In an age where colours play a major role in movies, the makers of Malcolm and Marie took a peculiar turn with their choice to shoot a 2021 movie in black and white. At first glance, one may be turned off by the lack of colours, but as the movie progresses, you realise that stripping this movie of colours was probably the right thing to do.
By now, you are probably wondering if this blog is about the choice of colours in a film. Well, let’s just say it is way more than cinematography. This is the first of a series of blog posts called “Let’s Talk Elements”, where we discuss movies selected based on outstanding elements such as dialogue, aesthetics, cinematography, sound, etc.
So, here are some of our noteworthy elements in Malcolm and Marie:
For a movie that lasted almost 2 hours with only two characters, the dialogue was an important tool. The director, Sam Levinson, had said the movie had some autobiographical elements to it so we are wondering if that factor facilitated stretching the argument long enough to exceed the average length of a feature film. The entire dialogue piggybacked on Malcolm forgetting to thank Marie while giving his award speech. Some have argued that maybe the conversation stretched much longer than it should. However, it is interesting to see how one conversation unwrapped many underlying issues such as Malcolm’s insecurity and pride as well as Marie’s addiction and infidelity. But, what makes good dialogue? We would say the people involved. John David Washington and Zendaya brought life to such a complex script, proving the importance of proper casting in movies.
The entire movie was shot in one location – a fancy modernist home in Santa Lucia Preserve, California. Worthy of note is that it was done amid a pandemic, in a country that had been badly hit by this menace. Putting all these into consideration, we were quite impressed by how the movie made good use of space. Conversations took place at almost every corner of this fancy home – the bathroom, kitchen, veranda, living room and even a quick walk around the property were included. The choice of a modern home was also ideal when we put the lifestyle of the couple into perspective. Overall, let us just say that the movie is a true embodiment of this quote by Debbi Allen, ‘But out of limitation comes creativity’- Debbi Allen.
The 35mm black and white colour was not the only thing that stood out for us in this movie, we were also impressed by the fluidity of each shot. Julio C. Pere IV, the film’s editor did a terrific job with the transitions, it almost felt like a stage play. Although there are debates that the movie should have been a stage play, we believe the choice of colour palettes, cuts and transition was more than perfect for a movie with a unique plot like this. Something we believe a lot of filmmakers should consider — make sure you choose the right cinematography that works for the story you are trying to tell.
Despite the debates and controversy Malcolm and Marie generated, these three elements make for good learnings to new and existing filmmakers. We hope you take some time to see this interesting work of art and if you have, maybe rewatch it, but this time pay close attention to some of the points we highlighted. While you are at it, take a wild guess at the next movie we will be discussing.