Black and white photography went out of vogue a very long time ago with the advent of colour and that is a real shame. Colour can really add to a film but there’s just something classic and simplistic about a black and white movie that is very difficult to capture. Orson Welles famously said that filming in black and white is an actor’s friend because every performance is better without colour. While that is a bold statement there is a great deal of weight in it because the lack of colour draws the audience into the scene in a more simplistic way than when the film makes full use of colour.
The viewer isn’t focusing on the surroundings of the actor or any other things like the colour of an actor’s eyes of the colours of the environment. All the attention is being paid to the gravity of the performances in the film which helps a viewer to connect with a character in a very different way. Colour definitely has many advantages and many interesting ways that it can benefit a movie but, as you’ll see with my 10 choices here, black and white has its own way of making a film stand out.
I now present to you 10 black and white films that everyone should see.
Hitchcock’s most famous films are all in colour except for Psycho which, even though he made many movies in black and white, give it a quality that’s separate from his other masterpieces. The story of Norman Bates and his overbearing mother is one of the most morbid tales that the cinema has ever seen which makes the black and white cinematography compliment the proceedings perfectly.
The way that the shadows are just a little bit darker thanks to the lack of colour and the atmosphere slowly pull the viewer in. The movie is basically one long, macabre mystery so the audience needs to be focused on the story and characters the whole time. Black and white suits this perfectly because it allows the performances to really shine.
Hitchcock had to film Psycho in black and white because the censors would never let him get away with making a movie so violent in colour. This is one time when the censors were totally right in restricting an artist’s vision and cinema has never been the same since.
This article was first posted on April 22, 2013