Black, White, and Gray

        The use of the black and white film was an integral part of the realism of the film A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan in 1951 and based on Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play. The harsh contrast between black and white in the film, as filmed by Harry Stradling, is part of what makes the scenes in the apartment seem more effective. Another effect that they used was the close ups of Blanche when she would get upset. It gave into the feeling of the insanity that Blanche was going through. The film makers also captured the claustrophobic feeling that Blanche was experiencing by using close ups and moving the sets closer together.

        Most notable is the contrast of the white of Blanche (Vivien Leigh) and the black of Stanley (Marlon Brando). The light colored costumes that Blanche wore, the blond hair, all showed her trying to seem pure and clean. Her bathing all the time I also think, staged after her arriving with Stella, was an attempt to cleanse her from the dirty surroundings. The dark work clothes and greasy, sweat-soaked shirts Stanley wore had the tendency to make me assume he was portrayed to be in a lower class than Blanche and Stella. I think this was the obvious intention of the film makers.

        It was also obvious that the film makers had Stella (Kim Hunter) dressed in light clothing so she would be portrayed as a higher class than Stanley although she never comes out and says it. He has “pulled her from them white columns,” but in reality he has not she still thinks herself in some ways better than him, even thought she almost never lets him know. The neighbors and Mitch (Karl Malden) were mostly dressed in mid-tones of grays. I think that this was to convey to the audience that they were not on the level of Stanley but yet not as refined as Blanche and Stella had been at one time.

        I think the film makers did a great job making Blanche and Stella appear to be complete opposites but yet at the same time mirror images of each other. The subtle changes in the camera angles lend the viewer to feel what the actors feel. I think this was a great example of a brilliant director.

Kristin Anderson

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