Depths of black in The Night of the Hunter

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This essay addresses the expressive potential of the color black in monochrome film-making, in particular through a close reading of certain passages from The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955). It proceeds from Tom Gunning’s observation that the absence of color is a neglected aesthetic feature of films produced during the sound era, when color processes became an increasingly prevalent and default option for film-makers. The Night of the Hunter is then identified as a rich case for exploring the attractions and significance of the color black in film, given how the production of intense, deep blacks onscreen was a central consideration of the film’s making. I propose that The Night of the Hunter’s stunning uses of black hold a key to its strangely enduring power, and to the deep aspects of our lives to which its black-and-white images speak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • aesthetics
  • black and white
  • cinematography
  • Color
  • The Night of the Hunter

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