Published On: Sat, Apr 13th, 2024

Netflix’s Ripley Made A Creative Decision That Has A Lot Of Viewers Complaining

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The Independent quoted several anonymous viewers about the show’s black-and-white photography, each of them complaining openly about the lack of color. “Why on Earth is ‘Ripley’ filmed in black and white?” one whined. “Surely the only reason to not film in color previously was technology. Totally killed it for me, the dog seems quite okay with it though.” Another viewer felt it was a lost opportunity to film the beautiful Italian seaside setting in color, although they concluded with a quip, noting that the book was also in black-and-white.

A third viewer assumed that black-and-white photography was a cost-saving measure, perhaps recalling a period from 40 years ago when black-and-white film stock was cheaper than color film stock. That viewer perhaps didn’t know that cinematographer Roger Elswit shot “Ripley” with Arri Alexa LF digital cameras, which don’t require the purchase of 1970s black-and-white film stock.

It seems that show creator Steve Zaillian came to the decision to shoot his series in black-and-white based on his personal memories of reading Highsmith’s novel. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Zaillian explained:

“The edition of the Ripley book I had on my desk had an evocative black-and-white photograph on the cover. […] As I was writing, I held that image in my mind. Black-and-white fits this story — and it’s gorgeous.”

Zaillian’s last point seems to be lost on his viewers. Black-and-white photography is gorgeous. Shooting without color adds a shimmering, hyper-real texture to photographed images. A rundown shack or dingy apartment is dull when shot in color, but breathtakingly alive in black-and-white. Taking the color away from images can make them abstractions, an idealized version of the thing, rather than just the thing itself.

Certain viewers failed to realize that the showrunners thought of that.

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