The Film "O brother, where art thou?"
The film O brother, where art thou? is set in the Great Depression of the 1930’s and emphasizes the struggle between the upper and lower classes by using a variety of cinematic devices. Through the use of these cinematic devices and comedic relief the realities of the Depression are viewed without creating a stark, melancholy, documentary-styled film. Examples in this film of these cinematic devices used to show these realities include:
contrasting of light and dark colors,
high-angle shots, and
spherical camera lenses.
These particular devices provide a glimpse at the realities of the oppression, poverty and despair of many of the American people during this time.
From the start of the film it is apparent what time frame it is taking place in and the differences in the social stratification through the lack of colors. One of the most obvious portrayals of the bleakness and desperation of the era is the overall faded and washed-out look of the whole film, due to manipulation of the film saturation; the heaviness of it almost cries out to the audience. Though the film was shot during the summer, cinematographer Roger Deakins and Cinesite colorist Julias Friede were able to use digital technology to change the appearance of the colors. “Together, they worked on manipulating the [digital] saturation of the images, and in particular selecting the greens of the trees and grass and turning them into dry browns and yellows” (Escaping, 2). These dry brown and yellows enhance the audience’s impression of the desperation of the characters and the time period.
Brown is a prominent color shown not only in the overall appearance but in the specific image of the dry brown of the dirt which also clings to the clothes of the three main characters: Everett, Pete, and Delmar. Another such example, of the use of color to point out the differences in social class, is the use of contracting colors. Many of the people who are dressed in white and light colors are those who have power and money. Other people are dressed in darker colors, perhaps due to the fact that they would have to wash their own clothes rather than being able to have them washed. Pappy O’Daniel, the governor of Mississippi, and his campaign staff are one such example. In particular is a scene in which they are discussing the upcoming election and what should be done on the porch of what can be assumed is Pappy’s house. Not only are the men dressed in whites but the porch and home are also painted white. Pappy is an exemplification of power and money, he is governor and also a well to do businessman. Other people associated with Pappy carry out this theme throughout the film as well. The radio station, which Pappy owns (or at least finances) is seen several times and is painted white. Long shots of the radio station are used not to show smallness, as will be discussed later, but to show contrast...