Pleasantville (1998)


On this occasion, we will look for a change in the not so new film achievement Pleasantville from 1998. Apparently, it is a fluttering, fairy-tale film, which will not occupy your thoughts too much. However, somewhere in the middle of the film, it is difficult to get rid of the impression that he still carries something more with him. If we wanted to compare it to a film, we would say that Pleasantville is something like a lyrical and more meaningful version of The Last Action Hero (1993) or at least with an approximate theme and idea.

Before entering the world of Pleasantville, the film’s prologue follows David (Tobey Maguire) and his twin sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). David is a slightly introverted and mostly unpopular teenager, while Jennifer is, to put it simply, his complete opposite. David is obsessed with the old 1950s television series Pleasantville, reminiscent of something like the Peyton Place series (1957), but completely operated on by scandal and drama. Coincidentally, in the style of science fiction of the 80’s, David and Jennifer enter television and reach the black and white world of Pleasantville, taking on the roles of the main characters, Bada and Mary Su Parker.

This world is presented as a kind of utopia, where everything flows in harmony, but in a very monotonous and sterile way. However, with the arrival of David and Jennifer, this carefree town together with its inhabitants is slowly starting to change. The gradual transformation of Pleasantville is presented in a very interesting way. Namely, the changes are manifested by the gradual appearance of colors in this black-and-white world, pretending to take it completely. Also, changing the world of Pleasantville, David and Jennifer are changing.

It is interesting to mention that the scenography, as well as the general atmosphere of the film Pleasantville, is in some ways quite reminiscent of the one in The Truman Show, which came out the same year and was actually one of his competing films. In terms of visual impression, Pleasantville was a very striking achievement for us, especially when it comes to shots that combine black and white with color segments. Not to be confused, when we talk about visual impression, this is not about gorgeous special effects worth millions, so don’t expect anything like that in this film, but the simple encounter of the black and white world with colors is very pleasing to the eye. Also, it is very difficult to find fault with the cast of the film, but the most impressive for our taste were Joan Allen, William H. Macy and Jeff Daniels, while McGuire and Witherspoon did quite well in their title roles.

The ambiguity that is imposed on us in this film is related to the aggressive behavior of the residents of Pleasantville, who remained in the black and white edition, towards those in color. Namely, the characters who got color in the film, at the same time went through a transformation of personality. The final conclusion is that the awakening of emotions in a person leads to the appearance of colors on him at the same time, and it remains unclear why the remaining black and white people in vain began to behave violently towards those in color, when logic dictates that their behavior should remain the same. and peaceful, in keeping with the characteristics of the original Pleasantville, where everything is “perfect”.

More precisely, since the appearance of emotions, even negative ones, leads to the appearance of color on a person, the question arises as to how aggressive persons did not get color earlier than was the case in the film. But let’s assume that in that case, this story would not be so effective in conveying its message, but you have to admit that there are some ambiguities.

What exactly is the message of the movie Pleasantville? Simply put, unusual cultural changes, which spread like a contagion, can lead to dangerous sociological phenomena, in the form of an inappropriate reaction from the environment. The director and screenwriter of the film, Gary Ross, explained that by spreading the fear of internal changes to the people around him. At the same time, the film shows the transformation of a community towards a certain form of enlightenment, which in reality, unfortunately, does not take place at an approximate speed as in this film.

As an example in reality, the situation in the film would be closest to American racism in the middle of the last century, and we believe that director Ross aimed at just that. Pleasantville in this light can also serve as a critique of American society in the 1950s, which in some segments could probably refer to the details of their present, which certainly concern universal sociological phenomena, and which run through the whole history of mankind.

In the end, if this topic attracts you in any way, this is a film you should not miss.