Tuesday, December 4, 2012

THE HOUR character colours #2: Marnie

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In this same episode, Marnie (Oona Castilla Chaplin), the neglected wife of Hector Madden, also has a colour palette specific to her. Marnie's main colours are pastel pinks and purples. (Unfortunately, these delicate colours become muddied on film, resulting in a somewhat desaturated swatch.)

Marnie’s colours are all about confining her to one environment, her house, where she spends most of the episode, waiting for her husband to come home. Her clothes are literally the same colours as the walls, visually trapping her in that space. Significantly, in Marnie’s one scene outside the house (a disastrous lunch with Hector), she is in light purple – the same colour as the kitchen. Even when she’s not at home, Marnie is still trapped. She can never escape.

(Seeing these shots collected together, such a palette might seem cartoonish. However, seen in context, scattered among other scenes, it calms down and blends into the palette of the entire episode.)

The only time Hector is at home is on the television...

The yellow of the lamps above is echoed in the salt and pepper pots here, likewise the pink of the carpet in the napkin – this limited palette adds to the sense of confinement.  

So much going on here I’m not even going to try. I just really like this shot. The kitchen on the left of frame is like something from a 15th century painting. Or a 1950s cartoon.

Look at the curtain – red is never far away from Hector.

Marnie in the dining hall – but really still in her kitchen.


Two things. First, I haven’t really been talking about composition, but this was interesting: although (presumably) filmed during the same camera setup, these three shots are actually from different scenes in the episode, separated and spaced apart by other scenes.

I didn't notice the setup was identical until after I had all my screenshots gathered for this post. Effectively “hidden” by the rest of the episode, the repetition of this composition subliminally re-enforces Marnie's sense of confinement.


After this shot of Marnie, abandoned by Hector in the dining hall, it cuts straight to…

…this, the dressing room of the dancer Hector is sleeping with (not pictured).

Interestingly, unlike the front of the club, which is swathed in Hector's red, the private, backstage area directly carries through colours from the preceding shot with Marnie.

If you'll pardon the tangent, in the film Big Fish, Helena Bonham Carter’s character imparts some wisdom about the main character, Ed Bloom, to his son, played by Billy Crudup:

          “See, to him there’s only two women: your mother, and everyone else.”

Applying that line of thought to The Hour, the appearance of Marnie’s colours in the dancers’ dressing room suggests (to me) that to Hector, there’s only one woman, by which I mean, to Hector, all women are the same. But that’s a whole other blog post.

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