Sunday, November 30, 2014

Colorized Movies

Colorized movies are a good example of something that should not be done just because it’s possible. The violence done to artistic intention neutralizes a film as art. When a photographer frames a scene in black and white the composition flows with the distribution of light and shadow that sets a mood that emphasizes significant relationships within the scene. Colorizing heightens the separation of things. Shifting the attention to the objects distorts the original intention of the scene by removing the powerful emotional influence exerted by that original mood. Before we know what we’re looking at the body has responded to the space it’s confronted with and adjusted to what’s expected of it. Our inner consciousness of this adjustment is what is experienced as a mood or feeling. As neuroscientist Candace Pert says” Our body IS our unconscious mind.”

Color has its own power over emotions by affecting the physical body. Red is known to stimulate and blue to slow the chemical reactions in the body that register as our vital signs. Perhaps the relaxation is necessary to the creativity blue has also fostered while the heightened focus found with red is the expected result of a stimulant. Instead of artful use of this power colorized movies reflect the colors we expect from the world.  As Gregory Bateson said, "Information is the difference that makes a difference.” What gets our attention is what we don’t expect. Movies filmed in color control the way the color affects the body and emotions. Like shadows unify the props in a scene and light can single out something particular for notice, thoughtful use of color can draw attention to relationships within the scene, heightening whatever level of tension builds the appropriate anticipation. The brain is designed to predict and if the messages of the scene are wrong , there’s disharmony. Colorizing a movie created in black and white neutralizes the emotional richness of a film. Younger generations, not realizing a movie’s been colorized might wonder why anyone thought it was such a great movie, never seeing the art that brought the depth of the movie home. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas my husband and I always watch the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" with Alistair Sim. Not only is he our favorite Scrooge, the scenes are gorgeous examples of meaning emphasized by use of light and shadow. The way light and darkness is used evokes Dickens’ time and enables each scene to express the psychological transformation of Scrooge with the amount of darkness and how it gives way to light as his understanding grows.

 Even when blurry, the relation of light and dark is all we need to move around in the world. That preverbal relation to spatial features sets a tone that influences us unconsciously and can’t be ignored without sacrificing emotional meaning. So if you're watching a movie that's been colorized this holiday, consider turning the color all the way down to see it the way it was intended

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