MovieChat Forums > Hatfields & McCoys Discussion > Why is bleak colour 'authentic'?

Why is bleak colour 'authentic'?

I'm enjoying this so far but I find the filter system in the cinematography unnecessary and disappointing. For example the colour blue is missing so there is no blue sky or water; the sky looks permanently bleached, this is not authentic folks. I realize that presenting the viewer with bleak scenery is supposed to add the grimness of the story and therefore added atmosphere. But I believe the atmosphere should come from the story and the acting alone - and the acting is very good in this. Of course style of cinematography does produce atmosphere but toning down colour just looks pretentious in this case. Indeed such hate as demonstrated juxtaposed against a beautiful background would give contrast by showing how humans in such wonderful country with so much freedom can be just as crazy as those living in cramped squalid conditions of a filthy city with miserable living conditions.
The greatest colour westerns ever made did not need to do this with the colour; they were perfect without that tampering. Take The Big Country for example - incidentally a story of feuding families - the cinematography was equal to none, simply stunning. In comparison we get this made for tv look in docu/drama style. Was it necessary?
I don't know where modern directors got their schooling from but it looks to me they should study the old masters more. Methinks too many of them have cut their teeth on tv commercials.
This effect is a long running trend now which has become modus operandi for period dramas, as if the world had no colour back then. It has become a cliché.
The land in this story is an entity - another character - the raison d'etre and should have been shown in all its glory.


I dislike it as well, and was hoping this would have a more real look to it.

When watching the behind the scenes, everything is natural, but then they went and messed with the color grading to add an effect to it, which is not needed. We know what real life looks like, and it doesn't look tinted in grays, blues, greens, teals, oranges etc.

Good show so far though, and I love the cast and overall time period!


Many time the artistic director will play with the colours to give the film a certain "atsmosphere". Like Dick Tracy where primary colours used in comics were key; or "Amelie" where the red and green gave the movie a surreal feel. In Hatfields & McCoys there were quite a few shots of younger children being killed so to me it would have look very strange to have these against a background of blue skies and sparkling river waters. Please don't shoot me down. As a mummy I found the whole thing bleak, but then that is the reason why they bleached the colours of everything. Another example of this was BBC's "Bleak House".


I can't say I hate it, but I would love a historical drama to be told in full, brilliant color for once. It worked in this movie, but I don't like how filters seem to be a default for history movies.


I'm sure there was manipulation of color to create desired mood but if you've ever been in the mountains of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky or other places in the Appalachian/Smokey Mountain areas you will no doubt think the colors in this movie are just perfect.


Directors and/or cinematographers often use various hues to set the tone or mood of any production with blues and oranges being the most common while others opt to use more subdued tones. As others have said, it would seem rather malapropos to have lush green trees, luminous midday sun and brilliant blue river as a backdrop to all this violence and bloodshed. It has very little to do with actor, writer or director ineptitude at sufficiently conveying moods and everything to do with setting.

There was some discussion about this regarding, I believe, last year's "Lawless" in which the brilliant landscape was shown in all its high definition glory amidst murder and other violence. It no more demonstrated 'how humans in such wonderful country with so much freedom can be just as crazy as those living in cramped squalid conditions of a filthy city with miserable living conditions' than a feelgood family film shot in dark hues demonstrates that people can be happy no matter what.

Of course style of cinematography does produce atmosphere but toning down colour just looks pretentious in this case.

Well now this is just silly. How on earth could it be considered "pretentious"?

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I see your point about over-use of bleak, and I like your idea about juxtapoxing with "beauty". However this is a decision of the film makers. But I completely disagree that "atmosphere should come from the story and acting alone"

Good Cinema is NOT about reflecting true life as close as possible. For instance Music is not "authentic" but would you really want no music in film? What would Film Noir be without "non-authentic" lighting? Way before modern color shifting, cinematographers were using filters and lighting to set the mood. This can be some of the most rewarding aspects of the film art.

In this case I'll even go out on a limb and say that the producers knew this was NOT a "thinking" film and the bleakness was required to keep the audience focused on the dreariness of the situations, especially in a Television Movie where so much of your audience is not watching seriously or under the best conditions for viewing. (All you have to do is look at some of the posts here to see how shallow some of the audience of this film is. Brighter colors would have made just more people think this film has "funny parts")


I ask because of the way you spelled 'color' as 'colour'.

Just curious.

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Hey folks,

I agree with the original post. Giving the impression that West Virginia and Kentucky skies are always bleak and without sun and color is just plain dumb. I can "feel" the pain and suffering of a man dying in bright daylight as well as a rain soaked day. When overdone and not truly representative of real life, all the efforts at being artsy just becomes crap.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile


Maybe because of Rumanian lighting?