Why is the movie Nebraska shot in black & white? What theme does it resemble in this movie?


From Wikipedia:

The film was shot in black and white because Payne said he wanted to produce an "iconic, archetypal look". According to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, the choice was to use "the poetic power of the black and white in combination with these landscapes and of course the landscapes are playing a huge role in this story". The choice of black and white was made against distributor Paramount Vantage's wishes. The film was shot with Arri Alexa digital cameras and Panavision C-Series anamorphic lenses.

Payne has claimed that a color version was created in an effort to satisfy distributor Paramount Vantage's concerns, but that he hopes no one ever sees it.

From a different interview:

At the press conference afterward, you’d better believe that the first question to Payne is the one that wary marketing executives must have asked him, too: “Why black and white?

“I wasn’t expecting that question at all,” Payne replied dryly.

But the director of Election and Sideways is no dummy, and if he didn’t already have an answer prepared for a question he’s bound to be asked until Nebraska’s November release date — and beyond — he still managed an erudite response on the fly. “It just seemed like the right thing to do for this film,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful form, and it’s really left our cinema because of commercial, not artistic, reasons; it never left fine-art photography. This modest, austere story seemed to lend itself to being made in black and white, a visual style perhaps as austere as the lives of its people.

And one final interview:

You’ve said that there is a color version that you made for Paramount, but you “hope no one ever sees it.” I couldn’t agree more with that. Black and white fits this film perfectly. What is it about the iconic black and white image that color just can’t deliver?

I think in an age when the recording of visual information digitally is making the image more and more faithful to reality—how it really looks in real life and even realer to an extent—people lose themselves more in a recorded image than they do amidst real life. So in an age where the image on television with HDTV, 4K, and all these other formats of digital images are so clear, we don’t want that from art. We want art to transform our perception of reality. We want to see the recognizable in a new way, which actually makes you look at it. And, with some luck, it also gives it some beauty or vividness, and I think black and white is a perfectly good medium to do that. Let’s not forget as well that our great cinematic heritage is largely in black and white. It’s nothing new and it never left fine art photography.


The use of Arri Alexa and panavision lenses looks like it was not supported by a lot of lighting to give the film a cinematic style - as a result black and white takes away a lot of the distractions such as noise and varying color temperatures generated by a digital image capture in multiple locations and available light.

The choice I am sure is also creative and considered - but it does allow for a cheaper and faster shooting schedule - it also reduces costs in post production as the only areas that have to be manipulated in image are contrast and exposure once saturation is reduced to nothing.

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