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There’s a good reason why some Oppenheimer scenes are black-and-white

Christopher Nolan has opened up and given some clarity as to why some Oppenheimer scenes are in black-and-white and others in color.


Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year and fans were intensely analyzing still images from the war movie for months before the first trailer was released. Now that we have a trailer, it’s clear that some (or most) of the scenes are in color, but some are in black-and-white. As you can imagine with Nolan fans, there are already many theories going around as to why.

Many film fans view Christopher Nolan movies as puzzles to be solved – such as trying to untangle the complicated timelines and twists in the likes of The Prestige, Inception, and Tenet. In Nolan’s breakthrough movie Memento, he used color and black-and-white to help with the switch between the two main timelines – one which was moving forwards and one which was moving backwards.

One popular theory as to why he’s using both in Oppenheimer is that the color timeline is before the bomb is detonated and the black-and-white one takes place after – perhaps suggesting that the introduction of the threat of nuclear war drained color from the world.

In a new interview with Total Film, Christopher Nolan has given a very good and simple reason for the color changes; “I wrote the script in the first person, which I’d never done before. I don’t know if anyone has ever done that, or if that’s a thing people do or not…”

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“The film is objective and subjective. The color scenes are subjective; the black-and-white scenes are objective. I wrote the color scenes from the first person. So for an actor reading that, in some ways, I think it’d be quite daunting.”

It would make sense for the scenes that take place after the bomb is detonated and appear to cover an investigation into what happened – led by Robert Downey Jr‘s character Lewis Strauss – to be “objective” as they are trying to discover the truth.

While we wait for the Oppenheimer release in July, check out our guide to the best spy movies.