55

In this exposition dialogue between Morpheus and Neo, (almost) every person is wearing only two colors. Black and White. No blue, no green, no aquamarine. Even the things they carry are black and white. Handbags, phones, notebooks, and shopping bags are all just black and white.

People in real life wear many colors. Business men wear blue suits and grey suits and brown suits. Police officers wear blue. Handbags and shopping bags have bright colors and big bright logos to advertise the store names.

We all know the Wachowski's chose details as symbols or allusions to other works. They chose the name of the book Neo uses to hide information for a reason, just as they chose the monosyllabic names for agents, and the names of the other characters for a reason.

Why did they make everyone in the training matrix wear only black and white? Was it a mundane reason like making the woman in the red dress so obvious that she would more likely catch Neo's eyes? Or did the Wachowski's have a more symbolic reason? Is it a metaphor for an idea?

I want answers based on interviews or statements by the Wachowski's, or others involved in making the original movie.

Edit to add: I noticed one woman in the background wearing a gray knee-length coat. You can see her at 1:15 in the video snippet.

  • Not only that, but the construct - like the Matrix itself - has a definite green tint to it. – user11521 May 9 '17 at 15:30
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    And the crowd just flows around Morpheus but people keep bumping into Neo. – RichS May 9 '17 at 15:31
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    "No blue, no green, no aquamarine" - I see what you did there. Brilliantly subtle. – MartianInvader May 9 '17 at 16:17
  • There is a woman in a red dress appearing for a short time. – János Turánszki May 10 '17 at 10:48
112

This was addressed in one of the rare interviews that the Wachowskis gave in order to promote the film. In short, the poverty of difference in the outfits and the duplication of the characters are down to laziness on the part of the (in-universe) designer of the training program, Mouse. Since the program is over within seconds, it's simply there to serve a purpose, rather than to impress.

Ironically, Mouse's digital shortcut (using copy'n'paste characters) made the scene far harder for the real-world filmmakers to cast.

Wachowskis: People don’t realize how important this scene is. Because we are all staring at the woman in the red dress! There’s actually twins and triplets that we hired in that scene. And all of the clothes are based on black and white costumes, like nuns, chefs, brides, sailors. We had the idea that Mouse just doubled people instead of making originals. But we couldn’t afford to do it digitally, so we ended up hiring as many doubles, or as many twins, as we could find in Sydney. It was kind of like a bad dream on the set.

Wachowski Brothers Chat Transcript

There was also a conscious effort to use dress, hairstyle and casting to make the crowd look as samey as possible. Having them all in black and white would obviously aid in this

TIM: That Construct scene with the Woman in Red. We had to find lots of similar looks; even those who weren’t twins, we had to sort of match up. We would get people who weren’t the same, but try to make them look basically the same, which was a bit fiddly.

Interview with Tim Littleton (Extras Casting, Australia) from The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions (2003)


Stylistically, it makes the woman stand out (to the audience and to Neo) better if she's contrasted.

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    @TheSexyMenhir Mouse was the designer and programmer of the scene. Mouse is a character in the Movie, and he created the scene and the woman in the red dress. The character was lazy, so he copy pasted the NPCs dedicating his full time and attention to the woman in the red dress. The actual directors, had a hard time doing the scene though. He does not contradict himself. – CyberClaw May 8 '17 at 8:58
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    "It's there to serve a purpose, not to impress" - The opinion of everyone except Mouse himself XD – DisturbedNeo May 8 '17 at 9:00
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    saying "scene's designer" seems to refer to a OOU person. Is there a way you could rephrase that? – Weckar E. May 8 '17 at 11:29
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    That sentence is indeed ambigious, I misread as well at first, untill I read the name Mouse and realised it wasn't a RL designer :). – Mixxiphoid May 8 '17 at 11:44
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    I'm surprised this answer focuses on Mouse's laziness and not that fact that a large purpose of the program was to draw attention to the Woman in the Red Dress. If there's a large variety of appearances, than the impact of the Woman in Red is reduced, making it less likely for Neo to focus on her since she wouldn't stand out as much. Did the film crew really not talk about that aspect at all because that seems to be clear enough in the scene itself to be noteworthy. – Ellesedil May 8 '17 at 22:28
8

I always interpreted this would be due to two specific reasons:

  • It represents the uniformity, in-line lives of those in the Matrix just following their day to day simulation. This also makes the red dress and the actual users stand out. They're not just following the flow.

  • They're just background characters. The Construct - in comparison to actual Matrix - only has just very limited resources. As such these characters most likely just reuse assets to save memory and simulation time. They're just filler. Just look how even modern games render things such as fans in a soccer stadium. You'll hardly see them all modeled in detail. Instead they're typically just repeated textures or oversimplified models.

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    As you said, this is your interpretation. Do you have statements from the Wachowski's to support this? – RichS May 8 '17 at 5:11
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    I find this interpretation plausible, especially given Neo's initial occupation and his other life as a hacker - he wasn't following the flow either. Not sure about the second part though - it sounds nice, but it isn't brought up anywhere that the Matrix had limited computational capabilities. – Gallifreyan May 8 '17 at 7:14
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    i think @Mario means that the construct in which they simulate has limited resources but the matrix in comparison does not have limited resources – TerranGaming May 8 '17 at 7:47
  • @TerranGaming Oh, the Matrix has limited resources too, but it has far more resources than the Construct. – RichS May 8 '17 at 16:01
  • All computers have limited resources. – The Great Duck May 8 '17 at 22:25
3

In addition to the other answers I also think that the color scheme was used to emphasize the point of the exercise - anyone who is not with the protagonists is one trivial alteration away from being an agent.

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    Do you have statements from the Wachowski's to support this? I asked for and vote for answers supported by original sources. – RichS May 8 '17 at 19:22
0

As a software developer, training and non-production computers get significantly less hardware to support them. Rendering black and white would utilize less resources and allow the simulation to render at lifelike speeds. The scope of all the training/construct scenes is either limited in color or size or object count. The only thing capable of "handling" the full reality is the Matrix itself.

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    Do you have statements from the producers or directors of The Matrix to support this? The question asks for statements from original sources. – RichS May 8 '17 at 18:37
  • Sorry, I missed that. Please disregard this answer as non-cannon. I'll leave it here for posterity. – Jammin4CO May 8 '17 at 19:17
  • No worries. You can delete it later if you want. :-) – RichS May 8 '17 at 19:26
  • I'm voting it up because it really makes a lot of sense. They don't really have the kind of hardware the matrix has so they've gotta cut something. – Joshua May 8 '17 at 22:45
  • The scene is clearly not in greyscale, and that's far from what the bottleneck would be in this simulation anyways. – Matthew Read May 8 '17 at 22:58

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