For mid0nz’s meta project, I decided to go with this cap from A Study in Pink.
What interests me about this shot is the juxtaposition between the two halves, particularly regarding lighting. Sherlock is dark (dark coat, dark hair, features cast into shadow) while Jeff is light (light clothes, light hair, limited shadow on his features). There is also a line of white running through Sherlock’s side of the frame (the sockets on the tables) and a line of black running through Jeff’s side (the chairs), and Sherlock’s side is lighter on the whole (note, for instance, the white bar above Sherlock’s head vs. the black bar above Jeff’s, and the greater ratio of shadow on the right hand side of the frame).
I think the majority of people understand the implications of light vs dark juxtaposition: it’s a metaphor for good vs bad. This is particularly fitting in this case - Sherlock does good things for arguably bad reasons, i.e. he helps people in order to challenge himself and boosts his ego and takes a lot of pleasure from violent crime, hence he is dark but surrounded by light, while Jeff does bad things for arguably bad reasons, i.e. he kills people in order to provide for his children, hence he is light but surrounded by darkness. Just as Sherlock ‘may be on the side of the angels’ yet is not one himself (certainly not at this stage of the narrative), Jeff is on the side of the demons without being purely evil himself. This is an excellent visual example of the complexity with which concepts of good and evil, heroism and villainy and morality, immorality and amorality are handled within the programme.
What’s also interesting about this shot is Sherlock and Jeff’s positioning. At this stage, Sherlock has the upper hand - he’s exposing Jeff’s motivations and falsity - and this is displayed physically in the way in which he leans forwards while Jeff is very slightly recoiled. This contrasts with their positioning earlier in the scene, during which their positions were reversed:
Like many confrontations in Sherlock, this scene is one of power play, and the physical demonstration of this is highly effective.
Another intriguing element of this frame is the colour of the light outside the windows on Sherlock’s side vs. Jeff’s - a pinkish purple vs. a dull yellow - which are also the colours which surround them during close up shots:
Again, this acts as juxtaposition in that purple and yellow are opposites on the spectrum, but there are also notable implications behind each colour.
strikethrough = irrelevant, bold = important in following excerpts]
Source 1: Color Wheel Pro
Yellow is the color of sunshine. It’s associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. Yellow produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Yellow is often associated with food. Bright, pure yellow is an attention getter, which is the reason taxicabs are painted this color. When overused, yellow may have a disturbing effect; it is known that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Yellow is seen before other colors when placed against black; this combination is often used to issue a warning. In heraldry, yellow indicates honor and loyalty. Later the meaning of yellow was connected with cowardice. Use yellow to evoke pleasant, cheerful feelings. You can choose yellow to promote children’s products and items related to leisure. Yellow is very effective for attracting attention, so use it to highlight the most important elements of your design. Men usually perceive yellow as a very lighthearted, ‘childish’ color, so it is not recommended to use yellow when selling prestigious, expensive products to men – nobody will buy a yellow business suit or a yellow Mercedes. Yellow is an unstable and spontaneous color, so avoid using yellow if you want to suggest stability and safety. Light yellow tends to disappear into white, so it usually needs a dark color to highlight it. Shades of yellow are visually unappealing because they loose cheerfulness and become dingy.
Dull (dingy) yellow represents caution, decay, sickness, and jealousy.
Light yellow is associated with intellect, freshness, and joy.
Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.
According to surveys, almost 75 percent of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to all other colors. Purple is a very rare color in nature; some people consider it to be artificial. Light purple is a good choice for a feminine design. You can use bright purple when promoting children’s products.
Light purple evokes romantic and nostalgic feelings.
Dark purple evokes gloom and sad feelings. It can cause frustration.
Source 2: Incredible @rt Department
Joy, happiness, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship
Royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, honor, arrogance, mourning, temperance.
- + Pink
Love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm
So, what does all of this mean? Well, in many ways, it’s obvious - Sherlock and Jeff respectively embody much of the symbolism behind these colours. Let’s talk a bit about the love/care/romance side of things, though.
An unusual amount of pink lighting is utilised in A Study in Pink. Of course, that very title may well account for some of that, but the romantic connotations of the colour pink (and of purple) are also notable. A few examples of other instances in which this type of lighting makes an appearance:
As well as acting as one of the many layers of romantic subtext which are prevalent in A Study in Pink, this choice of lighting also ties in nicely with the symbolism of acceptance - John is being accepted into Sherlock’s world and accepting the danger and eccentricity that goes along with it - and caring - this scene is that in which Sherlock and John’s friendship really begins to form (they even run into the pink/purple light!).
So, how is this relevant to the original screencap? Well, the confrontation scene between Sherlock and Jeff is that which solidifies John and Sherlock’s bond in that it is the scenario which prompts John to kill for Sherlock, an act which demonstrates how much he is and will be willing to do for this man. It is, essentially, love (interpret it as platonic or romantic as you choose), that vicious motivator, that saves Sherlock’s life, as the lighting itself foreshadows. This foreshadowing is supported by this transition, in which Sherlock’s side fades before Jeff’s onto a shot of John’s cab, which also enters from the left of the screen:
In short, every element of the mise-en-scène in the shot I selected serves as a brilliant example of the excellence of the cinematography in Sherlock. Everything from the physical division between Sherlock and Jeff (the table) to the imperfect symmetrical construction to the lighting to the positioning of the characters speaks volumes if you choose not to see, but to observe.