It Matters if Itís Black and White

†††††††† The movie The Innocents, based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw and directed by Jack Clayton, was filmed in 1961. Despite the fact that most movies at the time were made in color, the film makers decided to shoot this particular movie in black and white; this was a good choice for this particular production. It adds to the over all affect of the movie and adds to the horror.

†††††††† The absence of bright colors adds to the sinister feel of the movie. Shadows appear everywhere; objects themselves appear to be shadows at times. The garden, which is full of flowers, bushes, and trees of varying colors and shades, instead hides disturbing statues and all sorts of ghostly evils. This outcome would be difficult to achieve in a garden full of greens and reds and other vibrant, lively colors.

†††††††† The effect of the ghosts is also more menacing with the absence of color. They appear lonely as in the case of Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) or threatening like Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). This may not be so if Miss Jessel were wearing a blue dress or if Quint's pants were navy blue. Instead the colors are muted and mystified by the absence of color. If the film had been in color, the film makers might have had to resort to using stereotypical billowy or torn garments to express that theses creatures are ghouls. Instead the ghouls are solid and imposing, thus adding to the suspense and horror felt by the protagonist, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr).

†††††††† The absence of color does not subtract from the movie at all. The brain naturally wants to fill in color. Flora's (Pamela Franklin) dress becomes vibrant blue in the mind; the flowers that continually drop petals when Miss Giddens touches them are pure white with dark green stems. In addition, black and white is not really black and white but gray scale; the density of the gray gives hints to the brain as to the actual color of the object. Thus nothing is lost either by using black and white film.

†††††††† Over all the film is enormously enhanced by the absence of actual color. It makes the movie much more menacing and horrifying.

Sandra Way

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