Kolkata, Nov 21 “Contemporary black-and-white cinema…why not?” exclaim a clutch of international filmmakers who have opted to make their feature film debuts with black-and-white cinema that exquisitely weaves in light and shadow effects to create magic from monochrome.
Brazil’s Eduardo Nunes and Poland’s Rafael Stemplewski’s maiden productions had their Indian premiere recently as part of the ‘Shades of Black and White’ segment of the just-concluded 19th Kolkata International Film Festival. Both had to field the curiosity of audiences about the restricted palette.
“Some said why not colour as it was a fairy tale. Others appreciated it. I had to make my first film and the decision was not whether it would be great to do something different in black-and-white…I just did it as I felt it would be better that way,” Stemplewski told IANS here.
His film “Dendrologium”(2013), co-directed with Amin Azam, sees the character ‘The Searcher’ on his journey around the world trying to discover the myth about the secret of the Sweet Fruit, while Nunes’s “Southwest” (2011) revolves around the life of protagonist Clarice, which lasts for a single day.
“Why not black and white…it is just a medium of expression,” Nunes told IANS.
The pull-factor towards monochrome for Stemplewski was an “artistic decision” and had nothing to do with giving it an aged look.
“It created a certain kind of atmosphere and we didn’t want to disrupt this atmosphere. We always wanted to create a unique climate and black-and-white just fitted the story.”
Moreover, Nunes felt the lack of colour creates a “distance from reality” for the audiences, thereby pulling them closer to the film’s content.
“The film shows South American magical realism and we believed if we shot a film in black and white it would create a distance from reality, so we can tell the audience it was not real…so the option was to create a dream-like state.”
Reputed Polish filmmaker Joanna Kos-Krauze, who made “Papusza” with husband and co-director Krzysztof Krauze, agreed. But she noted that for them, the lack of colour also heightened the sense of the film as a “historical fresco.”
“Our film is a like a visual poem and so the blacks, whites and grays gave that impression of a different era,” Kos-Krauze told IANS.
“Papusza” (2013) is a biographical piece on Romany poet Bronislawa Wajs (1908-1987), known as Papusza. She is hailed as Poland’s first gypsy poet.
Kos-Krauze and her husband have chronicled Wajs’ life through century-old photographs and other images, thereby giving it a “period look”.
“We used the latest (digital) technology…red epics…we used photographs almost a century old and the rest we added during post-production. There were no close-ups… that was the hardest decision.”
Another challenge, for Nunes, was to create depth by using the varying textures of the props employed.
“For example, my costume designer had to utilise the different textures of the textiles used to show the contrasts,” explained Nunes for whom the experience was costlier. His next venture will be in colour.
“It did not have good distribution because some people did not want to sell a black and white film. It’s a hard decision making a black-and-white film.”
For actress Katia O’ Wallis, who has starred in the critically acclaimed black-and-white production “Big Hit” directed by noted Greek filmmaker Karolos Zonaras, the “journey was enriching”.
“The concentration is more on the acting in such movies,” said O’ Wallis, who is of French origin and has starred in several Greek films.