Gary Ross's Pleasantville (1998) is an American 90's fantasy comedy-drama. Pleasantville uses cinematography techniques involving the change in colour from black and white to technicolour to portray the prominent themes - that when we challenge our identity there is no such thing as a 'perfect' life structure and no one way to be/exist as. The plot follows teenage siblings David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) who are magically transported from their chaotic 1990's dysfunctional, colourful life structure to a 1950's stereotypical black and white sitcom, where everything is 'perfect and right with the world'. They assume the identities of Mary-Sue and Bud and try to conform to the life style they've been thrust into, yet in a world where sex does not exist and the books are blank pages bound together, its clear these 90's kids are sure to make a stir. As the people of Pleasantville discover the concepts of art, music, books, sex and not conforming to stereotypical living, colour ripples through the black and white background, from the subtly of a red cherry and pink bubble gum to trees blossoming pink flowers and full colour citizens.
Colour plays a big part in the plot and assists the narrative throughout, conveying changes within the community and its individuals. Almar Halflidason observes, "Both teenagers set off ripples in the bland town with their individuality exciting some, while threatening others. Vivid Technicolor tones seep into the black and white settings, as some within the town ditch their dreary existences to explore new emotions, and indulge in new-found creativity." (Haflidason 2001) Haflidason explains how the two protagonists impact upon their new environment and how the use of colour accentuates the changes being inflicted. Throughout the film the audience learns how the introduction of colour, within the 1950's black and white setting, is a signifier in terms of a transition in identity.
List of illustrations
Figure 1. Ross, Gary (1998) Pleasantville Movie Poster. At: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pleasantville_ver5.jpg (Accessed on: 13/10/12)
Figure 2. Ross, Gary (1998) A black and white Jeniffer with red cherry. At: http://www.cinekatz.com/2012/04/april-23-pleasantville.html (Accessed on: 13/10/12)
Figure 3. Ross, Gary (1998) David and Margaret Henderson - David still unable to change from black and white into colour. At: http://ncowie.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/pleasantville4.jpg (Accessed on: 13/10/12)
Roger Ebert (1998) Pleasantville. At: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19981001/REVIEWS/810010301 (Accessed on: 13/10/12)
BBC Almar Haflidason (2001) Pleasantville (1998). At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/12/14/pleasantville_1998_review.shtml (Accessed on: 13/10/12)
The New York Times Janet Maslin (1998) Pleasantville (1998) Condemned to Repeat the Joy of the Past. At: http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E03E7DE113DF930A15753C1A96E958260&partner=Rotten Tomatoes (Accessed on: 13/10/12)