Color Coded: Undertone In Film
October 7, 2015 § 2 Comments
October 7, 2015
As some of you may know, my husband, Herb, is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His career in film and music has certainly helped me to be more aware of the importance of film in formulating public notions about color and design. We subscribe to many periodicals and view many of the films nominated for Academy Awards, and I am constantly researching film archives as well as present-day films to better inform my work in forecasting.
I was recently watching the trailer for the film Suffragette and was instantly captured by the story about the fight for the women’s right to vote. It is hard to deny the value of the movement and the importance of this period of time considering that we as a nation benefit from this movement.
I have read many books and seen some notable film, television, and stage shows about the early Suffrage efforts, so I wanted to highlight one compelling point of this particular movie that is almost a supporting character: the color used to convey the mood of this film.
In my talks this past year, I have been discussing the use of “umbered undertones” in current and future films. That expression comes from the somewhat murky tones that are being seen in both children’s films, where so many color stories come from, as well as films for grown-ups. Those more somber tones often reflect the nature, theme, mood, or historic setting of a particular film.
Suffragette reflects a historic time period when there were no Technicolor films, and the theme of the film is a rather sobering subject—women’s struggles in the pre-1920’s to get enacted their legal right to vote, and the indignities and abuse they suffered—hardly the stuff of bright Technicolor effects! Interestingly, the American suffragette colors of violet, white, and gold were very similar to the green, white, and violet carried by their British counterparts. It is believed that the British Suffragettes chose those shades because they represented the first letters of each color and translated into: “Give (green) Women (white) Votes (violet.)
We can expect these “umbered” tones to have a long shelf-life because of films like Mockingjay Part One, which was part of the popular Hunger Games series. Part Two will come this Fall, and the stage show will appear in 2016. Some TV shows are also showing these same effects. Super Girl of 2015 is wearing more somber colored garb than sported by Linda Carter in the Wonder Woman series of the 1970s.
If you were choosing colors to represent the cause of the suffragettes, what colors would you choose and why?