Ever since the release of Academy Award-winning The Artist in November of 2011, the existence of modern movies in black and white has become more noticeable, with the possibility of it even being able to be defined as a trend. Evidently, the film that won the Oscar for Best Picture last year was a silent film, but numerous filmmakers have made the decision to simply shoot their latest projects in black and white.
It is difficult to speculate why so many recent films have been released without color, but one may not help but appreciate this trend. Since many of these films are independent releases, it is possible that a specific group of filmmakers merely wants to diverge from the direction that Hollywood is headed and simply bring back the beauty and elegance of black-and-white cinema.
Nonetheless, beauty has been achieved in the critically acclaimed dramedy film Frances Ha released in May of this year. Co-written by and starring Greta Gerwig, the film is set in New York City and deals with Gerwig’s character’s silent struggle to find herself. The absence of color in this film definitely adds even more charm to the story, answering the question of its purpose.
Centennial English teacher Joanne Nielsen believes that the effectiveness of shooting in black and white depends on the director’s motive for the film. “Other movies like Much Ado About Nothing have been using black and white, and I think it has a great vintage feel, and it makes us think about what we’re watching, but I don’t know if it really adds to the film,” said Nielsen.
Other recent American films shot in black and white include Joss Whedon’s modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Alexander Payne’s dramedy Nebraska set to hit theaters on November 22, which was reported to have been filmed in black and white to create an “iconic, archetypal look.”
Although many of the films that have followed this trend were produced in the United States, other countries have joined the movement and created their own black and white releases. The British Civil War film A Field in England and the Brazilian biographical drama Heleno about the late Brazilian soccer star Heleno de Freitas are among them. Interestingly enough, Heleno was produced by Rodrigo Teixeira, the same man who produced Frances Ha. This indicates that the whole world is connected in this movement.
If more films will be released following this trend, it is difficult to tell, but as long as the absence of color contributes to the feel of the movie, modern audiences will continue to welcome black and white films.