If you are serious about watching classic films you cannot overlook Ivan the Terrible. You could overlook Ivan the Terrible II but you would be remiss if you did. The director, Sergei Eisenstein, applies colour to only one scene of the second installment of Ivan with the brilliant effect of highlighting the difference between reality and an imaginary world. This fast-paced, drunken scene is acted out by the Tsar’s court for the “benefit” of an aspiring usurper to Ivan’s throne. With colours flashing before his eyes, the traitor is allowed to imagine that he might yet become Tsar.
Of course, we’ve seen the use of colour to distinguish between two worlds (one real and the other fantastical) before. The obvious example is Wizard of Oz where when we see colour we know we’re not in Kansas anymore. This blog has also seen filmmakers who had full access to colour and who chose not to use it and this has had just as dramatic an effect (see my entry on The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner). In that vein, I’m wondering what I’ll think of The Artist when I finally go to see it.
In any case, the sets and lighting in Ivan are enough of a reason to take the time but you will also be treated to a good chuckle at the melodramatic acting technique employed by all characters. I can only imagine Eisenstein yelling, “Wider! Open your eyes wider you dolts!”