The Silent Evolution and the desaturation of Spielberg

Check out these figures from the underwater sculpture installation "The Silent Evolution" by British artist Jason de Caires Taylor, on the sea floor between Cancun and Isla Mujeres (images borrowed from The Atlantic's gallery of artificial reefs, but lots more images are here). They're pretty otherworldly anyway, but once you take the blue-green colour out of the pictures, robbing them of their watery context, you get something really quite eery.

Talking of artistic desaturation, Steven Soderbergh recently shared a list of all the movies, books, TV shows, plays, and short stories he watched and read over the past year. It's a pretty incredible account of art consumption (slightly let down by the fact he refers to Seven as Se7en …), but one particular thing that sticks out is that he watched Raiders of the Lost Ark three times in one week – each time in black and white.


I'm a big fan of the director's cut of The Mist, which is basically the same as the (underrated) original but it's in black and white. It's hard to say why exactly, but it just works so much better. I can imagine Raiders also works pretty well because of its old movie-serial roots, but also because the way Spielberg uses light would translate perfectly to a monochrome palette. Blinding white light and deep, unfathomable darkness – he's all about the contrasts. I watched Minority Report recently – although the first thing you notice is how very blue the whole thing is, he counterpoints the shiny, bright future with some impenetrable shadows lurking on the other side of everything. The man knows how to tell a story with light.

So, I'm now planning a day of black and white Spielbergery (Dr B, if you're reading this, you're in for one heck of a weekend). Raiders, definitely. Jurassic Park would probably work pretty well too, with all the lightning and rain and big ol' dinosaur eyes (and for some reason it seems appropriate that Bob Peck's stony face deserves to be immortalised in black and white). Aaaand … maybe Saving Private Ryan.

Not Schindler's List though. That'd be silly.