hobbs is one beach late at night with Paris, who is a type of Harriet Bird. Hobbs kisses Paris under a boardwalk and his hitting slump begins. After Hobbs breaks the clock in Wrigley Field, he speaks honestly to Iris about his past, and the scene takes place in still a different tunnel.
While Bird and Paris wear black dresses, the use of darkness as a utility of lighting is found most often with the Judge. Symbolically, he represents the devil. In one sense, he is the villain of the story. But in another sense, he is the source of temptation within The Natural.
He tempts with money, but more to the point, he tempts people to give up their better self for something lesser and the unfulfilled promise of much more. In this he not only goes after Hobbs, but also claims Sands, Mercy, Paris, and even Pop Fisher. The darkness hides what the Judge is really up to and his true motives. And like the darkness of the tunnels, it represents what would keep Hobbs out of the game.
Iris Gaines represents Hobbs in his youth when he was The Natural and his childlike desire to play for the love of the game. She is also a foil to both Bird and Paris. Not only is she always wearing white and well-lit (with the single exception of the tunnel), she foils the Judge in that she represents an angel. When she stands at Wrigley Field, she wears a light mesh hat. With the sun behind, she looks like she has a halo around her head. She brings him back to the purity of the game and even chides his hubris.
The Natural is a great film that well executes lighting to help convey the tale of Roy Hobbs. The use of darkened silhouettes as well as the more explicit well lit and intentionally dark scenes add layers of symbolism and metaphor to the subtext of the movie.