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American History X: Analysis Of Lighting And Color

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American History X

"American History X" is divided into two color schemes, black and white, and color, these schemes symbolize the before and after of Derek Vinyard's life. The film is about the life of an "idol" skinhead and D.O.C. member Derek Vinyard, and how his life of hate and racism has affected his family and himself. Throughout the movie the importance of color and lighting is obvious, because it divides the movie into two fused worlds of Derek. Some of the movie is shot in black and white to show that, at that point in time, Derek was a racist Nazi, and only saw people in terms of their skin color, black and white. The remainder of the film, shot in color, symbolizes that Derek sees the whole world, and sees people as people, not as black, white, yellow, or brown. He understands that D.O.C. isn't really worth all the pain and anguish that he's been taught. The lighting of the characters also changes in "American History X" because Derek's face gradually becomes fully lit when he becomes aware of the fact that the Nazi movement is wrong and he needs to get both him and his brother Danny out of it.

"American History X" opens with the credits over a black and white beach. I think the ocean symbolizes Cameron Alexander, the organizer of all the white power groups from the United State's west cost, and how he, like the waves of the ocean, is very 'give and take'. As in you have to sacrifice some to reach the common goal. The ocean

also seemed like it was in layers, and how Cameron was the collective ocean and was using the young, disconnected youth skinheads to build himself up. The next scene is one of the most intense of the whole film, Derek is woken up by his brother Danny to find out that three "niggers" are breaking into his car. Derek runs outside with a gun and kills one right outside his front door, he ends up just shooting the one breaking into his car and chasing after the one driving away. In this scene Derek is only wearing his white boxers and black boots, and the thick swastika tattoo on his chest is clearly visible, he has become pure hate. Derek's white skin contrasts drastically with the black, black night as he curb-stomps the last attempted car-jacker.

The first scene to be shot in full color is in Derek's younger brother Danny's high school. Danny believes in all of the racist, skinhead, and Nazi propaganda because that's all he's been feed his entire life. As he sits in the front office he rips an American flag on a toothpick, off a black secretary's desk, as if to say "you don't deserve to be an American". As he enters Principal Sweeney's office his clothing is very similar to the color palette of the office, symbolizing that he's not only been here before, but he's comfortable with being in trouble. Sweeney demands that Danny apologize for writing a paper idolizing Adolf Hitler, and decides that Danny should write a paper entitled "American History X", which is about what his brother has done and the effects which it has had on not only Derek, but the Vinyard family as a whole. The next shot is of a white kid being beaten up by a bunch of blacks in the high school's bathroom, Danny walks out of the stall and blows smoke in one of their faces, and tells the other white kid he has to stand up for himself.

The next shot is of Sweeney going to the Los Angeles Police Department, and looking through files of L.A.'s prominent skinheads. All of the files are in orange, which symbolizes violence and aggression. As the files are shown on the screen, they're all twisted and jumbled to indicate that the records are just like the lives of the skinheads, all messed up and going nowhere. Sweeney is shown a video of Derek on the day his father, a fire fighter, was murdered, by a black crack dealer, while putting out a fire in his crack den. In the video Derek is wearing black and white to represent his new way of thinking, that minorities are the ruin of America. Simultaneously to Sweeney being at the police station, Danny is walking home in Venice Beach, by a bunch of black guys, and an voice over by Danny he says that his brother started the D.O.C. so white kids wouldn't be scared to walk around in their own neighborhoods.

The basketball court leads us to one of Derek's flashbacks, of how he played black versus white for the court itself. On one of Derek's friend's shirt reads the number '88', which is code for "Heil Hitler". The game is shot from a bird's eye view so the viewer can see both the whole basketball court and the stands and the white guy's win. Later there is a tight, dark shot of Derek, proving that he is confined to one way of thinking. During the course of the game there is always a shadow on Derek's face, and a very faint one on Danny's, to show that Derek is head over heels in racism and D.O.C. and Danny is beginning to catch onto his brother's lead.

The first scene that Derek appears in, in color, is his return home, but his house becomes noticeably darker when Danny unveils his own D.O.C. tattoo, Derek realizes that now his own brother is involved in the organization. When Derek examines Danny's

tattoo, Derek's face is lit brightly, and Danny blends in with the dark and dingy background of their apartment. They go into their shared bedroom, which is adorned, in red (meaning violence and aggression) Nazi memorabilia. There is a quick shot of Seth, both Derek and Danny's friend and D.O.C. member, driving a disheveled orange car. Seth is singing, "the white man marches on" as the camera zooms in on him in his tight and cramped car.

Seth barges into the Vinyards' house while Derek is on the phone and starts talking to Danny. He pulls out a camcorder and conducts a mini-interview with Danny, asking questions like "who do you hate?" and Danny mockingly replies "Anyone who isn't white Protestant". Derek hears this in the other room and calls Danny over into their mother's bedroom. There's a swift glimpse of the mother, Doris, in her room, it's very dark with little lighting, but the second her sons walk in the room brightens dramatically to reveal the light pink paint on the walls, and the instantaneous lighting of Doris' face. Also, as Seth waits in the living room he grabs a bowl of jellybeans, throws out the sole black one, right before he swallows the rest. Derek leaves the house with Seth and leaves Danny in their room to write his paper. In Danny's room, the whole room is gloomy, practically black, with only the intensely white computer screen to light the room, as if to show that this paper, and Danny's own



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