Deep structure: Structuring the Tone in 'Arracht'

Arracht is an Irish language drama about a fisherman whose life is plunged into darkness following the arrival of the potato blight and a violent stranger. Each act serves a particular function. Through its tragic tone, act one sets up Colmán as a person who loses everything. The narrative jumps forward two years to the peak of the famine’s devastation as, in act two, Colmán finds the strength to keep going in taking care of Kitty, a vulnerable orphan. Although not quite a revenge tragedy, the story ends with vengeance, as act three brings the story to its bloody denouement, and we are left asking ‘Will Colmán and Kitty survive the famine?’



Ó Súilleabháin, Tomás. 2021. Arracht [Film]

Analysing theme and tone: A meditation on womanhood in ‘Proxima’

A personal drama with the ‘desire for validation’ theme, Proxima explores issues of womanhood, family and separation. Sarah has to prove her competence in the male-dominated world of space flight, where her motherhood is seen as a weakness by male colleagues. The dramatic tone drives Sarah’s journey through the narrative, as she struggles to care for and nurture her daughter while undergoing a punishing astronaut training schedule. Mother and daughter grow physically and emotionally apart, only to reconnect on the day of the launch. Reminding us that for women like Sarah, balancing two lives can be an exhausting experience that takes its toll.



Winocour, Alice. 2020. Proxima [Film].

Tone and Colour

A martial arts epic set in ancient China, Hero (2004) tells and re-tells one story three times. Two versions of which are false and one is true.

A nameless warrior is being honoured for defeating three of the King’s most dangerous enemies, the assassins Long Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow.


As Nameless recounts his battles with the assassins, the King begins to question the truth of some of the details of the warrior’s tales, interjecting his own take on the suspect version of events. The framing tale which opens and closes the film is dominated by shades of black.


Within this opening frame, Nameless recounts his encounter with the assassin Long Sky. Where the two characters meet in battle, the scene cuts to black and white.


The first story in red, is told by Nameless, who recounts how he defeated Falling Snow. He tells how Falling Snow had cheated her lover Broken Sword with their friend Long Sky, and how, after Sky’s death, Broken Sword has slept with his servant Moon out of jealousy. Broken Sword is then killed by Falling Snow, also out of jealousy.


The red theme continues into the fight sequence between Flying Snow and Moon. This is a visually stunning scene, which reaches its climax when Falling Snow dodges Moon’s sword, which goes on to embed itself into a nearby tree trunk, which starts bleeding. At which point the entire landscape transforms from autumnal orange to blood red, as though the very land itself was bleeding to death. The change of atmosphere within this scene is from life to death.

As a consequence of killing Broken Sword, Falling Snow is too emotional to fight properly and is killed in battle by Nameless in front of the King’s army.


The second story in blue, the love story, is told by the King, who suggests Falling Snow died willingly after wounding Broken Sword to prevent him from stopping her sacrifice herself.


The third story in white tells how Falling Snow was willing to sacrifice herself, but that her death faked. It also tells how Broken Sword opposed Falling Snow and Nameless’s plan to kill the King.


The flashback in green presents the failed attempt by Broken Sword and Falling Snow to assassinate the King.

Christopher Doyle, the cinematographer on Hero, said the choice of colours was aesthetic, not symbolic, and that the coloration itself becomes the movie’s theme: ‘Part of the beauty of the film is that it is one story coloured by different perceptions […] I think that’s the point. Every story is coloured by personal perception’ (Mackey, 2005).



Mackey, R. (2015) ‘Cracking the Color Code of Hero.’ In: The New York Times [online] At: (Accessed on 29 June 2017)

Hero (2004) Directed by Zhang Yimou. [DVD] China: Miramax.