Christopher Nolan spills the beans on why some scenes in Oppenheimer are in black & white

Originally published at: Christopher Nolan spills the beans on why some scenes in Oppenheimer are in black & white | Boing Boing


So essentially the same way Nolan used black & white in Memento (and Vince Gilligan later used it in Better Call Saul).


One is in color, and that’s Oppenheimer’s subjective experience…Then the other is a black-and-white timeline. It’s a more objective view of his story from a different character’s point of view.

Is he saying Oppenheimer was delusional? Why is his pov “subjective” and another character’s pov “objective”?

Or “flipping” what Victor Fleming did way back in 1939 in The Wizard of Oz.

Come on guys, it’s not rocket surgery.


Is that really true, though? The Artist won five academy awards. Schindler’s List won seven. Sin City (which was mostly B&W) did pretty well at the box office. If anything, anecdotally it seems like major American films that are filmed in black-and-white are more likely to be successful. But I guess there may be tons of failures I just never heard of.


Oppenheimer is the subject of his own subjective memories. He is the object of other people’s objective memories.


Something about that explanation gives me a Schoolhouse Rock does psychology vibe.


Schoolhouse Rock would be a interesting way to teach the basics of critical theory. Perhaps it actually did, in the fevered dreams of the Moms for Liberty.


Ain’t no such thing.


That’s true for everyone. No one really sees objectively, so showing some other character’s perspective in the same scene helps the moviegoer get a better sense of what ‘really happened’.

Rashomon being the classic example.


testimony, tribunals, classified reports with black and white photos of men in meetings, FBI interrogations “memorialized” immediately after the fact. “Objective” ephemera.

Some people argue that these aren’t in fact objective, and others will argue that society fetishizes objectivity so much that the truth can never be ascertained.

When the movie comes out, I’ll have a better sense of what Nolan is getting at.

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Which was a brilliant use of color to tell a story in a subtle way. As I’ve been re-watching the show from start to finish (and without the lengthy breaks in between seasons) it’s so much more obvious what he was going for. The early timeline scenes have rich and saturated colors. As the timeline progresses and things get bleaker, colors get more muted until you are in the joyless present day where (almost) everything is black and white.

Even the intro reflects this descent. In the very first episode, Jimmy is watching video tapes of his old commercials. The brief intro scene that runs in every episode alludes to him watching those tapes over and over again. As the episodes progress, the intro gets more degraded and distorted until by the last episodes it’s just a blue screen as if the tape finally snapped.

My point? Clever use of color (or lack thereof) can be a great storytelling method. (See also: Coppola’s Rumble Fish.)

Nolan may be controversial among film enthusiasts, but it’s hard to deny that he has a definite vision and that he’s very good at pushing the envelope in what you can and can’t do in popular cinema.


And the very last glimpse of color in the show is the tip of a shared cigarette as a callback to the first episode reminding us of the person Jimmy once was.


Yup. In the very first episode, the pop of color is the TV playing his commercials and then in the last episode it’s the cigarette burning. Just lovely.


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