How Roger Deakins Conjured the Dystopian Darkness of 1984

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Jul 23, 2019


The near-future totalitarian England of Michael Radford’s 1984, a powerful adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel, is a very dark place indeed. The film’s brilliant production design and color-drained photography emphasize the grubby squalor and soul-crushing uniformity of the surveillance state, setting a vividly bleak tone for the story of the unlikely rebellion of a lowly bureaucrat (John Hurt). In one of the supplements on our new edition of 1984, acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins talks at length about his work on Radford’s film, along the way touching on the distinctive pallor of its images. As Deakins explains in the clip above, the “silver-tint” process pioneered by the legendary Japanese cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa became his avenue to achieving Radford’s vision of an almost colorless 1984. By omitting the bleach-bath step of the print-making process, Deakins succeeded in giving the movie a haunting “50 percent black-and-white”—though not without first setting several projectors on fire during the testing phase.