The classic look and feel of black and white movies are an interesting match for modern films exploring youth culture. Here are 3 movies merging those worlds.

Black and white is effortlessly nostalgiac
Black and white is effortlessly nostalgic
Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

Often when we think of movies in black and white, we imagine old, maybe even silent films. But filmmakers continue to make movies in monochrome today because there’s a beautiful contrast in modern life presented in a classic style. In a world where technicolor is the default, black and white films remain refreshing. 

When filmmakers choose to make black and white films, it can also be wonderfully purposeful. When we see a modern film made in black and white, it’s safe to assume that this choice was made to contribute to the film’s narrative, not just its style. 

Offering an even more exciting juxtaposition is modern black and white films portraying stories about youth culture. Using a classic style to depict innocence, greenness, and even rebellion is an interesting contrast. Here are three modern black and white films exploring youth culture to watch and see for yourself.

Frances Ha (2012)

Greta Gerwig plays Frances, a twenty-something-year-old dancer living in New York City. The film begins as a depiction of her charmed life in Brooklyn and then proceeds to show it falling apart. Francis breaks up with her boyfriend (with whom she’s not ready to commit), has a fall out with her best friend and roommate (who she’s almost too committed to), and is denied a full membership at the small company where she is (not a very good) apprentice dancer.

Centered around a friendless, homeless, and jobless protagonist, Frances Ha may be painfully relatable for some young people who have experienced at least one of the above. But despite her misfortunes, Frances remains bafflingly optimistic, refusing to complain or wear her sorrows.

Frances’ life is clumsy and messy, but in black and white, it is given a new grandness. In this way, the film allows being lost in your twenties seem like a profound life stage, rather than an embarrassing one.

La Haine (1995)

La Haine is a French drama set in the impoverished Parisian projects, following the story of three young friends; Vinz, Said, and Hubert. In a case of police brutality, a friend of the boys is hospitalized after being severely beaten. In reaction to the event, violent riots break out in the city, and the film focuses on the first 20 hours of the aftermath. All from immigrant families, the three young men are part of a bigger picture of enraged youth in marginalized communities.

The film focuses on a day in the life of the three friends. Despite going about their business peacefully, they quickly find themselves under police scrutiny. Their disdain for police and glamorization of violence provokes a secret plan of revenge in Vinz, and the day goes on to unfold tragically.

In black and white, the film is timeless in style and content. Although released 25 years ago, La Haine reflects issues that remain alive today, such as police brutality, misrepresentation in the media, and othering amongst different cultural identities.

Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis tells the story of Marjane, who grows up in Iran in the 70s. In many ways, Marjane is a typical child; she loves Bruce Lee and Iron Maiden, she is fascinated by politics and religion. But at the same time, as she grows up during the Iran/Iraq war, her childhood is marked with tension and violence, not ordinary at all.

For her safety, Marjane’s parents send her to school in Austria, where she faces early adolescence without them. She feels like an outsider in the Western World as an Iranian teenager, and when she returns home after the war, she feels like an outsider again, unable to relate to the horrors that she escaped.

In Persepolis, black and white is used to communicate time. The movie begins in the present in color but then switches to black and white as Marjane recalls the past. In monochrome, the world of her memories is bold and simple; the way we all probably tend to see our pasts.

Black and white is effortlessly nostalgic, while modern monochrome films are a nod to classic filmmaking and to the current times. It’s a clash of the past and the present.

What do you think of black and white movies? Have you seen any of the ones above? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments below.