Aside from its aesthetic effects, colour works through the mise en scene as symbol in Last Days. We see the greens that cyclically bookend the film’s sequences at beginning and end (and interestingly, at the end the foliage is in the foreground, almost on the lens, blurring the image) as a recurrent chromatic leitmotif. Whereas Blake’s colour is red, a touchstone always on or near his body and perhaps signalling the seed of self-violence that is ever-present and growing, it is the use of green and the harmony between these two that is most evocative. In Last Days, the colours harmonize most when outdoors, whilst inside there are clashing and decaying surface tones peeling off walls, revealing greens beneath. Green here is a return to nature, or perhaps psyche; escapism and lostness together. Also possibly trauma, which harmonises with the red of suicide to create the climactic narrative effect, after much delving into its mossy ways.
As we began with painting, I feel it is also interesting to consider the two paintings that struck me in Blake’s house. One is glimpsed only briefly, but depicts a snake in primitive coils, green again present to evoke garden of eden allegories, where perhaps the snake is his trauma, lurking high in the self to whisper annihilation and the brief union of conscious and unconscious: back to the forest. The other is larger and dwelt upon, depicting a stag racing through verdurous shades, being chased and savaged by a pack of dogs. This again is the green focus of the shot, and in its link to and allying with the most visually powerful and memory-creating tone of the film, its meaning can be extrapolated in a panoply of allegorical contextual readings.
“Colourists draw like nature; their figures are naturally outlined by the harmonious conflict of colour masses…colourists are epic poets.”
Additional viewing: Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Jee-Woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters.
Additional reading: Hiddleston’s Baudelaire and the Art of Memory, Baudelaire’s Salons.
Film Critic Marcus Nicholls is a part of The Missing Slate’s Film Team.