Watch IN BED: An Ode to Colour Pt2

Words by Shana Chandra

The colours that make up our world, so often deceive us. Rather than being the actual colour that we see, they reflect the colour they don’t absorb, betraying who they are not, rather than who they are. In the same way, we use colours to evoke emotion which reflect their opposite too; blue can be a cold, harsh colour that threatens, or in its expanse of ocean and sky it can offer us a sense of stability and calm. Green can symbolise a vibrant healthy planet, or represent moments our greed or jealousy can cause ill-health and purple, can be both the colour that spins creativity and magic, as well as the colour worn by those who mourn loss. So, in ode to the IN BED linen colours of lake, moss and lilac, we have chosen movies whose colourscapes compliment these favourite hues, the colours we rest, hug and dream to in all its interpretations.

The Piano, Jane Campion (1993)

An ode to Lake.

When Jane Campion’s The Piano, first beamed onto movie screens in 1993, it not only depicted New Zealand’s landscapes in all of its wild for what felt like the first time, it made you feel what it was like to be immersed within it. By imbuing her film with the cold tint of blues that fill her film’s sky and the sea, Campion is able to denote, exactly what it feels like to be smothered under all of that low-lying cloud, conjuring up New Zealand’s more evocative Māori name, Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. It is in this movie set in the mid 19th century, that we also see these tangata whenua (indigenous people) understand the vicissitudes of their landscape, far better than their colonial counterparts, who try so hard to control it.

Campion’s blue is at its peak intensity, when her protagonist Ada (Holly Hunter), a mute, Scottish woman bound for Aotearoa with her beloved daughter and piano, arrives at its unforgiving shores, to marry frontiersman, Alasdair Stewart (Sam Neil). The harsh light of blue  is forever intertwined with the landscape when mother, daughter and the piano are lifted out of rowboats and onto the shore, away from the rushing and seething waves, by locals whose tattered clothes are victims of the elements. But somehow, Ada belongs in this stubborn environment and it is reflective of her own stubbornness, and just like it, the men try to tame her too. As she gets used to this land, the blue light begins to soften, its harshness still flickering during moments with Alasdair but dissolving into to warm gold when she is with her lover, George Baines (Harvey Keitel). That is until she is immersed in all the blue completely.

Great Expectations, Alfonzo Cuarón (1998)

An ode to Moss.

Charles Dicken’s class bound classic has been translated to the screen time and time again, and in this rendition under Cuarón’s lens, the story gets hurled into the Florida Keys and the New York art scene of the 1990’s, with a lush green on green set (one of Cuarón’s signatures), paintings by Francesco Clemente, Gwyneth Paltrow in iconic DKNY, and a soundtrack that includes Tori Amos, Pulp and Iggy Pop. Despite this remake being a low point for the director who in an interview once said, ‘I think it is a complete failed film’ and Ethan Hawke admitting its writing was lacking, to this day, it is the one film that fans come up to Hawke declaring their love for.

The movie begins amongst the faded and mossy greens of Florida’s swamps, where we meet Finnigan Bell (Ethan Hawke) as a boy, who while out drawing on its shores, helps a shackled convict, by stealing bow cutters for him to free himself. Unexpected events twist his fate again, when soon after, he is asked to routinely visit the local heiress, Miss Dinsmore, to play with her niece, which is where he meets Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow) who will delineate his life forever. Cuarón colours his movie according to Finn’s view of it; Florida and New York hotel rooms, are the same grey-green, but Estella, whether young or old, is always in the most vibrant emerald. Finn too wears green, linking him forever to Miss Dinsmore’s dilapidated mansion, and to Estella, that is until years later, when he returns to Florida  and by chance meets Estella again.

The Florida Project, Sean Baker (2017)

Ode to Lilac.

Set amongst the pastels and palm trees of Florida, the opening credits of The Florida Project, puts you into dancing mode as ‘Celebrate Good Times’ plays over a lilac concrete backdrop. The movie follows the adventures of Moonee and her friends Scooty and Jancey, who live in rented rooms of motel blocks with their single parents, in places meant for tourists, emblazoned with names like ‘Futureland Inn’ and ‘Arabian Nights’. Moonee’s abode is the ‘The Magic Castle Hotel’, the one with all that bright lilac concrete. We get to know the kids, their hangouts, and adventures as they do normal kid things, eating ice-cream, having underarm farting competitions, trying to revive a dead fish by putting it in the hotel pool and generally causing ruckus to the adults around them, especially Bobby (William Dafoe), The Magic Castle Hotel’s manager.

But despite the fun and hilarity, there are moments when the socio-economic realities of the residents, break through the fantasy environment of the fairy coloured facades, so all that lilac becomes a little less celebratory than it once was – we watch as all three kids share one ice-cream, Moonee’s mum, Hayley, tries to pay rent by selling perfume to tourists in parking lots, and Dafoe has to corral an old man away from the kids, who has forebodingly come to ‘talk to them’ as they play by the roadside. It gives Moonee especially, an air of knowing, one that becomes clear from a comment as simple as: “I feel bad for her, she looks like she’s going to cry. I can always tell when adults are about to cry.” But as things slowly get worse for Moonee and her mum with the other residents of the hotel, both of them start to wear shades of lilac more and more, showing their belonging to the place where they laugh, cry, yell, love, hate and just try to survive. And despite the fact that Moonee may be forced to leave the hotel, it’s her friends that end up making it the most magical place on earth.