The River

Le Fleuve

Jean Renoir, France, India, 1951


The Flood was the first colour film that Jean Renoir, son of the painter Auguste Renoir, made. Following his first venture in to colour film Renoir became one of the greatest exponents of the use of colour in French cinema. Renoir was greatly inspired by the colours of nature that he experienced in India. He harnessed the potential for colour density that the Technicolour process offered film makers with great virtuosity. The Flood was also the first colour film to be filmed in India.

In this sequence Jean Renoir plays with the colours of the dresses of the three young girls so that the viewer can spot the characters straightaway, even when they are very small within the frame.
We see them in greater relief as the background on which they are a filmed is that of a banana grove, which is pretty much uniformly monochromatic.

The colour of the dresses also relate to character traits of the girls.

Hariet, who we hear in the voice over, is a young girl, clad in the blue dress of a child. Melanie, the mixed race girl, who is in the process of rediscovering her Indian identity, wears a large, loose red sari. She has short black hair. Valerie also wears a red dress, but where Melanie’s is Indian in its style, Valerie’s is cut to a western style. Her hair is loose and flamboyantly red in colour.

The red draws the characters of Melanie and Valerie together, as they are both in love with Captain John. The cut of their dresses and the colour of their hair help to distinguish them from each other.

When we see the kiss Renoir shoots it so that we see, in a tight V shaped space between the trunks of two trees the red of Melanie and the clear blue of Harriet. Until that point the colours had been kept well separated in the shots that make up the scene.


colour spots.