four hundred and one

Watch IN BED: An Ode to Colour

Words by Shana Chandra

The effect that colours have on humans and the way we perceive them are surprising; women can distinguish varying shades of red better than men due to their two X chromosomes, while the calm of blue lights have effectively reduced rates of crime in cities. Colours are not only symbolic and cultural, but they have physiological effects too. So when it comes to films, colours are manipulated primarily to affect us, to subvert or play with the dominant meanings we associate with them in order to help tell a story. In this way each movie has its own colourscape; a palate employed to create a particular mood via a visual soundtrack.

At IN BED, our approach to colour is a considered process too with a palette designed to work back seamlessly together and bring a new mood to any room. To honour our affinity for colours that cocoon us, writer Shana Chandra has explores a few of her favourite films that utilise familiar IN BED shades.

Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash (1991)
An ode to White.

Throughout Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991), the Gullah women of the Sea Island that Dash’s camera captures, prepare their last feast on their beloved island home, the night before they migrate with their families to the American mainland of Georgia and South Carolina. It is a home surrounded by sea that has kept them largely isolated, but with their distinct and original culture from their African ancestors mixing with the rhythms of the island’s breath. As they snip okra, shake corn in woven baskets and un-shell shrimp, we learn how each of their lives has become embittered with the trauma of slavery and colonialisation, stained like the indigo dye they are forced to produce on the island, as their conversations cyclically reminisce and mourn this soil soaked with memories, while still grasping for hope to shower the seeds of their new life.

Wearing bleached white dresses from the turn of the century, the dresses change colour just as the landscape they inhabit does; its white reflecting the warm brown dust of the earth, the stone of the dunes, and the bright white of the sand and the ocean’s foam. It shows us that these people are at one with this land they have harvested, toiled, buried and birthed on.

At first glance, their white, western clothes can be viewed as their colonisers’ ever-present fingerprints on them, yet as the movie progresses, we see that it cannot wash away their songs, their rituals, or their flavours. It pushes us away from seeing and interpreting their world through a western lens, and instead, we begin to see these colours as the vibrancy and celebration of their fleeting, communal life.

Le Daim, Quentin Dupieux (2019)
An ode to Tobacco.

Quentin Dupieux’s flavour of modern cult films always have a distinct blend of comedy, absurdity, and horror, often flashed within the same scene, making you giggle, gasp and generally think, ‘this is weird, but I love it’ all at the same time. With Deerskin, Dupieux’s main character, Georges, elicits these emotions from us within the first five minutes of the film, when amid what appears to be a mid-life crisis. he takes his olive-green corduroy blazer, whose tight sleeve buttons and classic aesthetic have begun to make him curdle, and flushes it down a public toilet, causing it to block and flood, much like his own life path.

We follow him, on his acquisition of a new jacket, a 100% deerskin, tobacco coloured fringed number, which he not only wears excessively, he begins to talk to as a comrade. The newfound confidence his jacket imbues somehow fuels his new persona as a filmmaker with self-proclaimed ‘sick style’ via a hand-held camcorder slipped in with the jacket purchase, that the previous elderly owner exchanges 7,500 euros with Georges for.

As Georges travels to the Pyrenes and meets Denise (Adèle Haenel) at a local bar, with whom he begins to make his ad hoc movie with, we watch as the jacket begins to have more and more of a hold on Georges, leading to a sinister obsession as signified by the tobacco tones that colour the film more and more. And though the jacket could be an allegory with our current day obsession of our outer skins, descending us into our own madness, or an allegory on how the hunted (deer) has now become the hunter, whether you look into it that deeply or not, one thing is for certain; you will never see Dupieux’s warm brown tones quite the same again.

Blade Runner, Ridley Scott (1982)
An ode to Charcoal

The original Blade Runner is set in a Los Angeles of 2019, a future that is now in our past. But when it was released in 1982, it had a visual language so ground-breaking and enigmatic, it spawned the cyberpunk genre. This dark, gritty dystopia envisaged by Scott is a world devoid of the natural, but decayed and dying, choked with smoke and pollution where animals are extinct, and most humans have moved to off-world colonies.

To help develop these off-world colonies, a company, the Tyrell Corporation has manufactured ‘replicants’, human-like cyborgs devoid of emotion and with a lifespan of four years in case they do develop some. The titular character, ‘blade runner’ is an ex-cop/bounty-hunter named Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is pulled out of retirement to pursue four of these replicants who have gone AWOL, returning to the earth they are not allowed to come back to.

Despite its decay, the Los Angeles Deckard inhabits is not without beauty, however. It is filled with a charcoal smog, colour fuelled by pollution, and reflected with a haze given off by the neon lights glowing bright within the cityscape. This renders the perpetual night sky an ember burnt grey, which in light, flashes an electric cyan. Skyscrapers are now octagonal concrete buildings of blinking lights, reminiscent of futuristic technological pyramids, and are a testament to the bounds of human ingenuity. Any natural colour in the cityscape however is drained of its vibrancy, attacked by the smog that surrounds, that is until we meet replicant Rachael (Sean Young). Whenever she appears, the dark night behind her glows golden, backlighting her bold shoulders and red glossy lip, straight from a Robert Palmer video. As Deckard notes when he enters her workspace, ‘It’s too bright in here’, and we know it’s not just the light he’s talking about.