Clint Eastwood Wanted The Look Of Letters From Iwo Jima To Make Audiences Uncomfortable

While Eastwood rose to prominence playing no-nonsense and violent characters like Dirty Harry or The Man With No Name in the 1960s and ’70s, his views of movie violence seem to have matured and softened as he developed as a director. In his post-“Unforgiven” films, one can see a definite shift away from the glorification of violent characters, often depicting murder and combat as a tragic, moral failing. This was certainly the theme of his 2003 Oscar-winning film “Mystic River.” 

While both “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” possess a certain degree of distant patriotism — they are not explicit antiwar essays — one can see that Eastwood’s view of combat was not romantic or glorified. Since the films were set in 1945, one can see Eastwood presenting battlefield violence as a relic from a former era. He is not openly critical of war, but he is not making propaganda, either. 

A great deal of Eastwood’s non-romantic view of combat came from Stern’s lack of colors. Indeed, Eastwood admitted that he took out most of the color in post-production, making “Iwo Jima” look as terse as possible. In his words: 

“[T]he film was shot in color, but I sort of de-saturated. We de-saturated it down to the point where it didn’t look comfortable color. We didn’t — we certainly didn’t want the picture to have a technicolor in the old-fashioned sense, Dorothy and Toto in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or something. But […] we wanted to de-saturate it down to where it looked almost close to black-and-white. 

It’s worth noting that it was not a shimmering, classic ’40s black-and-white, but a drab, “colorless world” black-and-white. Visual shades of grey to remark on the filmmaker’s moral imperative.

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