Mad Max: Fury Road in black and white: a fascinating re-evaluation of a groundbreaking film | Luke Buckmaster
While the monochrome redux loses some of the aesthetic grandness of the original, it throws a psychological spanner in the works
Ted Kotcheff, the director of Wake in Fright, recently told me how he was inspired by what the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz called petite perceptions. Before rolling the camera on his 1971 masterpiece, Kotcheff purchased thousands of dead flies from Sydney university, spread them everywhere on set (on top of books, on the ground, on shelves and tables), and sprayed the air with a fine dust-like substance.
You cant see these things on screen but, he argued, they have a psychological impact.
George Miller relishes this sort of approach to film-making. The dystopian Mad Max universe, with its visions of a junkyard future comprised of the flotsam and jetsam of human civilisation, is full of recycled commodities: what the director calls found objects repurposed. And thus the perfect sandbox for Leibnizian alternate worlds etched out in small details.
Few viewers of Mad Max: Fury Road would be aware, for instance, that there is a subtle bird theme running through the design and makeup of The Valkyrie, a Warrior Woman-esque character played by Megan Gale. Fewer still would know an illustration of a bird was carved on to the handle of her gun, a stainless steel Winchester rifle. You cant see it on screen but, again, its there and in some way makes a difference.
Nobody can say precisely what effect monochrome photography has on petite perceptions; the extent to which it makes certain things even harder to notice. Especially in the rare instance of a production that was originally in colour. And by George (Miller, as the case may be), such re-stylisation throws a spanner in works when it comes to contemplating how a films visual tone informs overall psychological impact.
I was one of many Mad Max super-fans who, over the weekend, returned to see Fury Road on the big screen this time in a rejigged colour-drained Black & Chrome edition that is out now on DVD and Blu-ray in a special two-disc set (which includes the original version).